Whistler is taking its fight against global warming to a new
level, using the Internet to help visitors reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The municipality recently received funding from the Community Action
on Energy and Emissions (CAEE), a provincial government initiative that
provides financial and research support to local governments to advance energy
efficiency through policy and planning tools.
The $20,000 from CAEE will be used to help develop a new
web-based tool for Whistler.com, which will allow visitors to calculate the
emissions produced on their return trip to Whistler, determine alternative
travel modes, and purchase carbon offsets.
Diana Waltmann, information officer for RMOW, explained that
InterVISTAS, a consulting company, originally pitched the idea of a carbon
offset tool to Tourism Whistler, but since the idea fit under the
municipality’s mandate to impact climate change, they decided to partner on the
“Reducing greenhouse gasses and climate change is a major
priority for the municipality, and this all works into that goal of reducing
our greenhouse gas emissions and trying to impact climate change,” Waltmann
The tool will be a short-term measure to deal with greenhouse
gasses, and will “look beyond Whistler,” considering travel impacts to and from
the community, not just within.
Waltmann says guests travelling to and from Whistler are the
largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, so this tool is geared
towards these visitors, in hopes that they can reduce their levels.
Ted Battiston, manager of sustainability initiatives for the
RMOW, explained that their calculator is different from many others currently
available because it will allow people to see impacts of different modes of
travel, not just airline flights. Battiston says this will allow people to
learn which choices are better for the environment, so they can make an
“It’s about awareness, and its about the choices we make having
impacts, and being aware that changing your choice might lead to different
impacts, and therefore you may change your choice, or you may choose to offset
Battiston says they are also looking into the possibility of
tracking information through the calculator, so they can see which demographics
are interested in offsetting their visit to Whistler.
Since the project is visitor-based, Tourism Whistler has taken
the lead, but they’ve partnered with Whistler.com to make the new tool
available to visitors, and with the RMOW for their technical expertise and for
help obtaining funding.
They will also be with InterVISTAS and the Icarus Foundation,
an organization that aims to minimize the impacts of destination tourism.
While the federal government is still in the process of
developing a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the B.C.
government has committed to reducing provincial levels by 33 per cent by 2020.
On Monday, Premier Gordon Campbell signed onto the
International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP), a program aimed at creating a
global market for buying and selling carbon offsets and credits.
The ICAP program is designed to provide an international
mechanism for sharing best practices on strategies like developing compatible
global carbon trading systems.
“Tackling climate change requires international co-operation
and collaboration unlike anything we have seen before,” Campbell said in a
“…The partnership we have signed today opens the door, for the
first time ever, to jurisdictions around the globe to share ideas and new
technologies, and ultimately will lay the foundation for compatible
market-based systems to trade carbon offsets and credits worldwide.”
The provincial government has also established the B.C. Carbon
Trust, an initiative to offset carbon produced by its own agencies; for every
tonne of greenhouse gas produced by the provincial government, $25 will be paid
into approved carbon offset programs.
While critics of carbon offsetting argue that the process gives
people permission to pollute, Battiston says it doesn’t excuse people from
being conscious of their emissions, and should be used to mitigate our leftover
“Offsets are a meaningful second-best measure. We’ve got to try
to make emission reductions on the ground at the same time.”
Battiston says the credibility of the industry has been
bolstered in recent years as more third-party verification and auditing
procedures have been adopted, but points out that it is still crucial to
determine which carbon offset programs are feasible and worthy of their credit
Though they don’t know which company they will work with to
offer carbon offset credits through the calculator, Battiston says he is
currently working with Offsetters.ca, a UBC-based, not-for-profit organization.
The partner agencies plan to start developing the calculator tool in a few weeks, and Battiston says he hopes it will be up and running on Whistler.com this winter.