Thursday, April 25, 2024

Marlborough Council carbon footprint revealed

Marlborough District Council has released its first reports detailing its carbon footprint from its operations, finding just over 75% of measurable emissions come from landfill.

The reports – for the years ending 2019 and 2020 – were prepared by independent consultants, CarbonEES, to serve as a baseline that Council can benchmark against for future years.

Council said an initial benchmark was the first task in the Climate Change Action Plan, which was approved in March 2020, just as COVID-19 began to surface. After the 2020 report had been prepared, Council undertook a second report for 2019 in order to understand its pre-Covid emissions.

Overall, the measurable emissions from Council operations were 41,213 tonnes of greenhouse gas in 2019, which increased by over 9% the following year. The footprint does not include the Council’s housing portfolio, forestry holdings or its other investments such as the port and airport.

From 2019 to 2020, landfill emissions increased over 17% to reach 34,341 tonnes. Wastewater treatment was a distant second for emissions, peaking at 4,728 tonnes in 2020.

Chief Executive Mark Wheeler said while landfill was the focus for the Council to reduce its carbon footprint, the rise in emissions in 2020 was unusual.

“The big jump in landfill emissions is partly because of the growth of our region, but there were also one-off events. During the first COVID-19 lockdown some waste had to be sent directly to landfill without any sorting. That year, more green waste was also sent to landfill before the rebuild of the waste sorting centre,” he said.

Landfill emissions are caused by rubbish breaking down and creating methane, which is currently burned off in an enclosed flame at the Bluegums site in Blenheim. Consultants have identified better efficiencies at Bluegums to capture more gas and generate electricity; it is currently operating below average for similar systems in New Zealand and Australia, he said.

“Reducing our carbon emissions can also reduce costs in the long term. We currently purchase carbon units to offset operational emissions, with one carbon unit per one tonne of emissions. In 2019 we were able to offset all 29,330 tonnes of CO2 emitted by the Bluegums landfill.”

“However, by reducing emissions we can reduce the number of carbon units purchased over time, as the cost of carbon offsets is expected to rise,” Mr Wheeler said.

Marlborough Mayor, John Leggett said a “do-nothing approach” would end up costing more in the long run.

“Council is taking a leadership role to ensure we meet our obligations to reduce carbon and not spend money to offset it. The goal is meaningful change while acknowledging that we still need to run community facilities and ensure that infrastructure is built for future generations,” he said.

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