Rather than viewing targets as being years away, some are calling for the Capital Regional District to start using a real-time lens to show how much air pollution the region can still produce to limit climate change’s impact.
Central Saanich penned a letter in late 2022 calling for the CRD to adopt carbon budgeting and annually provide each member municipality with the estimated amount of emissions they have remaining in their respective budgets.
Local municipalities have greenhouse gas reduction commitments that include cutting emissions within a certain timeframe – commonly by 2030 and 2050. Central Saanich, for example, aims for a 45 per cent cut to its 2007 emission levels by 2030.
Alternatively, a carbon budget measures exactly how much more can be emitted before tipping points are surpassed. On a global scale, they’ve been used to show how much more pollution can be pumped out before average temperatures rise 1.5 C above pre-industrial times – the limit the scientific consensus said is needed to avoid or lessen some of the most catastrophic climate change harms.
CRD staff recommended that the region not adopt a carbon budget but monitor the strategy’s methodologies and share those results with the Inter-Municipal Task Force.
But environmental services committee directors instead opted for an alternative option last month where the CRD will host a workshop bringing together experts, local municipal politicians and staff to explore the opportunities and implications of carbon budgeting.
“My only worry is haven’t we had enough studies, I mean my gosh we’ve not got much time left,” said Central Saanich Coun. Zeb King, whose motion led to the carbon budget advocacy letter.
“We’re shooting through these targets and not meeting them, but we’re also not doing the math in terms of the limit and seeing how much more we can emit.”
A staff report said the United Kingdom has successfully used carbon budgets to legally restrict the greenhouse gases it can emit in five-year periods. On this side of the pond, Edmonton is using the concept and Victoria is currently exploring it.
But the staff report also said creating a regional carbon budget would require either a common framework that wouldn’t align with the targets of individual CRD communities or a series of budgets that don’t match up. It added that staff don’t have the resources to complete a regional budget and it would raise a difficult question of CRD authority over local decisions.
King however is struggling with some mixed messaging from the CRD as he said it relies on municipalities to take climate action but it’s sometimes getting in the way when individual communities want to move faster.
Central Saanich wanted to leave the regional climate action service and use the associated $74,000 it would pay in 2023 to fund targeted emission-reducing projects in its borders, but the CRD board denied the exit last year.
King said regional collaboration is good in theory, but if the CRD fails to meet emission targets then those shared services need to be reevaluated.
The CRD report noted that carbon budgeting aligns with its goal of integrating climate action priorities at all levels of the decision-making process.