Wellington’s City Council’s Climate Change Action Plan, regularly updated since it was first created back in 2007, prepares for sea-level rise, storm-surges, flooding, slips, and extreme storms, but also for the difficulty in maintaining water supply in the summer months due to reduced rainfall, higher temperatures and increased demand.
The plan includes a target of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2001 levels by 2020. Already, about a third of Wellington’s workforce commutes by public transport, bicycles or on foot, thanks to the city’s compact layout and its relatively convenient and comprehensive train and bus system. The city plans to boost this further by spending $12.8 million over the next 10 years on improvements that will make it safer and more enjoyable to walk or cycle. In 2011 it spent $11.4 million to open Manners Mall to buses and create a new shared space for pedestrians, cyclists and cars in lower Cuba Street. It is also currently spending an additional $9.3 million up until 2019 to expand the city’s bus-lane network through the central city and on other key routes from 2012-2019. The city is also looking to the longer-term future of travel, investing in the promotion of electric vehicles, especially for commercial fleet use.
Meanwhile, Wellington is also developing its green belt areas, with about 10 per cent of the city area currently being managed as or reverting back to native bush, and Council staff and volunteers planting about 100,000 trees a year to increase carbon dioxide absorption.
Renewable energy is also a big part of the plan, with the council encouraging projects like Meridian Energy’s 62-turbine West Wind farm in Makara. Combined, existing and planned wind farms around Wellington have the capacity to produce 222 megawatts of electricity, sufficient to power 110,000 homes.
“Cities, rather than countries, are taking the lead on climate change issues.”
In future the Council plans to support small-scale power generation with ‘feed in tariffs’ that set minimum payments for power being sent back into the grid from private solar and wind systems. It is also investigating ways to incorporate better energy efficiency standards into residential and commercial building regulations in the city. And it partnered with Todd Energy New Zealand to help establish a landfill gas-to-electricity plant that collects methane and runs it through a 1MW generator, producing enough power to supply about 1,000 households.
To adapt to what’s coming, the city has commissioned a large amount of research on the potential impacts, including possible sea-level-rise scenarios from 0.5 to 2.5 metres. The authority is using that to inform everything from the design of stormwater drain systems to entire coastal dune landscapes.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has said: “Cities, rather than countries, are taking the lead on climate change issues. We need to take a climate change lens to all of Council’s activities and programmes. Based on the best available information, as of 2010 the city’s emissions had roughly stabilised at 2001 levels. This shows we are on the path to a lower-carbon economy, since both GDP and population have grown, by 29 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Reaching the 2020 target of a 30 per cent emission reduction below 2001 levels will require a further step change.”