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City’s carbon zero target up in air

Mar 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Latest News, News

Chris Cameron of WCC's climate change office

Chris Cameron of WCC's climate change office

WELLINGTON City Council’s own climate change advisors are encouraging councillors to ditch the 2012 target for carbon neutrality.

Councillors will review the goal when they meet next week.

Principal advisor for the climate change office Chris Cameron hopes the uncertainty around how voluntary offsets and emissions trading schemes will interact encourages them to drop the deadline.

“We’re hopeful the council will agree to remove the target, because it sets us up for costs that ratepayers [will] effectively have to bear the burden [of], which we don’t think they should,” he says.

Mr Cameron says it will cost the city between $200,000 and $1.7 million a year to voluntarily offset corporate council emissions, and when the Emissions Trading Scheme is brought in by central Government, ratepayers will be forced to bear the burden twice as they pay for every tonne of greenhouse gases emitted.

In July 2007, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast heralded the ambitious 2012 target for carbon neutrality and reduction of emissions by between 50% to 85% by 2050, predicting Wellington would beat London in becoming “the first ‘green capital’ in the world.”

Greater Wellington Regional Council climate committee chairman Chris Laidlaw says carbon neutrality is too difficult.

“It becomes to some extent meaningless – how can you absorb enough carbon to, in effect, become neutral?” he asks.

Mr Cameron hopes to use the savings from removing the 2012 target into initiatives to focus on reducing emissions.

One of his team’s priorities is for the council to increase its support for the healthy homes initiative, which would see insulation retrofitted in the city’s older homes and reduce overall energy use.

Another is the ongoing support for public transport, and development of a strategy on how to approach electric vehicles.

“We need to continue to look at how transport’s going to change in the future, and how infrastructure will support that,” Mr Cameron says.

Over the next couple of months, the council will apply to put the city’s forests in carbon sinks reducing the overall carbon footprint.

While the ability of New Zealand’s bush to absorb carbon is considerable, there are still debates over which species of tree can be included.

In the next six to 12 months, the climate change office will seek to review the council’s action plan to ensure its goals are achievable, and introduce an inventory to measuring current emissions and allow comparisons with future levels of greenhouse gases.

“We’re following good practise around measuring first, then reducing your emissions before you look at offsetting – the measurement stage has been our priority focus,” Mr Cameron says.

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is a graduate of Whitireia NewsWire. He's a reporter for BusinessWire (yes - he does like the wire theme), where he writes daily stories updating currency movements. And he still spends far too much time reading blogs.
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