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One Tonne Challenge on notice

Harper government puts a lid on greenhouse gas reduction programs



It’s not dead yet, but without continued funding the federal One Tonne Challenge is officially on hiatus until further notice.

The One Tonne Challenge is a national program to encourage individual Canadians to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (mostly carbon dioxide) by just 20 per cent, or by an average of one tonne per person. In return, by following the OTC program Canadians would be able to reduce their own energy costs.

Since May of 2005 the Resort Municipality of Whistler and federal government have partnered to provide the community with a part-time OTC coordinator. The main focus of the coordinator was to sign-up residents and visitors to the resort to take the One Tonne Challenge, but Marc Zurbuchen has also been involved in a variety of other initiatives, including the recent idle-free campaign, the Commuter Challenge, a local electronic waste collection day, and a discount program for programmable thermostats, to name just a few.

According to Zurbuchen, the One Tonne Challenge program was a success in Whistler. Exact numbers won’t be available until next week, but overall response has been strong.

"In review of what we’ve done it looks like the amount of people we’ve reached and the awareness we created… about climate change through events was successful," he said.

"We had great success with events like Clean Air Day, where Whistler was the national champion, the commuter challenge, and the E-Waste roundup day was overwhelming successful. We ran an energy saving workshop in June that was a success, the idle-free campaign was great… and the media coverage was great, it definitely helped a lot."

According to Zurbuchen, Whistler accounted for eight per cent of all British Columbians who signed up for the One Tonne Challenge, which is disproportionately high considering the relative size of the population.

"By spreading the word and increasing the participation in events, we hopefully reached a lot of people, and had the chance to make people think more about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions."

Blair Wilson, the Liberal Member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky and associate critic for finance, was concerned when he heard that the Conservatives had halted funding for national climate change initiatives, given their wide public support.

"I’ve been trying to figure out why, what are their reasons for being vague on a plan of action on climate change, One Tonne Challenge, and 100 other projects under consideration," he said.

"Either they still don’t get the science of climate change, or two, don’t have a plan to address climate change, or three, they don’t want to tell us what their plan is. Personally I think it’s a little of all three."