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Del Mar considers carbon offset program

DEL MAR — Like their neighbors to the north, Del Mar residents may soon have an opportunity to offset their carbon footprint by voluntarily purchasing land in a South American tropical forest. Del Mar City Council authorized staff at the Nov. 16 meeting to move forward with an agreement with Nature & Culture International, a Del Mar-based company that promotes conservation by creating private reserves in Ecuador, Peru and Mexico.
The agreement will likely be similar to one approved last month by Solana Beach. That city will include on its Web site a link to Nature & Culture’s Web site, where residents can purchase land in the Cazaderos region of Ecuador for $50 an acre. In turn the city will be recognized on Nature & Culture’s Web site as a conservation partner.
The Solana Beach goal is to preserve about 2,000 acres, an area roughly the size of the city. Should Del Mar follow suit, residents would be encouraged to purchase a total of 1,152 acres at a cost of $57,600.
New state laws are requiring cities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Solana Beach is hoping participation in the program will satisfy some, or all, of its requirement.
“We small cities can’t do as much as others can,” Solana Beach City Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “We don’t have landfills to mine the methane from. We don’t have fleets of cars to change their source of fuel. So how can we reduce our carbon as a city and make a difference in the world?”
Heebner, who described the relationship with Nature & Culture as having “a sister city with a purpose,” was one of two people to speak in favor of the program at the Del Mar council meeting.
No one addressed council to oppose the program, which is supported by the Del Mar Rotary Club and the city’s Energy Issues Advisory Committee. Council members also seemed to favor the concept, but with some minor concerns.
“I think this is a good idea,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “The only reservation I have about this plan — and I think this can be worked out — is that we are sort of endorsing one nonprofit, and there are a number of nonprofits in Del Mar.
“I would like to make it clear that this is a level playing field — that we’re not picking our favorite nonprofit,” he said. “We would have to be open to the possibility that other worthy nonprofits in Del Mar might be reasonably expecting to have a Web site link on the city site.”
“I’m not so worried about how this might affect other nonprofits in the city because, for the most part, they are very locally oriented,” Councilman Richard Earnest said. “This is globally oriented.
“I sort of have a problem here with people buying off their carbon footprint by buying something,” he said. “I think they ought to reduce their carbon footprint to begin with just because it’s the right thing to do.”
As Del Mar addresses these and other issues, Heebner said Solana Beach officials can share what they learned in creating her city’s resolution, which includes language about use of the city Web site.
“We have gone back and forth with the attorney so I think that you’ll appreciate the template that we can provide to you,” she said.
Participation in the program would be voluntary and there is no cost to the city, Mike McColm, Nature & Culture’s international director, said. By purchasing property, residents would be helping to conserve some of the world’s most important tropical forests, creating migration corridors for large animals and helping to conserve the water supply in a fairly dry area, he said.
The company also hires and trains local people to staff its foreign operations, so participants would be contributing to their livelihood, McColm said.
We can’t save these areas without organizing the local people to engage in research and educational programs and finding ways for them to make some money that are compatible with forest conservation, he said.
More information and a calculator to determine your carbon footprint can be found at