School district expects to miss 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ greenhouse gas emissions dropped between 2022 and 2023, but the district says it will not reach its reduction goal set six years ago.

NLPS staff presented the district’s carbon neutral report for 2023 at the June 13 business committee meeting and said while the district saved 277 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (tCO2e) in 2023, an 8 per cent reduction over 2022 that is mostly attributable to HVAC upgrades and fleet electrification savings, the board of education’s goal of reducing emissions by 4.5 per cent per year by 2030 is unattainable at this point without more external funding to upgrade buildings.

Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh said the board’s “fairly ambitious target” has been hampered by ventilation increases necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a growing student population requiring more space to be in use, causing an uptick in greenhouse gas emissions. The total GHG emissions calculated for 2023, and going forward, also include emission categories that weren’t included in previous years, such as fleet electrification.

“In reality, without additional external funds, we will not be meeting the target that we’ve set for ourselves … but we are on the right track,” Walsh said, adding that the district began targeting “low-hanging fruit” for emissions reductions and is moving on to “the medium fruit.”

The school board’s environmental stewardship action plan’s first objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030, or 4.5 per cent per year. Current provincial legislation requires public sector organizations to reduce emissions 40 per cent over 2007 levels by 2030.

Comparing the school district’s 2015 energy usage calculations to 2023, natural gas use went up as did propane while oil and electricity went down. Building use makes up the majority of the district’s GHG emissions; in 2023 it accounted for 74.5 per cent of emissions versus 81.8 per cent in 2022.

Trustee Greg Keller asked staff what funding options are available to the district given the limited pot of money for building improvements from the province. Staff said the Ministry of Education and Child Care have been “incredibly responsive to synergistic projects” that address environmental upgrades with other work such as seismic.

Facilities staff are planning to present the school district’s GHG emissions data to the ministry and share proposed projects to bring emissions down that need funding.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder