University sets out ambitious zero carbon plan

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington has today announced an ambitious plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

It is the first New Zealand university to release a comprehensive emissions management plan towards a net carbon zero future integrated with teaching, learning, and research opportunities. The plan includes a 20 percent reduction in gross greenhouse emissions.

The Minister for Climate Change James Shaw attended the launch of the plan today, during a week of public and student-led activities for Toitū te Ao—Sustainability Week.

“The University has an ethical obligation to manage its carbon emissions to help protect future generations and the planet from the effects of climate change,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford.

“Despite increased student and staff numbers, we have made significant reductions to our carbon emissions in the past decade. However, if the world is to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement and avert the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change we need to be more ambitious.”

He says the University’s intention is to becomes a living lab for climate change action in Wellington. “We hope to share our zero-carbon journey and  help New Zealand achieve its zero carbon aspirations.”

The University’s five-point emissions reduction plan includes introducing onsite solar power generation, moving heating away from natural gas, and an internal levy for air travel. Half the money from the levy will go to purchase carbon offsets and the other half into a contestable fund to support carbon reduction initiatives from staff.

The University is also seeking to expand its tree planting activities in Wellington, providing opportunities for students, staff and alumni to get involved in ecological restoration and carbon sequestration.

The University is also exploring the use of marginal land elsewhere in the North Island to become a carbon sink by the re-creation of the great tōtara forests of old. Both this land and the tree planting will also be used for research and applied teaching.

Professor Guilford says, “We are fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise, passion and innovation of our staff and students in shaping this plan. Equally, this direction will provide new academic opportunities for staff and students as we call upon them to continue finding new solutions to our carbon challenges.”

Student Helena Fuluifaga from Pacific Climate Warriors, who spoke at the launch, says, “This is a great step towards addressing climate change and it’s great to see my university demonstrate climate leadership by committing to a carbon free future. I hope that this is the first of many more substantial changes to our institutions, systems, and societies around our reliance on fossil fuels.”

More detail of the plan is available here.