Wellington Scoop

City’s carbon emissions down by 7% over 18 years

News from WCC
The Capital’s emissions were down 7% between 2001 and 2019, and on target to reach the goal of dropping to 10% next year, according to a recently released report commissioned by the Wellington City Council.

As part of the Te Atakura – First to Zero programme, moving to make Wellington City a zero carbon capital, this is positive news especially with drops from road transport, waste and stationary energy (buildings) despite a significant growth in the population and economy.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions per capita are down 24%, and while our GDP grew 59%, GHG emissions per unit of GDP are down 41%.

Mayor Andy Foster says: “With 92% of Wellingtonians wanting us to prioritise making Wellington City zero carbon by 2050, and 77% very concerned about the impact of climate change on Wellington, it’s clear what we need to focus on.

“This report is a good starting point and the result of a concerted effort by Council, consistent low carbon decisions from the community, and numerous groups and organisations around the city. But to reach our target of zero carbon in 2050 it’s going to take the whole city working together to achieve this collective goal.

“There are many reasons for these results, much of which can be attributed to the work we’ve done over many years to increase the proportion of trips taken by low or no emission modes. Wellington City has by far the highest amounts of trips by foot, bikes and public transport in the country. This is through ongoing transport improvements and consistent compact walkable city policies.

“Reductions in electricity emissions are nationwide, but Wellington City has played a big part due to the establishment of West Wind and Millcreek wind farms. We have been doing a lot, and we are deliberately doing a lot now, which is a large part of where we’ve got to with these results – and we will keep doing it too.

“The Te Atakura plan includes a huge number of proposed initiatives, opportunities and actions we could do to further reduce emissions, and now that Council has adopted the plan, it’s up to the city to decide what we’re going to do next.”

The City Council’s Climate Change Portfolio Leader Councillor Tamatha Paul stood for election to campaign for a zero waste Wellington, so is pleased to see we’re on track, but says there’s still a long way to go.

“This number is close to the necessary carbon reduction of 7.6% recommended by scientists to slow the global effects of climate change on our environment – but we can do better.

“Our commitment to the environment is a full time job, and while there are successes in some areas, there are challenges too.”

· Emissions from electricity dropped 34%, while use increased just 1%

· Air travel emissions increased by 45% as Wellington has become a more popular tourist destination

· Waste emissions have dropped by 32% between 2001 and 2019 (Closed landfills have emitted much less methane, while the Council has invested in gas capture technology)

· Road transport emissions dropped by 6% between 2001 and 2019 (Even with a growing population and economy, vehicle kilometers travelled only changed by 1%)

“All those people walking, scooting, running, and cycling are paying off, so get on your bike Wellington!” adds Councillor Paul.

Some other ways Wellingtonians can help reduce emissions:

· Have a healthy and energy efficient home with a free Home Energy assessment

· Join a conservation volunteer group like Forest at the Heart of Wellington

· Donate or gift a tree at treesthatcount.co.nz

· Jump on a bike

· Reduce waste at your home, school and business

· Love Food Hate Waste

· Find out how and what to recycle with our online directory

· Be part of the solution with Plastic Free July

· Apply for a waste minimisation grant

· Read the full report and find out more about Te Atakura here

Carbon emissions for Wellington City have been measured using the Global Protocol for Community Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (GPC). The method includes emissions from stationary energy, transportation, waste, industry (IPPU), agriculture and forestry sectors.

AECOM New Zealand Limited (AECOM) has been commissioned by the Wellington City Council (WCC) via a consortium of Wellington Region Councils, to assist in the development of a greenhouse gas footprint for the District for the 2018 / 2019 financial year. The study boundary incorporates the jurisdictions of the Wellington City.

NB: Because the report measures to the end of 2019, it doesn’t capture the effects of COVID-19 on emissions.


  1. Roger Blakeley, 7. June 2020, 9:44

    Very good result for Wgtn City to get a 7% drop in ghg emissions 2001 to 2019 despite 24% population increase and 56% GDP growth. But we still have a huge task to cut ghg emissions by 50% by 2030 (IPCC rec) to avoid climate catastrophe. [via twitter]

  2. Ian Apperley, 7. June 2020, 9:46

    I don’t believe this report. Not a jot. Ask them to release the data and get some independent analysis done. [via twitter]

  3. Trish, 7. June 2020, 13:45

    Turns out that Save the Basin was right when they challenged traffic growth forecasts used to justify the Basin flyover. Even the Council is now saying that total traffic (vehicle kilometers) have “only changed by 1%” over the past 18 years. So what’s the logic for the second Mt Victoria tunnel?

  4. Mike Mellor, 7. June 2020, 14:51

    The report is very interesting, as is the media release, in both what they do and don’t say. Reductions in emissions relative to both population and GDP, as achieved, are good news.

    What the report says (but the media release doesn’t) is that transport emissions, the largest single source (52.5%), have actually risen by 4% since 2001. Yes, petrol emissions fell by 18% – a very good result – but road diesel emissions (trucks and buses) rose by 38%, a dismal performance. An even worse percentage performance was from air travel emissions, up 45%.

    The actions suggested by WCC are all good and positive, but they will do little to reverse these negative trends. We (city, region and country) need to be looking much more seriously at electric buses, where GWRC has reduced fleet size by 80%; at alternatives to diesel trucks (and, to a lesser extent but easier to fix, diesel trains); and at airport capacity and alternatives to flying – more flights will just make things worse.

    The fact that road traffic has changed by just 1% over the last 18 years (while GDP has increased by 59% and population by 24%) means that there is no justification at all for road capacity increases for private vehicles, such as another Mt Victoria tunnel.

    There are lots of good things highlighted in the report, but to stand any chance of meeting Te Atakura objectives we all need to be focussing strongly on the less-good ones.

  5. Mike Mellor, 7. June 2020, 15:11

    I should add that GWRC are making commendable efforts to replace diesel trains with hybrids, and have been talking for some time about new fleets of electric buses (the “temporary” diesel cast-offs on route 2 etc. are a continuing disgrace). KiwiRail needs to come to the party by filling the electrification gaps along the North Island Main Trunk, allowing full electric operation on that important route.

    Covid is not, of course, helping – but long after the pandemic has gone the existential climate crisis will still be with us, and as The Economist says, we must insist that governments (national and local) do not skew their efforts towards fossil fuels.

  6. TrevorH, 8. June 2020, 8:52

    CO2 has a great diversity of sources as well as sinks so I do not find this report convincing. I agree with Ian Apperley, the data needs to be released and reviewed.

  7. Keith Flinders, 8. June 2020, 11:11

    The report states “Emissions from electricity dropped 34%, while use increased just 1%”

    Where in Wellington is electricity being produced from a fossil fuel source, other than a couple of pilot plants at tip sites using methane from rotting vegetation and food waste ?

    Obviously we have seen a vast reduction in vehicle emissions, and fuel usage efficiency, due to technology improvements of the past 18 years or so, but I suggest that this doesn’t translate to fewer vehicle movements as some might claim.


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