Taking Action in BC Post Secondary

TakingActionNear the end of 2007 the BC government enacted the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act which put into law the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made in the province’s Climate Action Plan.  Specifically, the province is now legally committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions:  6% below 2007 emission levels by 2012, 18% by 2016, 33% by 2020, and 80% by 2050.

The Act also requires that all of BC’s public sector organizations be carbon neutral by 2010 – this includes school districts, post-secondary institutions, and hospitals.  Specifically: by the end of 2010, all public sector organizations must have greenhouse gas auditing systems in place and must purchase carbon offsets for their emissions.  In addition, it is expected that public sector organizations will find ways to reduce their total emissions over time.

“I think the offset obligation is definitely something universities have to deal with but it’s not going to be the biggest challenge. I think the biggest challenge is going to be where they try to push their emissions down over time.  We are going to want to keep seeing reductions down the road.”  – Government respondent

This new policy direction will have profound impacts on how colleges and universities operate.

This study was undertaken to find out how post secondary institutions were responding: what actions they have taken and what challenges they are facing.

The primary focus for implementing the Act is on energy management because this represents the largest opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; but we must remember that climate change is not just about more efficient light bulbs and fewer parking lots, it is about breaking down traditional barriers and disciplinary thinking, it is about new ways of relating to the environment and each other and about reassessing what we value.  Catalyzing these essential cultural changes is where post secondary can make the largest contribution since it is here that each new generation of leaders are trained.  BC’s colleges and universities recognize that they play a critical role in this process and they are all committed to climate action.

Carbon neutrality is not the ultimate goal, but it is a first step which has the capacity to transform higher education in British Columbia which will in turn have profound cultural effects.  Ultimately, this is a grand experiment and people are watching.  What we do here will have an impact globally.

This is a project of the BC Working Group on Sustainability Education, also known as WalkingtheTalk.bc.ca.  Many thank-yous to Janet Moore, professor at the SFU Centre for Dialogue and the driving force behind Walking the Talk, for giving this project life.

Click here to read the full report.

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4 Responses to Taking Action in BC Post Secondary

  1. charles says:

    well done Ashley.
    How about evolving to a vegetarian diet… animal farming contributes the most out of ALL contributors for methane and greenhouse gases… their solution is genetically altered cows that burp and fart less!
    can you imagine?

  2. dave says:

    Excellent report. I feel the purchasing of carbon credits is going down the wrong path. This should be about a lifetstyle change commitment not a financial decision. Make the commitment to reduce emissions and creating a sustainable campus part of the charter with a specific action plan for implementation, complete with costs and timelines. Wherever choices are made based on financial decisions constrained by quarterly, annual or five year budgets, short term results are often achieved that jeopardize long-term goals.

    I see this time and time again in the financial planning industry that is my bread and butter. The whole sub prime debacle and the near collapse of the credit markets is directly attributed to meeting arbitrary short-term financial goals and loosing the long-term point of the exercise.

    I view the government initiative as an opportunistic co-opting of an incredibly important call to fundamental cultural change that is gaining grass roots momentum and threatening vested political and economic interests. And when the lip service was no longer enough, their solution is an inadequate set of outdated financial dis-incentives that downloads the cost to those who don’t really have the political power to fight them – ultimately students and the quality of their education.

    Industry will just buy up the carbon credits, the way they often choose to pay the fine rather than actually clean up their act.

    I enjoyed the read – but remain cynical about the current initiative.

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