RMOW will use carbon tax rebate to fund Climate Smart workshops 

The municipality will spend its first receipt from the provincial government's carbon rebate program on the Climate Smart workshop program.

The rebate for July to December 2008 is worth  $10,000 - less than half of what the Resort Municipality of Whistler hopes to accrue in future years.

Naomi Devine, sustainability coordinator, explained that starting next year, the municipality will spend half of the rebate on internal projects that reduce greenhouse gases. The other half will be given to non-profit groups who have programs that encourage businesses to reduce their greenhouse gases.

Since this year's rebate is only for six months, said Devine, the municipality decided to use all the money on the Climate Smart program, put on by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Whistler Centre for Sustainability and Ecotrust Canada.

The program consists of three workshops held this fall to teach medium and small businesses how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase efficiency and save money. Sessions will be hosted on Sept. 16, Oct. 7, and Nov. 10.

Last July, the provincial government started levying a "revenue-neutral" carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions. Tax rates are expected to increase each year until 2012.

To help local government's offset their carbon tax burden, the provincial government is reimbursing those municipalities that have signed the Climate Action Charter and promised to become carbon neutral by 2012. Whistler was one of the first municipalities to sign this charter.

If the Resort Municipality of Whistler does nothing to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint, Devine estimates it will be taxed and receive a rebate for $26,000 2009, increasing to $36,000 for 2010, $47,000 in 2011 and $57,000 in 2012.

Devine said the municipality has set a policy to never use the rebates to purchase fossil fuels, purchase potential carbon offsets or offset their carbon tax burden.

The reason so much of the money is going towards reducing greenhouse gases emitted by local businesses, said Devine, is because Whistler's commercial sector accounts for 30 per cent of the community's total footprint. The Resort Municipality of Whistler, on the other hands, emits less than two per cent.

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