A Climate Emergency?

So, Auckland Council have declared a “Climate Emergency”.

In the words of Councillor Penny Hulse, chair of Auckland Council’s Environment and Community committee, this declaration is “a call to action for Council to take seriously, its role in climate change.”  She went on to say that Council needs to “… make sure that all policies we set and budgets we set, are set with a climate change lens in mind.”

That is signalling a clear intention to take action.  But it’s not actually taking action is it?

If the emergency were say, seismic readings indicating an increased likelihood of a volcanic eruption, then for sure, Civil Defence would be activated and we would see real actions aimed at protecting Auckland’s population and property.

To be fair to Council, they are taking some actions around climate change.  They have drafted a plan – the Auckland Climate Action Plan (ACAP) – that will go out to public consultation in July/August.  They adopted the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plans adopted in 2018.  Then they have plans in development around: Strategic Asset Management; Measuring Asset Performance; establishing a Landslide remediation fund; profiling spatial dimension community asset risks (flooding); a Natural Hazards Risk Management Action Plan; a Natural Hazards Research Plan and plans for Coastal Compartment Management.

They have implemented a Live Lightly programme, a Sustainable Schools Plan and a Waste Management & Minimisation Plan. 

The current state of Council’s Climate Change mitigation and adaptation actions is an impressive list of plans but contains little in the way of what is needed – actual climate mitigation actions.

Some people will leap to Auckland Council’s defence and say that I am being unfair, that the thinking and planning work needs to be done before actions are implemented.  They are right, that desktop work does need to be done.  But.

Actually, action is required to mitigate the drivers of global warming.
(excerpt from Auckland Council report “Climate Change Risks in Auckland”

Can we afford to wait to see if these plans and intentions translate to an actual reduction in Auckland’s emissions?  If the emergency were say, seismic readings indicating an increased likelihood of a volcanic eruption, then for sure, Civil Defence would be activated and we would see real actions aimed at protecting.

Perhaps Council see no hope for mitigation actions having an impact worthy of going for.  That seems so in the framing of this header in their risk assessment report.

This may be why their report Climate Change Risks in Auckland focuses more on adaptation and less on mitigation.  Perhaps that too is unfair on Council, for the report is a risk assessment and as they say in the report, “Understanding the climate change risks and impacts on vulnerability for Auckland is imperative to both mitigate and adapt to climate change and to inform planning and decision making.”  

If it leads to a new climate change lens, where the word “URGENT” is writ large across it, then perhaps we will do what needs to be done – to reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

Actually, taking mitigation actions is not that difficult.  As we have experienced in many of the St Andrews events and projects this past year or three:

  • Our Earth Day events have been carbon negative – we have sequestered more atmospheric CO2 than was emitted in the running of the events plus that emitted by all the people attending them.
  • Our communal food garden has
    • provided food-miles-free food
    • not required any artificial fertilisers
    • used no town-supply water even given the particularly dry summer we just had
    • reduced wastes going to landfill with kitchen waste from parish events going to the worm farm plus garden waste going to the compost
    • provide an opportunity for local people to gather as Friends of St Andrew’s Food Garden
  • Six “Grow Your Own Food” courses have taught many people how to increase their self-resilience.

These are all real climate actions that any parish can implement. For advice on how your parish can do similar things, call the Sustainability Fieldworker, John, on 021 46 36 86.

Climate Action Q&A #5

and this Little Piggy went Wee Wee Wee, all the way home.

Q: Little Piggy’s home is in Wellington. Do you think it is better for Little Piggy to go there by car, plane or train?


Which means of transport has the least impact on climate change.

A: Driving a petrol car, Little Piggy would put 127 Kg Carbon Dioxide* in to the atmosphere. That is a lot more than flying (71 kg**). Taking the bus would be better, (44 Kg***) and the train better again (25 Kg****).

But driving a battery electric vehicle is the best for cherishing our earth – only 15 Kg of carbon dioxide*****.

Something to remember when you think about buying a new electric vehicle – there is a lot of carbon embedded in the car before you drive it out of the showroom. How many kilometres of do you need to drive before the embedded carbon is recovered in savings per kilometre? This is called the carbon payback distance.

For a Nissan Leaf, that is 8,000 Km – less than a year’s driving for most of us. A Tesla however, has a carbon payback period of around 35,000 Km – perhaps 3 – 4 years of driving.

