National Trust introduces carbon-offset program

The National Trust, in partnership with GreenTech Ltd., has launched a voluntary carbon-offset scheme, giving companies the opportunity to invest in solar panels to be installed on schools.

The idea for a voluntary carbon offset program, in which companies can invest in renewable energy to offset carbon emissions, has been in the works for years.

Carbon offsets, like the mandatory European cap-and-trade system or the voluntary scheme in the United States, give companies in Cayman a way to make up for releasing carbon emissions from their daily operations, like using electricity.

“The atmosphere doesn’t care where the emissions come from,” said Catherine Childs of the National Trust.

In 2011, Ms. Childs applied for nonprofit status to build a new organization to run the program. The nonprofit status never came through, she said, and the application is still pending. But when she was hired as an environmental programs assistant for the National Trust, she had a route to build the new offset program.

National Trust Executive Director Christina Pineda, in launching the program Monday evening, said, “Small islands don’t contribute much to climate change but face most of the impacts” of rising sea levels and potential weather changes.

Companies that sign up for the program will give the National Trust money to install solar panels on school buildings. The schools will then save money on their electricity bills and donate a portion of the funds back to the Trust so that the organization can buy land to be preserved.

Schools will also be able to use the solar arrays to teach students about renewable energy and climate change, according to Lisa Hurlston-McKenzie of GreenTech, which will do the energy audits and install the solar panels.

The National Trust has signed up one company so far – Saxon – to offset its emissions, and four schools have signed up – Grace Christian Academy, Triple C, Montessori Del Sol and Montessori by the Sea.

Not all of those schools will be able to handle a big solar panel system, she said, but they will still get a free energy audit and advice on how to cut their electricity bills. Those recommendations include replacing light bulbs and even air-conditioning systems.

“It’s going to be an interesting journey to see how many schools sign up,” Ms. Hurlston-McKenzie said. “We are starting from scratch and designing a new system.”

The systems are limited to 100 kilowatt hours because of Caribbean Utility Company’s agreement with government, she said.

A 100kwh system accounts for about $5,000 on a CUC bill, said GreenTech’s Carlos Ramirez. He said that system would cover roughly 5,300 square feet on a rooftop.