As with anything, leading starts by looking in. The Council needs a comprehensive plan to reduce the carbon we emit as an organisation to zero. Unlike other areas, the Council has much more control over what happens in our own facilities or through our own operations than in those that belong to or are managed by others.
Adding on to this, we need to view our status as a leader as an opportunity to bring our contractors, Council Controlled Organisations and partners along with us on the decarbonization journey - finding advantages where they may be and finding mutually acceptable ways through challenges.
The Council measures corporate emissions, including activities the Council owns and operates like the landfill. Also included are Council Controlled Organizations like the Wellington Zoo and Zealandia, both of which are already CarbonZero certified. The Council participates in the Certified Emissions Management and Reduction Scheme (CEMARS) to measure and audit emissions.
What is remarkable about the corporate inventory is how it is dominated by waste. Landfilled waste makes up more than 80% of Council emissions due to the ownership of two Council landfills. All told, the Council has a goal to reduce waste by ⅓ by 2026 and aspires to be a waste free region in conjunction with other councils.
Other areas beyond waste are critical as well, particularly when viewed in the context of leadership. Electricity and natural gas are the largest known quantities outside of waste, while emissions from contractors are largely unknown.
The Council has already committed to funding a sewage sludge processing solution at the Southern Landfill. In exploring solutions we will also look at the potential for digesters or co-processing of other waste streams than sludge to see if further maximised benefit can be achieved.
A procurement strategy and procurement policy that place requirements on emissions output, social values like living wage, and Maori issues is essential to bring product and service providers along on a journey that delivers for those outcomes.
Wellington City Council currently assesses every Council paper, investment, policy and proposal for its relationship and impacts on climate change, but the assessment currently does not involve in-depth analysis. Re-evaluating how the Council takes account of climate change in each Council paper to ensure robustness and enhanced consideration for key issues will empower officers across the business to better support Councillors.
We will look to ensure that bylaws align with supporting a liveable, low carbon city. Issues ranging from parking, trading in public places, water services and waste management all interact with carbon in significant ways and as they are revised, bylaws need to account for the Council’s ambitions.
The Council continues to report through the CDP Programme (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) for both voluntary city and corporate carbon disclosure and benchmarking against other cities. It also serves as mandatory accountability for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. The Covenant of Mayors is fast becoming the foremost global accountability regime for cities aiming to reduce their carbon impact, with thousands of cities reporting each year.
In 2018, over 7,000 companies, representing over 50% of global market capitalization, and over 750 cities, states and region disclosed their environmental data through our online platform. That’s an 11% jump on 2017. - Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP
The Council continues to use the CEMARS(Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme) programme to measure and audit emissions as an organization.
So far, drilling more methane collection wells, upgrading the generator that converts that methane to energy, and even adjustments to our collection regime have been employed to reduce our largest source of carbon. Through our Regional Waste Management and Minimization Plan, the Council has committed to a reducing our waste by one third before 2026 and to becoming a waste free region long term.
This is a change programme to shift the carbon outcomes of the city and the Council. As a matter of priority the Council needs to understand how far this plan will get us - and what we will need to do in the future on top of it. The information is essential to ensure our targets remain closely linked with the actions in our plans, which may feed into additional projects for the implementation plan.
A significant fund to support engagement with communities, building of infrastructure, development of solutions that will reduce emissions and assist with adaptation.
Some debt that the Council would issue would have certification programmes attached to them that require alignment with various sustainability concepts or the 2 degree target. The Council will investigate the use of these instruments.
Some shared mobility companies have come to the table potentially ready to pay for the street modifications necessary to make their business viable. The Council will explore how to incorporate this into our funding framework.
The circular economy attempts to get rid of waste in our economic system instead focusing on reusing precious natural resources. The Council will investigate how the circular economy could be included into the council’s policy framework.
Council’s water system is far and away its largest source of electricity emissions. Between pump stations and treatment plants, a lot of energy goes into getting crystal clear tapwater to Wellingtonians. But to improve our systems we need to better understand them, and the best way to accomplish this is through water meters. This has the added benefit of reducing water demand through severe leak identification, which may prevent the sunk carbon cost of building additional reservoirs for supply.
As of 2024 LTP all buildings, housing and refits must achieve the green star maximum rating for Council funded, planned, facilitated or supported buildings including via Urban Development Agency. When the Council builds, part-funds, or refits a new building for any purpose, regardless of owner, from the 2024 LTP all buildings must achieve the highest possible green star standards. Establishing such a standard creates lower long-term operating costs and higher overall benefits to the community and council through lower infrastructure expenditure.
The vast majority of buildings are those that exist already. When refits occur, Council will seek to refit to the maximum possible Green Star standard. For the same reasons that new buildings can contribute to Zero Carbon outcomes, existing buildings can as well.
The single biggest challenge with buildings from a carbon perspective is the use of natural gas, and it represents a large portion of WCC’s emissions output. In addition to the carbon implications, the move away from natural gas is fiscally responsible and ensures stable access to energy in the long term given the oil and gas exploration ban.
Our fleet policy will shift to electric-first. In addition, car sharing will be emphasised across pool vehicles to support modes of transport that increase vehicle use and remove asset challenges from the Council’s responsibility to third party organisations. This will all happen while supporting businesses that enhance vehicle use rates. This will extend to contracts as a key procurement factor e.g. for rubbish trucks.
The Council has a number of relationships with key culinary events and institutions. We will use those relationships to deliver sustainable food outcomes by promoting and integrating principles of the Sustainable Food Network into these activities.
All entities that the Council has a stake in will from 2020 be required to introduce carbon emissions as a performance measure and carbon measurement and planning as a requirement to deliver on the 2050 goal. Some entities will have customized expectations, e.g. for Wellington Water embodied carbon of new facilities and infrastructure.
The Council will explore the prospect of making ourselves a CarbonZero certified council using offsets.
All facility controllers whether managers, property managers or budget holders over facilities which use energy will have KPIs integrated into their contracts relating to energy management and emissions reduction.
WCC will develop a “Climate Budget” to account for all carbon emitted and provide a three-yearly pathway of reductions to achieve the 2050 target.
WCC will ensure all key worksites have teleconference equipment and actively promote their usage.
The Council has built up a menu of energy-saving projects to invest in, but to date has not progressed to unlocking their potential. The Council will devote more attention to investments that could result in significant financial savings in conjunction with emissions savings.
The Council is involved in a number of areas that emit substantial carbon. Construction, infrastructure management, and building operations have significant impacts, including at the early stage. All three can benefit from embodied carbon assessments and full life-cycle cost analysis of implementation.
Traditional methods of managing stormwater include pipes and water treatment systems to minimise flooding. Green infrastructure on the other hand use things like green roofs to manage stormwater. The Council will develop a Green infrastructure plan for Wellington which will manage stormwater and increase food security and amenity throughout the city.
Through our regulatory role we may have powers to enhance the building industry’s practices and to better effect.
The Council will attempt to work in partnership with relevant organisations such as Victoria University and NIWA and to develop a framework for measuring our emissions to keep us on track for our goal and to be accountable for our work.