This week the Regional Council received its first annual audit of its own corporate carbon emissions, covering FY19-20, completed by consulting firm EKOS.

A rather useful first step, because HBRC has a stated goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025!

Overall, HBRC’ carbon footprint across all of its sites and business operations during that fiscal year was 882.44 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents), from these sources:

  • 86% of Council emissions stem from fleet use. This included the use of large plant such as diggers and mowers.
  • 4% of emissions relate to electricity use at Council offices.
  • 10% of emissions stem from flights (3%), gas (3%), plus freight and waste.

More detail in this table.

Regarding fleet use, HBRC consumed 255,534 liters of diesel fuel and 30,311 liters of petrol. The report recommends using vehicles less and purchasing more efficient ones … a no-brainer at first glance.

Council currently operates 3 Hybrid’s, 6 Plug-in Hybrids, 2 Full electric vehicles and 2 electric motorbikes which have replaced traditional fuel counterparts. Not a significant EV fleet at this point.

But the real issue is the use of diesel-fuel, which includes everything from trucks to tractors to diggers, many of which currently do not have viable electric substitutes (although that picture is rapidly changing worldwide).

What would really help HBRC’s vehicle emissions profile (and the entire region’s for that matter) is a biofuel substitute for diesel. This alternative is certainly within reach, and should be strongly incentivised at a national level.

Simply adding an incremental EV now and then under a ‘Electric First’ policy (which HBRC does have) is a drop in the bucket.

Regarding flights, Staff travelled a total of 183,000 km’s by air. The highest sector flown was Napier/Wellington at 266 times, with the Napier/Auckland sector flown 126 times.

The obvious recommendation is ‘fly less’. But in this case, serious traction has been provided by the Covid lockdown experience, which spawned far greater – and hopefully enduring – use of videoconferencing. The next audit will indicate whether that is happening.

Electricity use is already a small part of the equation, but more detailed auditing will undoubtedly identify savings opportunities.

The HBRC staff memo covering this audit notes that HBRC could ‘buy’ its way to carbon neutrality today by purchasing emissions offsets and/or planting trees:

Staff will begin to introduce emission reduction actions, however for those activities where there are no alternatives such as diesel 4×4 and digger use, Council has the option to offset all operational emissions at $33,500 per annum. Council can choose to uptake a ‘Climate Positive’ option, offsetting emissions by 120% for $40,000 per annum. Noting Council’s portfolio of forestry and open spaces, a review will be completed to confirm any existing offsetting potential and to also explore options to offset ourselves through planting initiatives.

Not very expensive, but ultimately not the answer … better to actually reduce emissions than pretend to make them ‘not count’.

And that’s the better example to set for the other carbon emitters in the region if HBRC wants to provide genuine climate change mitigation leadership.

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