Why zero carbon by 2050?

Climate change is already here, and its effects are just beginning. When it rains heavily at a high tide, or when the waves from a severe storm crash against the coast, we are already experiencing early impacts of climate change.

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Possible Wellington City sea level rise with climate change

Cities have a big part to play, given they are the source of more than 70% of emissions. Here in Wellington City, the same is true.

Currently, Wellington City produces net 1.1 million tonnes of carbon every year. Reducing this to nothing will not be easy, but we have to start now if we’re to stay in the “safe zone” scientists indicate. To stay in that safe zone, we need to cut emissions by half in the next 11 years, then to zero by 2050. That’s not a lot of time to work with!

We can’t do it overnight, but we still need to act now. The Te Atakura blueprint will establish a plan of action. It will require everyone to work together to make some changes, from the individual through to communities, businesses, organisations, local and national government.

The size of the change required is significant - it will take time. But we have ambitiously set 2050 as our target for when Wellington City will officially be zero carbon. We hope to reach it earlier, but we need to move now to make a difference.

Why Wellington?

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Wellington City is in a good position to make a positive difference.

We may be small, but 80% of people around the world live in places like ours, with populations under 1 million. Small cities like Wellington have a huge role to play in solving our carbon problems. By establishing a position of leadership, we can give New Zealand and the world the best chance possible to stay in the climate "safe zone."

We think that Wellington’s advantages such as a highly educated populace, an already compact inner city, high use of public transport, and relatively low car ownership means this target is possible. We also believe our knowledge economy could be an engine for change - and benefit from solving these problems and sharing the solutions with the world.

And there is good motivation for this. We have a tremendous amount at risk. About $7 billion in property is at risk from sea level rise according to the latest guidance from the Ministry for the Environment - and our cherished spaces like Civic Square, the waterfront, and Waitangi park are at risk if we don't move emissions to zero.