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Leading the climate-change fight

Last month Eastland Group and Eastland Community Trust signed up to the Climate Leaders Coalition agreement to tackle climate change by reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions. Andrew Ashton delves deeper into how that will be achieved and how it will put Tairawhiti at the tip of the spear in the fight against climate change.

Eastland Group and Eastland Community Trust are working with New Zealand’s top companies in an effort to tackle climate change in what both organisations see as the most pressing and urgent issue facing the world — achieving this will be a long journey “but a good one”, they say.

Established in July 2018, the Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC) includes some of New Zealand’s largest businesses, which collectively account for 60 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

By signing up to the CLC, signatories commit to measuring their greenhouse gas emissions, publicly reporting on these and setting a public emissions reduction target.

To date, 108 chief executives have signed the CLC joint statement, which also includes a commitment to the Paris Agreement, the aim of which is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees above preindustrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5 degrees.

Signatories to the CLC met at an Embark event on July 24, where the coalition’s most recent signatories, Eastland Group and its sole shareholder Eastland Community Trust, were represented by Eastland Group people and performance general manager Jarred Moroney.

During the Embark event, speakers from the Climate Leaders Coalition including Air New Zealand, NZ Post, Westpac, Z Energy, The Warehouse Group, SKYCITY, Ports of Auckland, Meridian, Microsoft and Fonterra talked about what they have done to reduce their emissions and shared practical tips to empower businesses to draw up their transition plans, measure their carbon footprints, set an emissions reduction target and finance it.

“The key theme from the day was that doing nothing is simply no longer an option. We need to act,” Mr Moroney said.

“If we keep a focus on ‘it’s about what is right for people’, then we will make a change. To focus on saving the planet is too big and not real. The people focus will, hopefully, lead to planet saving,” he said.

“The Climate Leaders Coalition aims to help New Zealand transition to a low emissions economy and create a positive future for New Zealanders, business and the economy.

“The participating companies are seeing the benefit of sharing their learnings, so we can all look at — and learn from — what others are doing.”

Mr Moroney pointed out a number of CLC members already had case studies under way, including Auckland Transport’s study in transitioning buses from diesel to electric and DB Breweries study into utilising solar power.

‘Steering Tairawhiti towards zero carbon’“The Climate Leaders Coalition website has a range of case studies which I recommend anyone interested in this area looks at: Climateleaderscoalition.org.nz”

Mr Moroney said Green House Gas (GHG) emissions were grouped into Scope 1, 2 and 3 categories.

Scope 1 comprised direct GHG emissions from sources owned or controlled by the company, which would include emissions from combustion of fuel in vehicles.

Scope 2 comprised indirect GHG emissions from the generation of purchased energy (in the form of electricity, heat or steam) that the organisation uses.

Scope 3 comprised other indirect GHG emissions occurring because of the activities of the organisation but generated from sources that it did not own or control.

“All of the companies who have started on this journey have focused on the Scope 1 and 2 emissions in detail as these are the ones they can control,” Mr Moroney said.

“The Scope 3 emissions have been identified and the impacts of these assessed but most companies are still chipping away at the first two.”

CLC members agreed to measure and publicly report on progress.

Mr Moroney said the first steps of what would be a “long journey but a good one” had already started with buy-in from senior management at Eastland Group and ECT.

The next steps would be to set “inventory boundary” as that is what would be measured.

Data collection and measurement would also be needed.

“It was noted that at this stage it is worth talking with a consultant or certifying organisation just to make sure we are setting up our measurement process to future-proof ourselves.”

Data would be recorded.

“The Ministry for the Environment (Mfe) have some great tables to help with this. This is about how we want to report, what it is we want to report and what resource we will have.

“Once this is done, we can then start to model and look at our reduction process. We need to consider what is a reasonable time frame.”

Other issues of importance would be decided if that would be done through a science-based approach (1.5 to 2 degrees warming) or try to achieve carbon neutrality by a set date.

“My view is we should look at a science-based approach and see what that actually means for us when we see what we have to reduce.

“All of this work is data-hungry. In a lot of cases you can work with suppliers to get automated reporting.

“There are some easy wins that can be done early to make reductions. These include energy savings with LEDs or using other options such as natural lighting. Shifting to electric vehicles has a significant and positive impact. If people are interested in finding out more about EVs, we invite them to visit Eastland Group’s Electric Village.”

However, an over-arching view would be needed and not just in the work-place.

“We need to connect staff with what they are doing at work, to at home to make better progress everywhere.

“Once we have a plan to get to carbon neutral, we may well need to use off-setting to help in the early years as the big-ticket items may not be able to be done until there is technology or budget available. This is a reasonable approach, but we need to ensure we align with the right thing to offset. This is also an opportunity to look at the waste-to- energy option as this may be a way to offset.”

Mr Moroney added that joining the CLC had created a unique opportunity for businesses to work together and learn from each other to reduce their emissions.

“As one of the largest organisations in the Tairawhiti region, we hope to use our position within the region — and learnings from the coalition — to encourage other local businesses to step up and join us in our efforts against climate change.

“Many companies have zero-waste-to-landfill as a target. Regionally, we may well be placed to provide a solution. We’re currently exploring the feasibility of a local wood-waste-to-energy or cogeneration power plant.”

Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said he was in no doubt that climate change was the biggest issue facing the world.

“As a country, New Zealand is moving progressively towards a zero-carbon economy. We want to ensure that Tairawhiti is part of that process.

“Together with our shareholder Eastland Community Trust, we champion a variety of environmentally-focused projects that support sustainability within the Tairawhiti region, including electric vehicle charging stations and Electric Village.

“We believe that we can be a leader in steering Tairawhiti towards zero carbon through renewable energy and facilitating the transition to electric vehicles. As part of our commitment to measuring and reducing our emissions, we are partnering with Eastland Community Trust to upskill a local resource to undertake this work over the coming months. Together, we will promote the importance of this work with our stakeholders, customers and the community.”

Progress was already being made across all the company’s sectors including Eastland Port, lines company Eastland Network and Eastland Generation.

The most recent addition to Eastland Generation’s portfolio, the Te Ahi O Maui 25MW geothermal power plant was another example, Mr Todd said.

“The ‘closed loop’ design means almost all of the geothermal fluid can be pumped back underground with negligible emissions. This is New Zealand’s first major green power plant in almost four years.”

ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy said the trust was committed to creating a Tairawhiti where everyone could thrive.

“To do this, ensuring we align with global directives to combat climate change is a must. We believe we can be a leader in steering Tairawhiti towards zero carbon through renewable energy and facilitating the transition to electric vehicles.”

CLIMATE BATTLERS: ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy with Eastland Group people and performance general manager Jarred Moroney and chief executive Matt Todd at Eastland Group’s Electric Village. Picture by Paul Rickard
Eastland Group’s electric vehicles charging up outside the Electric Village as EVs become increasingly important to fight climate change. File picture