Wellington, New Zealand Climate Change Action Plan
As the entire plan constitutes a 23-page document, only the first four sections are presented here. To access the plan in its entirety, refer to the Source File.
The Council understands the risks that climate change presents to our economy, society and environment. These risks are shared on both a micro-community scale and a macro-global scale. The risks can only be mitigated through urgent and sustained action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (‘emissions’) and safeguard the community by adapting to changes to the environment and economy.
Adaptation will be necessary to address impacts resulting from the warming that are already unavoidable due to past emissions. Many forecasted impacts can be avoided, reduced or delayed by mitigation (net emission reductions). Scientists and economists have concluded together that the world needs to reduce emissions between 50%-85% by 2050 in order to keep impacts from climate change to manageable levels.
The challenge to the global community needs buy-in at all levels. To signal our commitment to act on climate change, in June 2007, the Council agreed to the aspirational vision of carbon neutrality for Wellington City Council and for the city as a whole. Achieving carbon neutrality requires a combination of actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and actions that offset greenhouse emissions by receiving or trading for ‘carbon credits’.
Achieving the vision of carbon neutrality requires setting targets for reducing emissions and more importantly, implementing an action plan that will lead to progress towards the carbon neutral vision. While the mechanism of offsetting is acknowledged as a tool to achieve carbon neutrality, the Council’s primary focus with the Climate Change Action Plan (‘the Action Plan’) is reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Council and community activities. This demonstrates that the Council wants to lead by example rather than rely on the actions of others.
2. Purpose of the Action Plan
The purpose of the Action Plan is to identify cost-effective initiatives for Council operations and the community that will:
- help the Council achieve its carbon neutral vision
- promote sustainable behaviour.
The Action Plan identifies the Council’s priority actions for reducing emissions from Council operations and the community for the 2008/09 fiscal year. The plan will be updated to coincide with the strategic review and outcomes process for the 2009/19 LTCCP.
3. Building on Wellington’s strengths
Of the major New Zealand centres, Wellington rates highly in several sustainability indicators. Wellington’s compactness leads to higher rates of public transport commuting, active mode commuting and urban density compared to other New Zealand centres. The Action Plan helps Wellington further develop its strengths, reduce emissions and position the city as one of the most sustainable places to live, work and visit in the world. The following list details some of Wellington’s strengths:
- Wellington has the highest usage of public transport and active modes for main urban centres in New Zealand.
- Wellington has the highest concentration of the city’s employees in the city centre with 70% of Wellington’s employment is concentrated in the CBD compared to 26% and 28% for Auckland and Christchurch respectively.
- Wellington has the highest percentage of its population living in the central city areas of all New Zealand centres.
- Wellington’s density and compactness means public transport is efficient and user-friendly and it also means the city is more walkable.
- Wellington will be home to a Meridian Energy’s wind farm, Project West Wind, that can produce enough energy to meet all of the residential electricity demand for Wellington and neighbouring cities Porirua and Hutt City.
- There is potential for more wind energy in Wellington’s boundaries and huge potential to produce marine energy using the strong currents of the Cook Strait. The first resource consent for a marine energy trial has recently been lodged with Greater Wellington Regional Council.
- The New Zealand Stock Exchange based in Wellington will be the home for carbon trading for New Zealand (and possibly Australasia) putting it alongside London and Chicago as carbon trading centres.
- Victoria University, Massey University, Otago University’s Wellington campus, NIWA, GNS and Industrial Research Limited provide research centres that focus on climate change impacts, mitigation solutions, and sustainable behaviour. There are already developments in place to link these research institutions more directly to the work of local governments.
- The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) has its New Zealand head office in Wellington, which gives the Council close access to its partner organisation.
- For businesses and homeowners, Wellington is a sustainable choice to be located because of its compactness and links to public transport and active modes.
- Todd Energy will help Wellington join cities in New Zealand and around the world that generate electricity from landfill gas when they install their new generator in late 2007. There is potential for this operation to grow over time through strengthening the gas collection network.
- 85% of Wellingtonians currently use the kerbside recycling system.
- Wellington’s Karori Sanctuary is a world-first conservation area that is 2km from the city centre and provides fantastic educational and research opportunities for schools and universities.
There are also some challenges that the Council will be addressing through the Action Plan and other Council policies, which include:
- Despite good usage of public transport and active modes, car ownership and congestion keep increasing leading to growing rates of transport emissions.
- Wellington has the highest water consumption per capita of all New Zealand centres.
- Wellington has a large number of old, poorly insulated homes that take more energy to heat compared to modern homes.
- Poorly designed office buildings and commercial buildings lead to energy consumption wastage through heating, water heating, lighting, air conditioning and ventilation.
- Internationally, nationally and locally, trends show that it is extremely difficult to facilitate sustainable behaviour change in the community through education and awareness campaigns alone (incentives and direct interventions are necessary).
- Even with extensive waste reduction measures in place, the ratio of landfill waste to recycling/composting still remains high.
- There are many regulatory areas that are outside the Council’s control that have the potential to reduce emissions greatly: the Building Code, public transport investment and vehicle fuel efficiency standards.