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 October 25, 2006
Cities can earn carbon credits by going green

 Ottawa, Canada (GLOBE-Net) -- Canada's cities and towns are seeking to work with the federal government to tackle air pollution and climate change. A submission to Environment Minister Rona Ambrose from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities urged an 'intergovernmental partnership' to address the issues. The Environment Minister has responded that a plan is being developed to allow cities to earn emissions credits for investments that reduce greenhouse gases.

An eight-page paper prepared by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) notes that since cities are where many greenhouse gas emissions are generated, municipal governments are in a strong position to enact policies to achieve reductions. Municipal governments require access to resources in order to enact changes however, and need support through federal policy and funding. Cities are home to 80 percent of Canadians, and city governments need revenue sources that can grow with the economy to meet their funding requirements

The submission, which can be found "here" , is consistent with an environmental strategy adopted by the Federation this September.

See article: "Cities adopt plan for environmental protection".

Along with revenue sharing and a re-alignment of financing according to government responsibilities, a top priority of the plan is to establish a national transit program.

A national coordinated strategy for managing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in cities will help Canada become a "world leader in creating sustainable places to live", says FCM President and Guelph Ontario Councillor Gloria Kovach. Federal investment in public transit and energy efficiency, in combination with municipal involvement, can yield immediate results.

Cities already undertake programs to improve energy efficiency and increase use of public transit, but their capacity to do so is limited by an "outdated and inadequate fiscal regime" and a reliance on policy decisions by provincial and federal governments, says the FCM submission.

The FCM Recommendations include:
  • A national public transit plant;
  • National energy standards for buildings, industrial equipment and appliances;
  • Incentives such as reduced development charges or federal tax on newly built environmentally sustainable buildings (R2000 homes, LEED buildings);
  • A revolving loan fund for municipal energy efficiency investments;
  • Incentives to encourage municipal fleets to increase fuel efficiency or use emerging clean technologies.
Municipalities also require resources, the FCM says, for programs such as establishing renewable energy portfolio standards across the country and spurring clean energy generation in remote, northern, and rural communities. Federal policies should also encourage provincial governments to implement renewable energy programs such as Ontario's Standard Offer Program.

Waste-to-energy projects represent a specific area of opportunity for municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the federal government could assist by streamlining environmental assessment processes and establishing a landfill-gas capital infrastructure program or subsidies for energy generation. Support for renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel is also requested to encourage economic development in rural municipalities.

In terms of vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards, the FCM believes that national standards should be aligned with innovative districts such as the State of California, which has adopted the most stringent standards in the world. The government has indicated that it will harmonize its standards with federal U.S. rules, which are less strict than California's.

Cities as emissions traders

The FCM also submits that municipalities must be able to gain credit for emissions reducing credits under any federal emissions trading plan. The Federation suggests that it could act as an aggregator for credits earned, and is in the process of assessing a business case for their role in this capacity.

In response, Environment Minister Ambrose said that a proposed system is already under development which would allow municipalities and other organizations to set voluntary targets for emissions reductions and earn credits by reaching those goals. Regulating large industry is the largest component of an emissions reduction strategy, she said, but the approach must provide opportunity for municipalities and other groups not covered by legislation to participate.

The government will announce more projects related to transportation and energy efficiency in the coming months, and is prepared to work with the FCM regardless of whether the Clean Air Act passes, she added.