Whistler to be first carbon neutral local government in Canada

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has committed to the goal of becoming the first carbon neutral community in Canada by 2010 thanks to its new Carbon Neutral Operations Plan.

As approved by council at its regular meeting September 15, the ambitious Carbon Neutral Operations Plan outlines the steps that the RMOW will take in order to achieve its commitment to carbon neutral municipal operations under the B.C. Climate Action Charter.

The RMOW is one of 175 municipalities to sign the B.C. Climate Action Charter, which commits municipalities to the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2012. The Carbon Neutral Operations plan means Whistler will achieve its goal two years ahead of schedule. Dawson Creek is the only other community with a completed carbon neutral plan, in line with the 2012 deadline.  

“I would like to congratulate the Resort Municipality of Whistler on their climate action leadership by committing to become carbon neutral in their municipal operations two years ahead of the Climate Action Charter,” said Minister of State for Climate Action John Yap.  “The municipality will be leaving a carbon neutral legacy not only for the 2010 Games but for everyone who lives and enjoys the natural beauty of Whistler.”

“We saw several reasons to accelerate our commitment to the charter. Foremost is the urgency of addressing the climate challenge and the opportunity to shine the Olympic and Paralympic spotlight on our leadership and commitment,” said Mayor Ken Melamed. “The future costs of inaction far outweigh today’s investment in the discipline of emissions reduction and climate neutrality, and this plan sets out our early steps. Increasing global competition for finite resources is a strong call to action for those of us in the developed world to show leadership by accepting responsibility for our ecological footprint.”

The Carbon Neutral Operations Plan not only makes Whistler a leader in terms of timeline but also in scope. The plan takes into consideration employee travel, which is not part of typical municipal operations as described by the Province’s Carbon Neutral Local Government strategy document.

Carbon neutrality involves measuring the greenhouse gas emissions that come from government operations such as buildings and fleet vehicles and then reducing those emissions to net zero. Governments achieve carbon neutrality by reducing emissions where possible, by purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for its greenhouse gas emissions or by developing projects to offset emissions. Projects include converting to energy efficient buildings and replacing old fleet vehicles and buses with hybrids.

The timeline is aggressive and commits Whistler to dropping its carbon emissions by 10 per cent next year and 30 per cent by 2015, which will be achieved through in-house energy reduction initiatives. Projects like the $900,000 upgrade to the Meadow Park Sports Centre put the Carbon Neutral Operations Plan into action. The project includes the installation of a ground source heat pump and a solar hot system designed to significantly reduce the energy load on the building.

Other projects achieving carbon reductions include the Cheakamus Crossing Neighbourhood, the Austrian Passive House, Town Centre lighting upgrades, and the Whistler Public Library.

Beginning in 2010, the RMOW will also purchase carbon offsets to bring its net emissions to zero. The current RMOW corporate emissions are approximately 2,200 tonnes of CO2e per year and $50,000 per year will be spent in offsets. This expense will decrease in direct relation to the RMOW’s reduced carbon footprint over time. If the RMOW succeeds in meeting the targets outlined within this Plan, the annual cost will decrease to $45,000 by 2013, and $38,000 by 2015.

“Climate change and sustainability are global issues, and Whistler’s interests are served by becoming carbon emissions neutral. The continued prosperity of the resort is best protected if atmospheric carbon levels are reduced, and we want to do our part,” said Naomi Devine, RMOW sustainability coordinator.

For More Information: Resort Municipality of Whistler

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