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It’s encouraging to see QLDC putting out their first draft Climate Action Plan. Wastebusters have put in our response, and we’d like to see more action, sooner, quicker, bigger. Here’s what we’ve said in our submission:

Draft Climate Action Plan response from Wastebusters

Do you think the draft Climate Action Plan includes everything it should?

No

Do you think the four goals listed on page 14 are right?

No

Goals need to be reordered:

1st goal: QLDC achieves net zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2050

2nd goal needs to be worded in a way that is meaningful for people in their daily lives 

eg halve use of fossil fuels in the next 15 years, and eliminate them entirely within 30 years 

Goals 1 and 2 become goals 3 and 4

If you think something is missing from the draft Climate Action Plan, what should be added?

Summary

It is encouraging to see QLDC developing a Climate Action Plan, and this draft is a positive first step. However to create the change that is needed, the final Climate Action Plan needs to be stronger, more urgent and more action-focused. The plan itself recognises the urgency of the situation on Page One. “According to the IPCC, we have only 12 years until the effects of climate change are irreversible and catastrophic. Now is the time to stop talking about climate change and to start taking climate action.”

Our district has to take immediate and effective action to radically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels over the next few years. Wastebusters therefore proposes additional priority actions are included in the final Climate Action Plan as set out below. The most urgent priority actions we have identified to include for 2019/20 are:

  • Make achieving the Climate Action Plan goals an objective for all council’s activities, plans etc
  • Support the development of full Resource Recovery Parks in Queenstown and Wanaka
  • Require and monitor all old fridges in our district to be safely degassed, along with any other appliances which contain synthetic greenhouse gases
  • Support the Government’s proposal to introduce mandatory product stewardship for six Priority Products
  • Increase support for environmental education in schools

Council decision-making

For the Climate Action Plan to be effective, it can’t be just an add-on to council’s other activities. The impact on greenhouse gas emissions must be considered before all QLDC plans, policies, decisions etc are made.

Urgent priority actions to include:

    • Achieving Climate Action Plan goals is an explicit objective of every plan, policy, strategy, meeting agenda, decision and activity that the council undertakes
    • Every plan, policy, strategy, meeting agenda, decision and activity undertaken by QLDC will be assessed through the lens of the Climate Plan. Any plan, policy etc that endangers our ability to achieve our emissions targets will not be undertaken until such a time that we can ensure such that it can fit within our emissions obligations. 
    • QLDC will learn from and collaborate with other councils that are leading the way in reducing GHG’s. Aspen is often used as a useful case-study for our district. Their climate change toolkit and action plan is comprehensive and has been effective in reducing their emissions despite continuing population growth.

https://www.cityofaspen.com/DocumentCenter/View/1705/Greenhouse-Gas-Reduction-Toolkit?bidId=

    • QLDC will take advice from experts in climate change mitigation strategies before finalising plans and allocating budgets

Waste Minimisation and Circular Economy

Waste reduction, reuse and recycling make a significant difference to greenhouse gas emissions. The C40 network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change estimate that waste actions, including waste reduction and minimisation, can reduce GHG emissions by 20-25%.

QLDC has been supporting Wastebusters work in zero waste education including Enviroschools and the Dr Compost project for years. This year, the council has implemented a new waste contract with a district-wide glass separate recycling system to reduce material going to landfill. QLDC has extended its commitment to waste education within the new contract, by investing in communication to support effective recycling and community waste reduction. QLDC has also allocated its first $50,000 funding round from the Waste Minimisation Community Fund in 2019. All of these actions are valuable in reducing waste to landfill and the district’s GHG emissions.

Wastebusters supports QLDC’s proposal to capture methane from Victoria Flats landfill as an urgent action for our district. Methane is released in landfills when organic waste breaks down. Methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but is more harmful on the climate in the short term. In the first two decades, methane is 84 times more powerful at retaining heat in the atmosphere. 