Based on MfE emissions factor (EF) data and:
* Road distance Auckland – Wellington is 639 km, EF (petrol) = 0.1984 KG CO2/Km
** Air distance Auckland – Wellington is 480 km, EF (petrol) = 0.1474 KG CO2/Km
*** Bus distance Auckland – Wellington is 666 km, EF (petrol) = 0.066 KG CO2/Km
**** Train distance Auckland – Wellington is 682 km, EF (petrol) = 0.036 KG CO2/Km
***** Road distance Auckland – Wellington is 639 km, EF (battery EV) = 0.024 KG CO2/Km

This series of posts is based around a resource prepared by Anglicans CAN for an Expo organised by Community Networks Franklin

keep reading for more about this Anglicans CAN climate action

Climate Action Q&A #4

This Little Piggy had none…

Q: What impact do the foods we eat have on our climate?


A: Plenty.  And we need to do something about that.

The global average carbon footprint for beef is 26.6 Kg CO2/Kg beef. New Zealand’s pasture-based beef has a footprint less than half of this. Compare this to crayfish with a carbon footprint of 27.8 Kg CO2/Kg fish or sole at 20.8 Kg CO2/Kg fish.

By the time your beef gets to the kitchen bench, it’s carbon footprint is typically three times that of the production on farms.  Making farmers accountable for all of beef’s off-farm emissions is not what a just transition needs to be about.

The solution is a localised food production system focused on organic, seasonal and fresh foods that include some meat but mainly vegetable.

Also, did you know that taking dairy out of our diet and replacing the minerals and nutrients with alternatives, results in the same or only slightly lowered carbon footprint?

Growing Your Own Food is something that each of us can do as a climate action.  St Andrews Anglican Church have a community learning and demonstration garden and offer a Grow Your Own Food course for beginners. 

The communal food garden at St Andrews Pukekohe. Note the rain water collection system (left) and the composting system (on the far side of the raised pallet-bed.

This series of posts is based around a resource prepared by Anglicans CAN for an Expo organised by Community Networks Franklin

keep reading for more about this Anglicans CAN climate action

Climate Action Q&A #3

This Little Piggy had roast beef…

Q: Is eating beef bad for the planet?


A: The short answer is no, eating beef is not bad for the planet.

Reducing our beef consumption would be good for our health, but New Zealand beef is better for the planet than beef grown in other parts of the world.

The problem that needs fixing is with how some farmers grow their beef.

Also, we need to consider that around two thirds of the carbon in that steak on our plate, is from off-farm activities – the butchering, packaging and distribution.

This series of posts is based around a resource prepared by Anglicans CAN for an Expo organised by Community Networks Franklin

keep reading for more about this Anglicans CAN climate action

Climate Action Q&A #2

This Little Piggy stayed home…

Q: How can we take carbon out of the atmosphere?


A:  If Little Piggy stayed home to plant trees and make biochar, then a lot of carbon dioxide would be taken out of the atmosphere each year.

That would be around 3,200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide*** removed from the atmosphere by 2030 if each of us planted one hardwood tree today.

BTW: if Little Piggy planted native trees instead of exotic hardwoods,
then much less carbon would be removed (around four fifths or
80% less*** than exotic hardwoods).

And if each person burned ten kilogram of dry wood to make biochar, we would remove around 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide+++ from the atmosphere.

*** from data downloaded from NZ Ministry of Primary Industries Jan 2019 (500 stems/Ha assumed)
2017-ETS-look-up-tables-guide-3.pdf http://www.mpi.govt.nz/growing-and-producing/forestry/forestry-in-the-emissions-trading-scheme/emissions-returns/

+++ own calculation: 27% (by weight) biochar yield from dry timber (at 20% moisture content) and 1 kg C == 3.667 Kg CO2.

This series of posts is based around a resource prepared by Anglicans CAN for an Expo organised by Community Networks Franklin

keep reading for more about this Anglicans CAN climate action

Climate Action Q&A #1

This Little Piggy went to market…

Q: How fast should Little Piggy go when driving to the market?


Plot of CO2 emissions at actual speeds compared to those at 100 kph

A: No faster than 80 Km per hour.

For each one kilometre we travel at 10 kph below our open road speed limit (of 100 kph), we avoid dumping around 0.03 KG of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.   

