Wellington needs to 'work together' to help slash carbon emissions by 2030, councillor says

10:50 am on 6 August 2020

Wellington's carbon emissions are forecast to drop a quarter over the next decade - but the capital's still well short of meeting its plan of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Wellington generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

It has been over a year since Te Atakura was adopted - when the city council declared a climate and ecological emergency and committed to being carbon neutral by 2050.

For the city to remain on track, emissions will have to reduce by 43 percent over the next 10 years, with the council releasing the blueprint for how it plans to get there today.

The Te Atakura implementation plan "allows us to take a whole of organisation, whole of city, look at what is required for us to be the first carbon neutral capital in the world," said councillor Tamatha Paul - who handles the climate change portfolio.

It brings together all initiatives, projects and developments going on across the city into one document, and assesses their impact on emissions-reduction.

To take one example, it predicts increasing car sharing schemes across the capital would lead to taking more than 5000 vehicles off the road, thereby reducing over 15,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

It also considers work being done to provide more energy-efficient homes, and efforts to get landfill waste down by a third.

The director of Environmental Studies at Victoria University, Ralph Chapman, said it's an incredibly useful visualisation.

"What's hard to see for residents is: what does it all add up to? If the government does this on housing, this on commercial buildings, if it helps out with chargers on the street for EV conversion - what does that all add up to?

"Understanding that picture is what this is doing."

Key figures:

  • Wellington City emitted 1,061,383 tonnes of CO2 or equivalent last year
  • This is 25 percent of the entire region's, and over 1 percent of the entire country's
  • Transport was the highest emitting sector - responsible for 53 percent of the total; next was stationary energy (34 percent)
  • Road transport alone accounted for 36 percent, while air transport was at 11 percent
  • The Implementation Plan includes 28 committed actions with a measured greenhouse gas reduction - overall, this equals a 14 percent reduction in greenhouse gases
  • Combined with central government plans (would be responsible for a 10 percent reduction), there would be a 24 percent reduction in greenhouse gases
  • The target is to reduce emissions by 43 percent since 2001 levels

Still 19 percent short of the aim, but ways to get there

Currently, with all the plans put together, the implementation plan forecasts a 24 percent reduction in total emissions - a 19 percent shortfall.

Associate Professor Chapman said there is enough time to make that up, but it's going to take a lot of work.

"It's hard to do quickly, because it involves lifestyle changes and infrastructure investment, and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and it requires a lot of central government help to make it all possible."

Queues of motorists trying to leave Wellington's central city during rush hour after a train derailment caused disruptions to public transport.

Transport is responsible for more than half of Wellington's carbon footprint. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Tamatha Paul said this is where partnerships with other organisations will come into play.

"If we work together with people and have really good relationships with the hospitals across the region and in the city, with the universities and all the different tertiary institutions, and all the big firms, and all the big players - the Chamber of Commerce - if we work together and are aspirational together, then we can lift that load together."

Not everything which will occur over the next 10 years is prescribed in the report - a number of opportunities are indicated as just that: opportunities requiring further investigating.

For example, a number of potential projects are targeting enabling greenhouse gas reduction, rather than directly causing it.

Such initiatives include a Climate Lab, which would drive innovation and accelerate climate-positive impact, and a fund for community projects that reduce emissions across the city.

There are also plans to invest in incentive programmes to get people to do up their homes, and make them more efficient and healthy.

13174303 - construction worker thermally insulating house attic with glass wool

The plan considers how to provide more energy efficient homes. Photo: 123RF

Collaboration between organisations

The plan has a significant focus on transport: the city's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, responsible for more than half of the city's carbon footprint.

In the plan, it indicates the actions identified are focussed on reducing "vehicle kilometres travelled" - by providing viable alternatives; and "reducing emissions per vehicle kilometres travelled" - by supporting a transition to a zero emissions transport fleet.

It references several projects already commenced to bring that about, such as the mass rapid transit, more charging stations for EVs, and electrifying the city's bus fleet.

Regional councillor Thomas Nash, who chairs the climate committee, agreed that will require the biggest response, unattainable by one council alone.

"We are going to need to move away from the individualised, car-dominated transport system," he said.

"An integrated decarbonised transport plan for the Wellington region is the single biggest climate action lever we can pull, and we absolutely need to pull it as hard as we can."

The Implementation Plan will be debated by councillors this morning - with amendments possible.

Tamatha Paul said one thing she would like to see put in would be for the council to be more ambitious.

Greater Wellington Regional Council "have committed to being fossil-fuel free by 2030; and Auckland City have committed to being fossil-fuel free CBD streets by 2030.

"I want us to declare the same thing."

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