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Capital’s carbon zero – gone by lunchtime

Apr 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Lead Story, Student Features

prendergastmainA CARBON-NEUTRAL-by-2012 deadline for Wellington was probably too ambitious and will likely be abandoned, says Mayor Kerry Prendergast.

As reported in an ongoing NewsWire investigation, Wellington City Council will make a final decision in June on reducing carbon emissions.

Its strategy and policy committee decided that axing the carbon-neutral target should go to the public for consultation.

The committee unanimously agreed to review the goal when a report predicted the cost of voluntarily offsetting emissions would be between $200,000 and $1 million per year, says Ms Prendergast.

“[The climate change office] said we shouldn’t be putting in such an ambitious goal because we wouldn’t be able to achieve it. What they’re saying now is that we should have a target of reducing emissions.

“The cost of trying to reach the goal we had set is, at this stage, unrealistic to ask our communities to fund when there’s an economic crisis.”

The council will wait until the public has had its say before making a final decision on voluntary carbon offsets. But the mayor notes Air New Zealand’s scheme, where customers pay a premium to reduce the carbon footprint of their air travel, has not been well supported.

In July 2007 she announced the 2012 target for carbon neutrality and reduction of emissions by 50% to 85% by 2050.

She stresses that while the deadline may have been too ambitious, the council will probably retain its aspiration to reduce emissions.

“The first thing I stood for was to be first green capital, and that’s still a goal. It’s not really affected by this.”

Transport is an ongoing concern in terms of reducing emissions with people continuing to use private cars for recreational use.

However, the mayor is pleased with the number of people using public transport, cycling, or walking to work: “The more people we can get out of their cars and into public transport – that makes a huge difference.”

A carbon tax, supported in a number of submissions to the parliamentary select committee hearing on climate change, has not been considered by the council. The mayor is confident the National-led Government will introduce an emissions trading scheme.

New assumptions from the Ministry for the Environment show the nation has a surplus of $241 million, reflecting carbon emissions reduced in excess of that required by the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate change minister Nick Smith is cautious about finalising the Government’s climate change policy due to the volatility of the latest projections, which swung from deficit to surplus because of the drought in 2007/08, and improved knowledge about forestry carbon storage.

Wellington City Council’s climate change office hopes to review the long-term action plan in the next six to 12 months, to ensure its goals are achievable.

PICTURE: Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast (Dominion Post).

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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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