Wastebusters also supports the commitment in the Climate Action Plan to support and enable circular economy initiatives, and the “future project” in the QLDC Ten Year Plan for enhanced resource recovery facilitation. We suggest that these points are combined under a new priority action in the Climate Action Plan of supporting the development of full Resource Recovery Parks in Wanaka and Queenstown. Wastebusters shop and recycling centre in Wanaka is already well on the way to becoming a full Resource Recovery Park and a working model of the circular economy in action. A Resource Recovery Park in each town would build on our district’s reputation for leading the way in community-enterprise resource recovery, and would help promote a culture of zero waste in our district.

Urgent priority actions to include:

  • Support development of full resource recovery parks in Wanaka and Queenstown
  •  Reduce direct harmful emissions by requiring and monitoring all old fridges in our district to be safely degassed, along with any other appliances which contain synthetic greenhouse gases. We also encourage QLDC to submit in favour of refrigerant gases being included in the Government’s proposed Priority Products for regulated product stewardship during the current public submission round. 

Additional priority actions to include:

  • Organic waste
    • Support programmes to prevent food waste eg food banks, Love Food Hate Waste
    • Increase support for home composting and vegetable gardening education, and increase the number of subsidies available to residents for composting systems
    • Fund promotion in our district of online app that allows non-composters to give their food scraps to composters
    • Don’t wait for large scale industrial composting facility – provide guidance and alternative solutions for businesses who are looking for onsite and small scale composting. The expertise exists in our region and this will provide carbon benefits much sooner.
    • Create composting program and infrastructure for MUD’s – provide education and support to property managers
  • C&D waste
    • Require all building and resource consents to have a waste management plan in place for their building site. (The powerful impact of a simple change like this was demonstrated when council required events to have a waste management plan, which drove waste reduction).
    • Encourage builders to sort and separate C&D waste on site, prior to the transfer station
    • Require all loads to come through the recycling centre first before going to the transfer station
    • Charge more for unsorted loads at the transfer station if they contain materials that could have been diverted
    • Support existing community efforts to reduce C&D waste
  • Reduction of single use items
    • Support local government legislation to tackle single use items (eg coffee cup, takeaway containers, water bottles)
    • Support refill solutions as per the waste hierarchy
  • Quality recycling
    • Work with TA’s around NZ to develop national standards for recycling and best practice recycling systems
    • Advocate for the introduction of container deposit systems which would put the cost of recycling onto the people who make, sell and consume the product, and reduce financial pressure of funding recycling systems from TA’s. Effective advocacy would include putting in a submission to support packaging being included in the Government’s proposed Priority Products.
  • Zero waste education
    • Conduct waste audits of rubbish bins to get an accurate estimation of the content of our residual waste and target education campaigns accordingly
    • Continue and boost waste reduction and zero waste programs and engagement – eg Resourceful Communities project which is co-funded by QLDC and MFE until 2021
  • Reduce direct emissions
    • Investigate compost, worm farm and Bokashi solutions for sewage sludge
  • Reject any waste-to-energy proposals
    • Recognise that waste-to-energy proposals reinforce the wrong feedback loop; waste-to-energy incineration is not aligned with the circular economy or a low carbon future.
  • Advocacy
    • Support mandatory product stewardship for priority products such as e-waste, tyres, packaging and agricultural waste, ensuring that resource recovery/ disposal costs are incorporated in the product’s price.

Education and behaviour change

Education and behaviour change has to be a priority in achieving action on climate change. If people feel empowered, they will act in positive ways. This will give our community momentum towards a net zero GHG future. 

Priority actions to include:

  • Increasing support for environmental education in schools eg Enviroschools
  • Run workshops on calculating your carbon footprint and best ways to significantly reduce it
  • A contestable carbon reduction fund for groups and businesses working on projects to reduce GHG’s (similar to the newly established Waste Minimisation Community Fund).
  • Fund an ongoing Climate Change Education Plan similar to the Waste Education Plan

Economic diversity and social enterprise

Social enterprise is a business with purpose model that can provide local solutions to many of the challenges we face in reducing GHG and adapting to climate change eg local food resilience and waste reduction. Growing social enterprise also increases the range of meaningful work and economic diversity in our district. 

