Auditor General reveals massive problems with B.C. Liberals’ carbon offset scheme

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VICTORIA— Following the release of a disturbing Auditor General’s report into the Pacific Carbon Trust, the B.C. Liberals can no longer dodge responsibility for their poorly designed carbon offset scheme, say New Democrats.

“The audit shows that the government took funds from cash-strapped school districts and hospitals to pay an oil and gas company to do a project they were going to do anyway,” said New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming. “While the auditor's findings are significant, many British Columbians had already concluded that the way the B.C. Liberals configured the Pacific Carbon Trust made no sense.”

The audit says that in order to be considered credible, carbon offsets must fund projects that wouldn’t otherwise occur. The report showed that an Encana project funded by the trust “was projected to be more financially beneficial to the company than its previous practices, regardless of offset revenue,” meaning the company would have proceeded with the changes without taking money away from schools, hospitals and other public sector organizations.

Fleming noted the government also paid almost twice the market price for offsets from Encana, the value of which the Auditor General is now calling into question because of their verification problems.

The Auditor General noted that a lack of common sense was one of the many failings of the trust, saying “we concluded that the problems in these projects were primarily rooted in a lack of skepticism and common sense being applied by the PCT. The Pacific Carbon Trust’s main concern seemed to be with justifying that rules were adhered to, and less in assessing whether the results made sense.”

“The Pacific Carbon Trust has been mired in controversy almost since it began. Yet the B.C. Liberals carry on this supposed 'carbon-neutral government' scheme to transfer money from our colleges, universities and health care system and give it to big polluters and private interests . That's money that could fund green retrofits to schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure to actually lower the public sector's energy use and carbon emissions,” said Fleming. “It's long past time for a common sense approach to greening the public sector.”

Fleming noted that the fact that the Liberals tried to scuttle the release of the report only adds to the questions surrounding the decisions made around the Trust.

“I'm disappointed that the B.C. Liberal government sought to interfere in the timely release of this report,” said Fleming. “It's simply not acceptable to try to bury a critical report from an independent officer in the lead-up to an election.”

The B.C. Liberals are not up to the challenges facing British Columbia today. B.C.'s New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time.