The New Zealand public sector will be required to achieve carbon neutrality within five years, under a new plan released by the government.
Under the Carbon Neutral Government Programme launched this week, all NZ public sector agencies will need to measure and publicly report on their emissions, and offset any emissions they can’t cut by 2025.
The policy was announced alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s declaration of a climate emergency on Wednesday, and came as health experts warned in a major report that the Australian government’s failure to address climate change was putting Australians at risk.
Ardern said the plan “serves as a message to the public sector to get our own house in order”.
“It’s also a call to action for the private sector and it’s great to see so many examples of businesses taking steps to reduce their emissions,” she said.
“The public sector needs to be and will be an exemplar that sets the standard we all need to achieve by 2050.”
The plan will be supported by the $200 million State Sector Decarbonisation Fund, announced in January, that will pay for public sector coal boilers to be replaced. The largest and most active will be phased out first, but agencies will have to pay for the carbon emissions of any remaining boilers from 2025.
It will also fund the immediate purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles to start replacing the government’s petrol car fleet.
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There are nearly 16,000 vehicles in the government fleet and more than 200 coal-fired boilers currently heating water and buildings in the state sector, “so there is room for improvement”, according to economic and regional development minister Stuart Nash.
He said public service procurement practices have the power to influence decisions by the private and community sectors when it comes to carbon-neutral and low-emission technologies, and greater use of lower emissions building materials in new buildings can be incentivised through public service leadership.
“One of New Zealand’s greatest natural resources is our renewable forest plantations and use of timber can help achieve higher energy efficiency ratings for new builds,” Nash said.
A previous Labour government introduced a similar policy — the Carbon Neutral Public Service programme — in 2007, but it was abandoned by the National government just two years later.
Under that plan, six departments would have been carbon neutral by 2012, to be closely followed by the remaining 28 public service departments.
Climate change minister James Shaw noted that the world’s leading scientists have warned there is less than a decade left to cut carbon emissions in half to avoid disastrous consequences.
“This new initiative shows that the government is equal to the challenge ahead,” he said.