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The provincial requirement for 'carbon neutral' health regions will reroute funding away from health care spending, critics say.

B.C.'s largest health authority will have to pay millions back to the provincial government under a policy requiring health authorities to become carbon neutral by 2010.

According to Mauricio Acosta, regional director of administration for Vancouver Coastal Health, the organization will have to pay $456,000 in carbon taxes and $343,750 for carbon offsets for the last three months of the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and substantially more the following year, when the government policy will have fully kicked in.

"The forecast that we have for Vancouver Coastal Health is that it's going to be close to $2.2 million for the next fiscal year [2010-11], and it's going to be increasing year after year," Acosta said.

The money will not go toward improving energy efficiency for the health authority’s buildings or cars. Instead, the funds will be paid back to the provincial government in the form of the carbon tax and to the Pacific Carbon Trust, a newly created provincial Crown corporation. In fiscal 2010-11, Vancouver Coastal Health will be forced to purchase $1.38 million in carbon offsets from the Trust.

Acosta said two facilities in his region have already had energy retrofits at a cost of $2.1 million, resulting in energy cost savings of three per cent, or about $2 million a year. He told CBC the entire cost savings from those retrofits will be wiped out by the fiscal burden of the carbon-neutral policy.

The provincial NDP's health critic, Adrian Dix, said the policy will eat into already tight budgets for health spending.

"They're transferring money out of public health care. It doesn't make sense, and what it is is a de facto cut in health care services," Dix said.

Dix argued health authorities should be exempt from the carbon tax.