Tackling our Climate Emergency Head-On!
Are you one of those who are becoming increasingly alarmed by climate changes but don’t know quite how to respond? A recent seminar run by Wise Response Society and chaired by Sir Alan Mark, was recently run at Otago University intended to answer that question for the City, businesses and the home. Motivation for the Seminar was the chronic lack of effective progress in reducing the green house gas emissions (GHG) responsible for climate change by governments everywhere. Sir Alan said the Society felt that we could no longer afford to wait, so it was time the community were given the tools and encouragement to start to take things into their own hands.
The Seminar also happened to coincide with the SchoolStrike4Climate and a panel discussion by the Otago University Students Association, both with very similar concerns and which the meeting took the opportunity to whole heartedly endorse.
The two motions passed unanimously at the conclusion of the meeting were:
1 “We, who care about preserving a life-supporting planet, stand with all young people, appealing for the avoidance of a global climate catastrophe by effective GHG emissions reduction. This will require: by all nation states together, an unequivocal commitment to a pathway that delivers safe global limits; by our government immediately incentivising, provisioning and enforcing climate mitigation ahead of short-term economic and political considerations; and by each of us, a willingness to assess and voluntarily step down the GHG emissions footprint that supports our current life and work”.
2 “That a group be established to advance community-wide emissions accounting and reduction planning in the district”
Commenting after the meeting about the way forward, Sir Alan Mark said “Cutting the necessary emissions is going to be like climbing Everest! To have a chance of getting to the top, the DCC will need to get out and involve all of us in developing and Action Plan based on the new emissions inventory. Without that we will never get the necessary level of buy-in for it to be accepted and work” he said.
” Hopefully the new emissions accounting group the meeting wishes to see established, will be able to facilitate that” he added.
The Emissions reduction challenge
An update of the climate science provided by retired Associate Professor Bob Lloyd set out the climate stabilisation challenge and provided a benchmark for the evening.
His key points were that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is increasing and at an increasing rate. That increase is proportional to annual world emissions with 44% remaining in the atmosphere and the rest being assimilated in the ocean and land.
This means that for 66% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees, while taking into account feedback effects and other gases, we can only omit around 250 Gt CO2 more from 2018 (IPCC 1.5 Oct 2018) to reach zero emissions by 2030 or in 12 years.
This result is based on modelling by climate scientists (IPCC 1.5)) , but based on Paleo science (Fisher et al) we may need to reach zero emissions within the space of as little as two years and even then, that we may have already locked in 3.5deg C warming (Climate Change in a Nutshell, James Hansen, 2019) .
City and DCC emissions footprints
Maria Ioannou and Jessie Wu from the policy section of the DCC explained what the Council has been doing with a view to GHG emissions reductions
They have two GHG related initiatives running in parallel – i) the Global Covenant of Mayors: Dunedin City as a region to achieve 100% net decrease of CO2equivalent on 2015 levels by 2050 – set by city “stakeholders” which aligns with the current Governments national direction and ii) formal certification of emissions reporting and regulation for the DCC as an institution (excluding waste), with a goal to achieve 20% decrease C02equivalent on 2013 levels by 2018/19.
For Dunedin City as a region, gross emissions without offsets is 1.4Mil tCO2 equivalent/yr which, with a population of 125,000, gives gross emissions per capita of 11.4 tCO2 equivalent/yr, compared to the national average of 17 tCO2equvilent/yr and with forestry offset, 8.7 tCO2 equiv/yr net. Overall, the City’s emissions profile is 48% from agriculture, 28% transport, 13% stationary energy, 7% waste, and 3% industrial.
They consider that the biggest reduction potential lies with sheep at 29%, followed by diesel, at 16%, petrol 11%, and beef and dairy both at 9%. Lesser opportunities lie in electricity use, waste disposal and coal. If all emission reduction opportunities were taken, then the footprint could be reduced to 52%, and to 44% if indigenous forestry offsets were included. The stated intention is to have an Action Plan to achieve those targets ready for sign off by mid 2019.
GHG emissions have doubled over the last 5 years to about 57,000tCO2equvilent/yr by 2017/18. Eighty percent of this is sourced from waste, followed by much small contributions from electricity and LPG.
Their emissions reduction programme currently focuses on 3 areas – street lighting, energy reduction at Moana Pool, and the waste futures programme, 2023. To support the policy, DCC assessed the carbon impact on the 10-year plan 2018 – 28 and the reduction for draft budgets and selected projects.
Dunedin City’s Energy profile
Associate Professor Janet Stephenson, Director of the University’s Centre for Sustainability reported on Dunedin’s energy profile for 2017-18 and opportunities to reduce our GHGs.
She advised that petrol and diesel comprise 54% of the energy consumed in Dunedin, and this has steadily increased over the past 4 years. Twenty-four percent of the city’s energy is from electricity, with 83% of that from the national grid and 17% from “locally embedded” generation – mostly Mahinerangi windfarm and Waipori hydro. Thirteen percent is from biomass (mainly firewood, wood chips and wood pellets). Coal is only around 5% of our energy source, but 8% of our energy-related GHG emissions.
There appears to be significant opportunity to reduce coal-related emissions, as over 90% is used by just a few organisations, with 39 boilers in schools, 8 commercial boilers, and the hospital/university heating scheme.
Solar generation is increasing but still only contributes minutely to Dunedin’s total energy supply. More encouragingly from an emissions perspective, electric vehicle (EV) ownership is increasing exponentially, going from around 25 in 2015 to over 500 today. However, this is still less than one percent of our total fleet of around 67,000 vehicles.
Also, 13% of our energy use is from biomass (plant material), yet it only contributes 0.1% of our energy-related GHGs so Dunedin’s large forestry resources offer great potential to replace fossil fuels and concurrently cut emissions.
Summing up, Prof Stephenson said that transport fuels are more than half the energy used, and produce nearly three-quarters of our energy-related emissions. Focal areas for all of us to change, and often reduce personal costs, include transport (active, public and EV, etc), heating (good insulation but also getting off coal and inefficient heating, and switching to biomass and electricity) and, where possible, using locally sourced renewable energy – forests, solar, wind, which also generates employment.
Personal and business opportunities for emissions reduction
Dr Ann Smith and Austin Hansell of Enviro-Mark Solutions, a subsidiary of Landcare Research, outlined the scope for businesses and individuals to act on climate change using measurement and monitoring to manage footprints. Unsurprisingly, the footprint of individuals reflected a similar pattern to the city’s use, being dominated by transport, home and water heating or cooling.
Austin encouraged us all “be the change” and go to their free internet calculator and begin measuring and monitoring our household footprints at www.enviro-mark.com/calculators. The goal for all of us she said, with monitoring, should be to reduce our personal emissions by 5% each year.
Dr Ann Smith said that the average reduction for companies following their schemes was 33%, while some have achieved over 60%. This can also provide a compelling business case in terms of marketing, insurance, divestment, and fund raising. Certification can be extended to the likes of products, buildings, and infrastructure for cities and regions.