Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) released their draft Climate Action Plan last week and is inviting feedback. Admittedly, the plan is in its nascent stage and “is designed to kick-start a range of activities that will develop as our understanding grows.”
Alexandra-based research company Bodeker Scientific produced a comprehensive report on climate change in the Queenstown Lakes district until the end of the century. Some of the impacts and implications of climate change listed by Bodeker Scientific provide a glimpse into the not-so-distant future and demonstrate the material affect climate change will have on our flora and fauna, crops, pests, fires, droughts, potable water and power supply.
At the forefront of climate dialogue in Wanaka, is the question of how expansion of Wanaka Airport will increase carbon emissions.
In response to the report, Michael Ross from the Wanaka Stakeholders Group said, “The French Government recently made a decision that overruled the plans for the airport in Marseilles — which was seeking to expand to carry significantly more pax. So governmental directives on climate change are indeed starting to bite. This is something which we at WSG would like QAC to respond to and indeed with some urgency… Surely the Council will review its SOI for the QAC in the light of the climate change emergency to ensure the 2050 targets can be met?”
Whilst it is easy for airport opponents to accuse QAC of increasing carbon emissions with increased flights, it is not technically their problem. According to Dr Greg Bodeker who authored the report, aircraft (and shipping) emissions are classed as ‘bunker fuel’ and are not allocated to a country’s total emissions. “For example, an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Singapore to Frankfurt emits carbon but which country counts those emissions?” he said.
Bodeker emphasised that airports are not legally responsible for aircraft carbon emissions — that lays solely at the feet of airlines. However, when the Wanaka Sun asked him “Is increased air travel compatible with reducing our carbon output?” he replied “Absolutely not. It’s not compatible with my personal putput, country output or global output.” As a climate scientist, Bodeker has committed to not fly anywhere for 2019.
Bodeker recommended that those who want to protest airport expansion on the grounds of carbon emissions, need to aim their lobbying efforts at the airlines rather than QAC. That said, he said he is quite impressed with how proactive Air New Zealand is in this space. “Air NZ is doing a lot of work and taking a responsible position and looking at alternative fuels. Imagine taking algae in ponds and CO2 out of the atmosphere to make hydrocarbon? As long as you’re not using fossil fuels [then flying is ok]. And Air NZ is doing as much as they can for alternative and biofuels which is where airline companies need to go.”
QAC is responsible for its carbon emissions on the ground, and told the Wanaka Sun, “We are taking steps to reduce emissions on the ground, including installing charging stations to accommodate 80 percent of the over 54 airside vehicles and equipment by the end of 2019. Over the next five years, QAC aims to accommodate over 95 percent of electric airside vehicles. During 2020, QAC will conduct a feasibility study into providing ground power to aircraft while on the tarmac. Substituting aircraft Auxiliary Power Units with ground energy systems is proven to increase energy efficiency and therefore reduce emissions.”
Monique Kelly from ONE New Zealand said of the draft Climate Action Plan, “The Climate Plan is a good first step in getting our community and economy to transition to our Vision Beyond 2050 adopted by the Council in March. It is a pragmatic action-based approach to addressing the issue and a good basis to work on. Immediate action is detailed with future years clearly needing to be filled in and to be more ambitious.”