Priority actions to include:

  • Build on the work that Start-up Queenstown Lakes is doing to support entrepreneurship and diversification of our economy
  • Adopt a procurement policy which recognises the social and environmental impact of local social enterprise
  • Provide additional support for emerging and start up social enterprises 
  • Specifically include the sector in economic development goals and strategy

Vehicles and transportation

We support council’s plans to reduce transport emissions in our district. 

Priority actions to include:

  • Introduce and extend public transport – connecting outlying communities
  • Require every new subdivision to provide shortcut paths for bikers and walkers and to provide safe access to the network of cycle and walkways
  • Require all new single-family construction to be EV ready
  • Encourage car share schemes – free parking close to charging stations
  • Incentivise carpooling, biking and walking to work, particularly for large employers and council staff
  • Incentivise the use of aviation biofuels at local airports 

Local Food Production and Resilience

Our lack of local food production makes us vulnerable to shocks and is a major contributor to our GHG’s. Almost all of the food we eat comes from outside of our district. 

Priority actions to include:

  • Support for community gardens – provide council land for people to grow food and provide financial and in kind support for community groups to make them happen. Community gardens are a place for people to connect and learn from each other and to learn to be resilient.
  • Streamline food safety compliance and reduce costs to support local food and drink manufacturers
  • Support establishment of edible landscapes and food forests as to be established in new subdivisions just like playgrounds
  • Provide council staffing and support to maintain fruit and nut trees in reserves and community spaces

Sustainable building and development

We strongly support council’s plans to build the Luggage Hall as a passive building and urge this to be the standard for all new public buildings. Wastebusters also supports the plan to re-engage an Eco Design Adviser to provide free advice on sustainable building and retrofitting, as this has been very effective in the past.

Priority actions to include:

    • Do away with minimum build size restrictions for new subdivisions
    • Do away with covenants that prevent our residents from reducing their carbon footprint e.g not allowing solar panels to face street and not allowing visible clotheslines
    • Install energy efficient street lighting and lighting in council offices
    • Start energy efficiency programme – audit and retrofit

Managing population growth

Rapid population growth and reliance on tourism makes it challenging to reach our goal of zero GHG emissions by 2050. We should learn from and collaborate with other councils who face similar challenges eg Aspen. 

Priority actions to include:

  • Use population growth predictions to develop adequate low carbon infrastructure for the future eg active transportation, cycle ways, public transport, green spaces
  • Shift focus of Lake Wanaka Tourism and Destination Queenstown from tourism marketing to destination management – focus on fewer people staying longer and and low carbon activities such as involvement with local regeneration activities eg Te Kakano, Wakatipu Regeneration 
  • Prepare for a reduction in international travel and the flow on effects to our tourism industry as attitudes change towards long-distance flights
  • Include aviation emissions (domestic and international) in our greenhouse gas emission calculations and targets for reduction. 
  • Put a % of bed tax into a fund to support carbon offset and carbon reduction projects eg tree planting, native bush regeneration, resource recovery projects

What actions should be measured to make sure the plan is on track?

  • Each council team would report annually on progress towards the Climate Action Plan goals
  • KPI’s developed to track level of relevant activities over time eg:
  1. number of trips made of cycling, walking, other alternative transport methods
  2. number of school children using alternative transport to get to school
  3. statistics for waste, recycling and landfill diversion per household and business
  4. community initiatives to decrease GHG’s and waste
  5. energy use by the district
  • Assist residents to measure their carbon footprint and reduction over time

Are there any other comments you would like to make relating to climate action?

The need to act is urgent, so we can’t afford to get bogged down. It’s important that we look to our local experts and practitioners who are already leading the change in areas such as green building, active transport and resource recovery to assess progress and help co-design the next Climate Plan. Experts from outside the community would also be valuable to bring creative ideas and best practice from other communities. As well as reviewing and monitoring progress towards the goals, this combined expert reference group would feed in ideas and make sure consultation documents are on the right track before they are put out to the wider community.

Wastebusters supports using innovative community engagement practices to gain community support for the Climate Action Plan. We have spent nearly two decades interacting with our community about zero waste goals and practices, and have seen goodwill and trust towards waste reduction built up over that time. It is essential that goodwill and trust is established to support the behaviour change and community action that will be needed to achieve the Climate Action Plan targets.