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Trust and EGL set carbon targets

Eastland Group and Trust Tairawhiti have set their first targets on the way towards a zero carbon economy for the Tairawhiti region.

In July 2019, Gisborne-based infrastructure, energy and logistics company Eastland Group and its sole shareholder Trust Tairawhiti signed up to the Climate Leaders Coalition.

“Climate change is a real, pressing and complex challenge,” Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said.

“We believe we can be a leader in steering Tairawhiti towards zero carbon through renewable energy and facilitating the transition to electric vehicles.

“By signing up to the coalition, we committed to measuring our greenhouse gas emissions, publicly reporting on these, setting a reduction target for all of our businesses and working with suppliers to help them reduce their emissions.

“For Eastland Group to play its part, we first needed to robustly measure our emissions across all our businesses — Eastland Port, Gisborne Airport, Eastland Network and Eastland Generation — and those of our shareholder, Trust Tairawhiti.”

Following the completion of their first greenhouse gases inventory, both organisations will aim to reduce emissions by 21 percent by 2025.

Eastland Group's general manager for energy solutions Steven Follows is leading the work for the company.

“Eastland Group's first greenhouse gases inventory benchmark is based on our financial year ending March 31, 2019,” Mr Follows said.

The bulk of emissions were from the organisation's geothermal power plants, marine operations, log yard waste and from the use of electricity as it was transported over the network (which would improve over time as the grid decarbonised).

“The results were largely to be expected given the areas in which we operate, and are comparable to the results shared by other large infrastructure companies in these sectors,” said Mr Follows.

“Now we have a benchmark, we can implement ways to reduce our emissions and reach our emission reduction targets.”

While the company is seeking to reduce emissions from all businesses and operations by 21 percent by 2025, Eastland Generation is treated separately and is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

Mr Follows believes that corporate attitudes to climate change are where health and safety was 10 years ago.

“These days, health and safety is a fundamental part of every business. I believe that within the next three to five years, measures to tackle climate change will be just as embedded in company culture.

“We must ensure that the infrastructure we are building today is fit for purpose in 50 to 60 years, to mitigate the risks associated with climate change.”

The threats of climate change include increased flooding, increased acidification of oceans, more severe weather events, more severe drought and longer periods of soil moisture deficit.

Niwa climate change projections for Tairawhiti (released in November) provide detailed information on the climate changes the region can expect.

Eastland Group and Trust Tairawhiti already champion a variety of environmentally-focused projects that support sustainability within the Tairawhiti region.

As part of the focus on sustainable and renewable energy, over 90 percent of Eastland Group's non-commercial vehicle fleet is electric. The group has established a region-wide electric vehicle fast-charging network; will be introducing New Zealand's first electric water truck at Eastland Port; and are undertaking long-term solar PV trials, covering both domestic and commercial use.

It also continues to explore options for renewable energy generation in Tairawhiti, including solar PV, wind, and wood waste to energy.

Trust Tairawhiti chief executive Gavin Murphy said the science was clear.

“In order to reduce our emissions to stay within a temperature increase of 1.5 °C within 10 years, we need to act now. Aiming for net zero by 2050 is simply too little too late.

“Being a great ancestor for the future generations of Tairawhiti is one of our core values at the trust.

“Some of the ways the trust will reduce emissions include phasing out the trust's internal combustion engine cars, along with prioritising walking, cycling and the use of its electric vehicles.

“Guided by our new Wellbeing Framework He Tohu Ora, the trust's future funding and investment decision-making will consider whether projects and activities are not only supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, but also how they factor in community and economic resilience to the impacts that we know climate change will bring to the region.”

Mr Murphy sees signing up to the Climate Leaders Coalition as central to the trust getting its own “emissions house” in order.

“It's been a steep learning curve so far and, in partnership with Eastland Group and others, we are keen to support businesses across the region to look at how they can reduce their own emissions.”

SUNNY SIDE UP: Eastland Port offices use solar panels as part of Eastland Group's focus on sustainable and renewable energy. Picture supplied