Nelson City Council has officially declared climate change an emergency situation. Photo: File.

Council vows to do more on climate change

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Nelson City Council still has 20 active consents for diesel and coal boilers, despite recently declaring a state of climate emergency in the city.

Last month the council officially declared climate change an emergency situation with Mayor Rachel Reese saying the decision was “about setting up a process, starting a conversation with our community to hear the concerns”.

The official declaration did not carry with it any statutory obligations for future council decisions, however, council chief executive Pat Dougherty said it was “starting on a path”.

“Climate change has been an issue for 30 years, certainly for the past 10 years, we’re all saying ‘we must do something, when will we start’. This is the day that we start,” he said.

However, according to the council there are still 16 active consents for diesel-fuelled boilers, 11 of which are in schools. There are also four coal boilers in operation around the city, one of which has a consent that expires next year.

Council group manager environmental management Clare Barton says that council’s initial focus has been upon its own organisational emissions.

“Looking ahead, we will be accelerating our work with the community on climate change issues, including on potential emissions reduction actions,” says Clare.

A summary of emissions published by the Ministry for the Environment in 2015, shows that every litre of diesel burnt in a stationary burner produces 2.68kg of carbon dioxide equivalents. Commercial and industrial coal boilers produce between 1.43 and 2.65kgs of carbon dioxide equivalent for every kilogram of coal burnt.

Clare says while council has statutory responsibilities in relation to climate change, the Resource Management Act 1991 explicitly restricts the ability of councils to consider the effects on climate change from the discharge of greenhouse gases into the air.

The RMA states that: “A regional council must not have regard to the effects on climate change when making a rule to control the discharge into air of greenhouse gas.”

Clare says, despite this, central government provides support for energy efficiency and promotes the uptake of renewable energy through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

“Funding and loans are available to assist businesses and public sector entities, including schools, to identify opportunities for energy efficiency and conversion to renewable energy, and the development of related business cases for investment.”

She says all consents for discharges from boilers have an expiry date, but The Air Quality Plan currently permits diesel boilers as long as standards are met.

With a review of this plan and the National Environmental Standard for Air Quality, permits for diesel boilers, such as those used on Port Nelson tugs and pilot vessels, may change.

“If it does, recognition of the time and investment required to convert to other boiler methods will be needed.”