B.C. environment minister Terry Lake wants to know how much money the Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT) has banked, and says his government may tap any surplus it has accrued to help pay down the province's debt or to cut the price public bodies pay for carbon offsets.
And while the PCT is now releasing how much it pays, on average, per tonne for carbon credits, it has not publicly released details on how much more than two dozen companies and organizations received.
Documents obtained by Business in Vancouver, however, detail the $25 million worth of carbon credit payments. They underscore the disparity between what the PCT takes in and pays out.
Lake announced Thursday that he plans to conduct a review of PCT's pricing model. As part of that review, he said it was now possible for PCT to start disclosing its carbon price range.
"Critical to ensuring value for money is the full disclosure of what Pacific Carbon Trust pays for offsets," said Lake.
"To date, PCT hasn't released that information because it was important to protect this commercial information as it helps the Crown negotiate better prices, and it assists offset developers secure better prices when they sell on international markets.
"As we're in our third year of buying offsets, and the offset market has matured, we now believe it's more in line with open government to release this information."
The PCT website now explains that it buys credits at between $7 and $20 per tonne. But it takes in $25 per tonne from public bodies, like schools boards and hospitals.
The website does not detail how much it paid to individual companies. Documents obtained by BIV break the payments down. For the full list, click here.
The PCT has come under increasing criticism, partly because it is subsidizing industry with money taken from public bodies, but also because there is some question over the way some of the qualifying projects were approved.
The auditor general is conducting an audit of PCT. His report is due out in about a month from now.
Lake told BIV he looks forward to seeing the audit, but said he has no intention of scrapping the PCT.
"I think we're on the cusp of a big explosion of carbon trading around the world, but particularly in North America," Lake said. "Australia (is) doing carbon tax and cap and trade, a large province in China doing the same. We've developed this expertise. I would hate to lose that opportunity to make it even better and take advantage of those markets that are coming at us."