That does not sound very much, but with 3.8 million light vehicles*** in the New Zealand fleet travelling at total of 22,208 million km at open road speeds***, that represents a total of 651 KT CO2/year, or around 4.4% of the transport sector emissions.  Step the speed reduction up to 20kph, the emissions reductions would total 1,220 KT CO2/year which equates to around 8.2% of the transport emissions.

***data downloaded from NZ Ministry of Transport Jan 2019
The New Zealand 2017 Vehicle Fleet : Data Spreadsheet
Version 4.0, September 2018

This series of posts is based around a resource prepared by Anglicans CAN for an Expo organised by Community Networks Franklin

keep reading for more about this Anglicans CAN climate action

Join us for Earth Day 2018 in Buckland

The future of the Earth as we know it, is under threat.  Scientists have named that threat global warming.

We already see some of the impacts of global warming: climate change; extreme weather events; the loss of animal and plant species; rising sea levels; and the acidification of our oceans.

The main drivers of global warming are twofold. First, the mining and burning of fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.  Second, when we cut down forests, we reduce the Earth’s ability to tolerate those gases.

To reduce the impacts of climate change, two things we must do.  One is to significantly reduce our individual and household greenhouse gas emissions.  The other is to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The longer we take to do these two things, the harder is the task of ensuring a liveable climate for future generations.

EARTH DAY 2018, is the day to show that we cherish our Earth, the day to take a personal climate action to help ensure the Earth’s regeneration and protection for future generations.

Next Sunday, April 22nd, the Anglican’s Climate Action Network are offering an easy-do climate action that anyone can take.  The Pukekohe Anglican Parish are holding their second Charcoal Fire event in the grounds of St Paul’s Anglican Church in Buckland Road, Pukekohe.

For each person attending, a 1kg wood block will be burned to make biochar which will be buried in the soil and fruit trees planted on top.

This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding the CO2 that would have been released back to the atmosphere as the wood decays.

It will also sequester1kg of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

And even more carbon will be removed from the atmosphere over the fruit trees’ lifetime.

Join us between 9 am and 11 am to place 1kg of wood on the fire and learn about biochar.

Or join us at 11:30 am for a sausage sizzle before the fire is quenched at 12:30 followed by the planting of fruit trees on the biochar.

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 10.18.52 AM
Click to view full size map

Park at Buckland School – 72 George Crescent, Buckland.  A gold coin donation on entry will help us continue our sustainability work.

For more information, call John on 09 238 1357

The Charcoal Fire event 2018

A climate action that worked

World-wide, thousands of people took part in the March for Science on Earth Day last Saturday.  The Guardian‘s headline declared “Global ‘March for Science’ protests call for action on climate change” as the reason for the marches.   Calls to action and defending scientists from attacks on the legitimacy of climate science, were the objectives.
First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.  The wider goals of this demonstration are laudable, but I have two ‘howevers’ around the March for Science action.
First is the irony of the marches – significant volumes of new carbon were emitted to the atmosphere from the vehicles used by participants.
Using the average emissions factor defined by our Environment Ministry for petrol vehicles and an average distance travelled of 25km, each participant released around 6kg of new carbon dioxide.
The second ‘however’ is that actions, not more words are now needed if global warming is to not exceed 2°C.  That is the goal of the climate agreement that our government has committed to.
One of the few Earth Day events that actually achieved a reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, was the Charcoal Fire event at St Andrews Anglican Church in Pukekohe last Sunday.
This event involved burning wood to make biochar.  The char was buried, inoculated  and two peach trees planted on top.
For each person attending that event, an estimated 3kg of carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere and buried away for a very long time.  Plus the new trees will sequester more carbon for many years.
It may be that the Marches for Science had an impact on US politicians.  It is clear that the Pukekohe event had an impact on reducing global warming.

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How does the carbon cycle work?
The carbon cycle is the movement of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans, soils, and plants.  
One part of that cycle involves trees and plants taking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and converting it to carbon which becomes embedded within the tree, and to oxygen which is released back to the atmosphere.
When a plant dies naturally, much of it’s carbon is released back to the atmosphere, and becomes available to other plants to absorb and continue the cycle.
Soil contains one of nature’s largest stores of carbon which is slowly released to the atmosphere or locked away as fossil fuels.
This balance in the carbon cycle has been a feature of our environment for millennia. 
We humans upset that balance when we add new carbon to the atmosphere by tilling the soil, extracting and burning fossil fuels, and when we cut down forests.  We have been doing this for over 100 years, which is seen in the ‘hockey stick’ graph that charts rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

A win win win climate action

Last week’s cyclone-determined weather was mild for us in Pukekohe, but severe on our east coast and catastrophic further south in the Bay of Plenty.

