Guardians submission on the WCC Low Carbon Capital Plan



Dr Sea Rotmann, May 3, 2016

It is good to see vision for a Low Carbon capital, with planning that will increase cycle-ways, electric charging stations, higher density building, ongoing smart energy challenges and phasing out minimum parking requirement. We like the statement “acting to reduce emissions helps the city as a whole” on page 6. However, this unfortunately cannot be taken as a serious statement with the airport and aviation emissions only being mentioned once in the plan on page 10: “On the other hand, we have a major international airport within the city limits, so we are credited with the emissions of nearly all of the region’s domestic air travel. This creates multiple complex challenges – with less forestry we aren’t able to offset as much; and with aviation being a substantial contributor to our transport emissions, greenhouse gas reductions will be driven by the availability of international solutions for aviation such as biofuels or gains in aircraft efficiency.”

Waiting for international solutions for aviation and not counting our international aviation emissions as part of the city’s emissions profile, as well as supporting the extension of the runway to double flights (including long-haul international flights) by 2030, is highly disingenuous. According to Adam Voulstaker’s numbers (

 Nearly a quarter of all CO2 emissions in Wellington are from the airport according to a URS council commissioned report – this is not mentioned in the plan.

 Domestic Aviation emissions have increased 50% in Wellington from 2001, almost equal to petrol emissions.

When setting emission targets we need to keep mindful of:

  1. If we don’t meet said targets, we will get further behind, and the damage to infrastructure, roads, seawalls, and coastline property will require further Council funds and no doubt fossil fuel construction emissions to repair. Hence, the targets are only realistic if we stick to them every year.
  2. The changing situation (as outlined by scientific consensus) and the need to adjust our targets if changing climate and sea-level rise predictions worsen.

With this in mind I would like to recommend the following action points from WCC:

  • Adoption of a reliable means of being accountable for set targets, preferably carried out by a non WCC expert body, with a meaningful system of addressing failure to reach targets. This is to help ensure WCC doesn’t continues miss it’s targets as occurred 2013, when the target of 3% reduction resulted in a 1.5% increase in emissions (p.15 Draft Annual Plan). Investigation of why this occurred needs to be undertaken, and addressed. And this excludes counting aviation emissions properly, which would have increased the % of missed targets.
  • Given the accelerated climate change we are currently seeing, all targets should be checked with scientific experts, and the 2020 target is dubious. WCC have changed the base year to 2014/15 (previously 2003). This seemingly is used to justifiy a change from the original 40% 2020 target to the new 10-15% 2020 reduction. However, emissions only dropped by 1.8% between 2000/01 and 2014/15, so we have 4 years to make up the 38.2% reduction to meet the 40% target that was set. So let’s target 38.2% reduction by 2020.
  • Emissions need to be honest so inclusion of International aviation (and agriculture) are essential. Domestic aviation was 17.5% of emissions (2010) and 19% (2015), but didn’t include international, which rose by 11% in 2015/16. We are told there is no data, so let’s get some before supporting the runway extension to attract more long-haul, international flights.
  • A team of people dedicated to working with the community to provide accurate data, and positive options for Wellingtonians to contribute at a personal, local and national level to slow the rate of climate change. People need to be assisted to move from a mindset of unfettered consumerism and waste production, toward the real environmental cost of purchases, activities and waste. Making a difference to the transport emissions will only happen if there is an urgent change in people’s attitudes, expectations and behavior. An example may be a move toward more skype conferences rather than air travel where travelling is not essential.
  • WCC to fully commit to divesting from fossil fuels in their own investment portfolio, in order to take a stand against fossil fuel exploration and extraction. The books of fossil fuel companies already have 5 times the amount of fossil fuels capable of raising the global temperature by the critical two degrees. Dunedin City Council has already made the commitment to this, and we understand is currently being considered by Auckland Council. This may mean breaking some of its cozy relationship with Infratil and its various fossil fuel-dependent subsidiaries such as NZ Bus and the Wellington International Airport.
  • Relinquish the airport extension plan as it runs counter to reducing emissions. No figures have been provided to back up the notion that somehow this plan will reduce emissions, but there are projected figures that indicate the opposite (2014 URS greenhouse gas report). If you add international flights but don’t decrease domestic how does that result in decreased emissions. Surely overseas visitors will wish to visit Christchurch or other centres whilst holidaying here. We should be encouraging people to begin reducing their air-travel not making it easier for them. Air travel is usually the largest emission source for the individual if they make one overseas flight to London equivalent per year.
  • The climate change initiatives must not work in isolation, but be supported by other arms/policies of council. The airport runway extension team, for instance, need to be working with the climate change team. See P13: “Action on climate change mitigation and adaptation makes sense economically as well as environmentally”.
  • Further thought also needs to be given to the needs for adaptation. How is coastal-lying infrastructure and residents being prepared for future changes? How resilient and sustainable is this airport where it is currently located?