24 Sep 2021

Wellington council faces sharp rise in its carbon reduction target

6:32 pm on 24 September 2021

A report to the Wellington City Council shows the city needs to reduce more carbon than previously anticipated by the end of this decade.

pollution from the exhaust of cars in the city in the winter. Smoke from cars on a cold winter day

Wellington's biggest emitting sector is transport, at just over 50 percent. (file pic) Photo: 123RF

The capital now needs to cut 57 percent of its carbon emissions before 2030, as part of its plan to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The new target report does not yet lay down a map for how the city will reduce the extra carbon, and original calculations still predict the city will fall short.

But council says there are still projects to be factored in.

It has been over two years since Te Atakura was adopted - when the city council declared a climate and ecological emergency and committed to the 2050 goal.

In August 2020, council adopted the Implementation Plan for Te Atakura which set out plans for how emissions could be cut by 2050.

Last night councillors voted to increase its target to align with updated international science and methodologies, particularly shaped by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report earlier this year.

An additional 200,000 tonnes of carbon need to be cut to reach a 57 percent reduction within the decade.

With current calculated projects, there is still 36 percent of carbon cuts unaccounted for - though councillors have said there are a number of pending cuts to factor in.

Councillor Tamatha Paul, who holds the Climate Change portfolio, agrees more needs to be done, and sooner, but the outlook is still promising, she said.

"From 2000 to last year we haven't had the most structured plan to get to net zero. But even without that plan, we've managed to reduce our emissions by 7 percent. To me that says, 'if that's without any effort, what can we do when we're putting all of our energy and resources into this transition?'" she said.

Wellington City Councillor Tamatha Paul.

Councillor Tamatha Paul, who holds the Climate Change portfolio. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Wellington's biggest emitting sector is transport, at just over 50 percent.

Councillors yesterday voted to build a $226 million 147km bike network across the city within the next 10 years. The estimated carbon reductions are yet to be calculated for the historic bike budget.

Key public transport improvements as part of the Let's Get Wellington Moving are likely to do the same.

Council has outlined through the Te Atakura update that other initiatives will help, such as the Climate Lab, which aims to collaborate with local businesses to help reduce their emissions.

The report said collaborations with the Climate Lab will begin this year.

Associate Professor of Victoria University of Wellington's school of Environmental Studies, Ralph Chapman, said even with such upcoming projects, the target is a stretch - but can't be ruled out.

"[Council is] doing some long term investment here, and you want a pretty ambitious target, in principle. But it's quite difficult to achieve any particular target in the short term like 2030, which is now only eight years away, it's pretty close."

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said at the Planning and Environment committee that there's an opportunity over the next few months "to pull the biggest levers we can pull".

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