It is likely that a future cyclone will deal equally severe blows to us and our west coast communities.

Whilst we cannot forecast severe weather impacts for specific areas, NIWA have warned North Islanders to brace themselves for more flooding events.

And scientists are finding more linkages between our carbon emissions and extreme weather events.  Last month, Nature.com published an article on the influence of anthropogenic – aka “human caused” – climate change on extreme weather events.

Are we, individually and collectively, prepared to take a punt on future catastrophic weather events bypassing us?  The people of Edgecumbe would give a different answer to that question from those not yet seriously affected.

Those who do not consider the risks are burying their heads in ever-warming sands, for one thing is clear: extreme weather events are now part of our future.

The Insurance Council agrees.  It was reported last week, that the Insurance Council and Local Government NZ have worked together for about three years to explore changes to building consenting processes.  Their goal is to minimise property damage during severe weather events.

But Prime Minister Bill English does not agree.  He was reported last week as saying that it does not matter “too much”, what is causing the weather we have experienced over the past three weeks.  He went on to say that climate change as the cause, is something he does not want to spend time thinking about.

It is our grandchildren’s future that he dismisses so casually.

So what can we as individuals do that our government do not want to think about?

One action is to reduce our household carbon emissions.  Which means travelling less, buying only what we need, reducing waste, saving energy and more.

The Charcoal Fire - A climate action.page1.jpgAn easy-do action, is for us to take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Atmospheric carbon now exceeds 400 parts per million, and to bring that back to a level that will keep global warming below 2°C, carbon needs to be removed from the atmosphere.

At The Charcoal Fire event on Sunday 23rd April, you can learn the means to achieve that.

Making and burying biochar is a win for carbon sequestration and a win for the fertility and water holding capacity of our garden soils.

And planting fruit trees on top of that biochar is a further win for growing healthy, nutritious food.

Join us at 18 Wesley Street in Pukekohe, anytime between 8 am and 11 am this Sunday (23rd April) to learn how to make biochar as a win win win climate action.

The Charcoal Fire - A climate action.page2.jpg

Removing our weather blinkers to take climate action

Another Tuesday, another severe weather warning from the MetService.  On Good Friday, Cyclone Cook is expected to dump 200mm of rain as it passes close to or over the North Island.

NIWA’s modelling suggests that the upper and eastern North Island “currently stand the best chance of experiencing an impactful weather event from Wednesday through to Friday morning”.

Huh?  The “best” chance?  Like it’s a desirable event?

Try telling that to those in Edgecumbe who may never be able to return to their homes. For them, last week’s flood was a catastrophe.

Heavy rain events are now regularly occurring somewhere in the country.

Last week’s event was much more than a flash flood.  It was more than a 1 in 100 year event.

Have we normalised extreme weather to the extent that we are now blinded to its causes?

A new study, linking human-caused carbon pollution to extreme weather patterns in the northern hemisphere, ought remove our weather blinkers.  The study, published on nature.com, finds that this pattern has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural weather variability.

As report co-author Michael Mann says, “We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events.”

This study will not placate those increasingly affected by the increasing incidence of extreme weather events.

Should someone be held to account for those affected?  To me, yes of course.

The responsibility lies with each of us who continue to release new carbon to the atmosphere – nature will hold us and future generations to account.

Our grandchildren will not thank us for shrugging our shoulders and writing this off as “acts of God”.

An event at Pukekohe’s St Andrews Anglican Church on Sunday 23rd April, is an opportunity for us, individually and collectively, to make a stand against our climate changing actions.

At 8 am, a fire will be lit in a special in-ground pit.  When the fire is extinguished at 11 am, more than one third of the wood burned will be turned to charcoal.

If left to rot in the field or burn completely, one hundred percent of that timber would be turned to ash and all of its carbon released back to the atmosphere.

Instead, burying the biochar will sequester carbon away for a long time, effectively taking carbon out of the atmosphere.  Planting fruit trees on top of the biochar will remove even more atmospheric carbon.

Join us at 18 Wesley Street, Pukekohe any time between 8 and 11 am and show your support for a climate action that does make a difference.