Element - - Clean Technology -

It is likely that Auck­land city could ex­pe­ri­ence a rise in aver­age tem­per­a­tures of be­tween 0.2°C and 2.5°C by 2040, and 0.6°C and 5.8°C by 2090 de­pend­ing on the earth’s emis­sions are man­aged. This is com­pared to a tem­per­a­ture in­crease in New Zealand dur­ing the last cen­tury of about 0.7°C. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment, which re­leased th­ese fig­ures, by the end of the cen­tury Auck­land is pro­jected to have about 40–60 ex­tra days per year when max­i­mum tem­per­a­tures ex­ceed 25˚C, and frosts are likely to be­come rare as hens’ teeth. The city could also lose one to three per cent of its rain­fall by 2040, and three to five per cent by 2090.

While this may sound balmy, it means by the time my grand­chil­dren are in their 50s, droughts with a sever­ity that Auck­land cur­rently only ex­pe­ri­ences ev­ery 20 years will oc­cur ev­ery five. This could threaten agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and put pres­sure on the city’s wa­ter sup­ply, in­clud­ing hy­dro­elec­tric power gen­er­a­tion. Ex­treme weather events like the tor­nado that killed three peo­ple and dam­aged 150 homes in Hob­sonville last De­cem­ber, as well as wide­spread flood­ing, will be­come more com­mon.

Then there’s Auck­land’s iconic coast­line. Last year the National In­sti­tute of Wa­ter and At­mo­spheric Re­search pre­dicted sea level rises of 0.5m to 1.5m by 2100. An­other study by the New Zealand Cli­mate Change Re­search In­sti­tute at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity of Welling­ton warned that the rate of sea level rise is likely to in­crease to­wards the sec­ond half of this cen­tury, mean­ing ac­tion can­not be de­layed. The In­sti­tute even goes so far as to sug­gest a re­treat from sea-front homes and busi­nesses in Mis­sion Bay, Ko­hi­marama and Kawakawa Bay, al­though it ac­knowl­edged that the un­pop­u­lar­ity of such an ap­proach means it is un­likely to be pur­sued.

Auck­land Coun­cil has set a tar­get to achieve a 40 per cent re­duc­tion in green­house gas emis­sions by 2040, based on 1990 lev­els. Ac­cord­ing to the Plan: “This will re­quire a trans­for­ma­tion from a fos­sil fuel-de­pen­dent, high en­er­gyus­ing, high-waste so­ci­ety to an ‘eco – or live­able – city’. This is typ­i­fied by sus­tain­able re­source use, a qual­ity com­pact form, an eco-econ­omy, and trans­port and en­ergy sys­tems that are ef­fi­cient, max­imise re­new­able re­sources and min­imise re­liance on fos­sil-based trans­port fu­els.”

The Auck­land En­ergy Re­silience and Low Car­bon Draft

“The fo­cus on car­bon emis­sions is very much front of mind and we can never let that slip.”

Ac­tion Plan, which will be re­leased for con­sul­ta­tion and sub­mis­sions in March 2014, is the Coun­cil’s pri­mary means of mak­ing this hap­pen. It sug­gests a host of op­por­tu­ni­ties for low­er­ing the city’s green­house gas emis­sions. Th­ese in­clude the pro­vi­sion of greater trans­port choice, as well as re­duc­ing our re­liance on fos­sil fu­els and the car for trans­port, a pro­gramme that is al­ready un­der­way with the an­nounce­ment of the $2.86 bil­lion city rail loop. The Coun­cil will also look to re­duce en­ergy con­sump­tion in Auck­land’s build­ings through its reg­u­la­tions and con­sent­ing pro­cesses and man­age peak de­mand in elec­tric­ity through the in­creas­ing use of ‘smart’ me­ters and elec­tric­ity con­trol sys­tems. It al­ready pro­vides eco-de­sign ad­vi­sors of­fer­ing free, in­de­pen­dent ad­vice to de­sign­ers, builders and home ren­o­va­tors to in­crease the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of build­ings.

The Coun­cil is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of Auck­land’s elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion with small-scale wind and so­lar elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion as well as larger projects. This looks promis­ing; a re­cent study from the Univer­sity of Auck­land sug­gests that New Zealand is close to the point where the price of elec­tric­ity sup­plied by ‘dis­trib­uted gen­er­a­tion’ could be the same or less than the price of grid-sup­plied elec­tric­ity.

In­ter­est­ingly, this re­search also sug­gests that an ex­ten­sive so­lar-pow­ered suburbia with elec­tric cars may ac­tu­ally prove more ef­fi­cient than the more com­pact city cur­rently be­ing en­vis­aged, where fu­ture city ex­pan­sion will be limited to re­duce the need for long ur­ban com­mutes in cars. This demon­strates how the ap­proach to tack­ling th­ese is­sues may need to evolve with chang­ing cir­cum­stances and new tech­nolo­gies.

Auck­land Coun­cil also in­tends to use its plan­ning pow­ers to try and avoid the po­ten­tial dam­age cli­mate change could in­flict on the city’s in­fra­struc­ture and pop­u­la­tion. This will in­clude de­sign­ing de­vel­op­ments to take ac­count of pos­si­ble sea level rises and man­ag­ing a re­treat from cer­tain low-ly­ing coastal ar­eas if nec­es­sary. The coun­cil is also con­sid­er­ing ac­tively pro­mot­ing self-suf­fi­ciency and re­silience, as has been pre­vi­ously ex­em­pli­fied by move­ments like Tran­si­tion Towns.

Mayor Len Brown says: “The fo­cus on car­bon emis­sions is very much front of mind and we can never let that slip. I can’t im­pact what peo­ple are do­ing in Bei­jing, Zurich or New York, but I can im­pact what peo­ple are do­ing here in Auck­land. It’s not about smack­ing peo­ple ’round the ear, it’s about lead­ing by ex­am­ple.

“I think buy-in is very good, es­pe­cially in busi­ness. Where busi­ness once lagged be­hind our young peo­ple, in terms of sus­tain­able think­ing, they are now lead­ing the way.”

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