Why ONC is carbon neutral
When the path to climate change solutions is paved with fossil fuels
January 4, 2024

Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) takes responsibility for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that its operations create by choosing to be carbon neutral, an interim solution to achieve net-zero emissions in a world still reliant on fossil fuels.

ONC’s ocean observatory networks are contributing to a more resilient planet, providing ocean intelligence on the impacts of climate change, as well as providing a subsea laboratory to monitor and test the efficacy of ocean-based carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies.

The observatory networks use clean energy from BC Hydro to power thousands of sensors in the ocean and deliver data in real time. Maintaining these observatory infrastructures, however, currently requires heavy industry for which no carbon-free options yet exist. For example, installing scientific instruments on ONC’s cabled seafloor observatories requires the use of a fossil fuel-powered major research vessel from which ONC can deploy a remotely operated vehicle to do the work.

ONC addresses these climate costs by securing a carbon neutral certification.

This fall, ONC received a Carbonzero Certification for 2022–making this the third consecutive year of successful tracking, reporting and offsetting annual carbon emissions. Carbonzero provides third-party verified carbon offsets in Canada and internationally with their team of GHG accounting professionals.

“Voluntary carbon offset programs like this are not a substitute for the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” acknowledges Kate Moran, CEO and president of Ocean Networks Canada, “But they are a step in the right direction, encouraging us to recognize and reduce our carbon footprint while committing to a sustainable future.”

Carbon neutral is a calculation where total polluting emissions are equal to carbon offset credits. Purchase of credits fund projects that permanently reduce GHG emissions, create jobs, and support local communities. This calculation is based on the principle that an emission reduction made in your neighborhood has the same positive effect as one made on the other side of the world because GHG emissions are global, not local.

Supporting forests and people, simultaneously

ONC purchased carbon offset credits for its 2022 certification that support the Great Bear Rainforest Carbon Project. This is the first carbon offset project in North America to be implemented on traditional territory with unextinguished Aboriginal rights and Title, states Carbonzero on its website.

One carbon offset credit represents an emission reduction of one metric tonne of CO₂, or an equivalent amount of other GHGs. Offset credits are generated by calculating avoided deforestation or degradation impacts across the Great Bear Rainforest. Approved projects that produce carbon offset credits include sustainable logging, planting trees in areas where no forests existed (afforestation) and replanting forests where they have been absent for a long time (reforestation).

Money generated through the sale of credits goes directly back into the communities who have been protecting their territories for generations.

A rare subspecies of the American black bear with white fur called the Spirit Bear (or Kermode Bear) dwells in the Great Bear Rainforest, the only temperate rainforest in Canada.

Working towards net-zero

To avert the worst impacts of climate change, the Government of Canada is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Following suit, ONC is working with partners to reduce fossil fuel use during operations and to identify opportunities for integrating clean energy sources into its observatory network.

For example, ONC is investigating a low power solution for coastal ocean dynamics applications radar (CODAR) that uses fully renewable energy, a combination of solar and wind power. CODAR measures near-surface ocean current speeds and direction, providing ocean current maps on site, in real time–improving monitoring capabilities to improve marine traffic safely and provide marine situational awareness.

ONC is an initiative of the University of Victoria, and therefore all energy uses for ONC offices are offset through the UVic Climate & Sustainability Action Plan 2030. Learn more.

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