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Council Adopts Plan To Use Nature-based Solutions To Achieve Carbon Neutrality

Waikato Regional Council will be using nature-based solutions to offset its hard-to-reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This week, following endorsement by the Climate Action Committee, the council adopted Te Āki Tūroa Nature+ Framework and Plan, which outlines a pathway to reduce and offset its residual greenhouse gas emissions by restoring indigenous biodiversity and promoting resilience to climate change.

Waikato Regional Council Chair Pamela Storey said: “This is a really positive and impressive step the council is taking. It’s a practical approach that aligns with our business as usual and will benefit the local environment.”

The council is continuing to work towards reducing its direct emissions, for example by introducing solar and an entire electric fleet, but Te Āki Tūroa is a framework for offsetting the hard to reduce emissions, such as from natural gas or diesel.

Te Āki Tūroa focuses on the planting of native trees and shrubs on regional council-owned land to generate carbon credits, while providing habitat for native species and improving water quality and resilience to climate change. There is also potential to generate income through the Emissions Trading Scheme and eventually a biodiversity credit scheme.

In presenting the framework for adoption, Climate Action Committee chair Jennifer Nickel said the intention was that the council’s inhouse, hard-to-reduce corporate emissions would be offset using its land, but the plan also provided for potential partnerships with landowners and suppliers to support them through a similar process to offset their hard-to-reduce emissions.

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“By changing our own land use and improving biodiversity, it’s even achievable to reach nature positive carbon neutrality for this region’s public transport emissions, so the bus networks and Te Huia train,” said Cr Nickel.

Although public transport, along with land drainage, are council services, they are not considered part of the council’s direct corporate emissions.

It has been estimated that planting up to 1.4 per cent of the council’s 2507 hectares of suitable land in native species (between 22ha and 34ha) will be sufficient for it to achieve carbon neutrality for corporate emissions. Including public transport emissions would require planting 9.6 per cent of its land (between 140ha and 240ha) by 2050.

The largest source of the council’s indirect emissions comes from land drained by council flood management infrastructure and would require around 31 times the area of suitable land the council owns (approximately 80,000ha) to be planted over 20 years.

Cr Nickel said the council intended to support the entities and landowners who are the direct sources of these emissions to work towards reducing them where practical.

“We’ve developed case studies to highlight the costs, benefits, opportunities and challenges of using nature-based solutions to offset our own emissions alongside providing local environmental and community benefit. We’re walking the talk on the land we own.”

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