Include wetlands in ETS to reduce emissions say Greater Wellington

  • Published Date 09 Dec 2020

Greater Wellington is calling on the Government to include non-forest permanent carbon sinks such as wetlands in the ETS or an alternative market-based scheme to reward the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and accelerate the country's emissions reduction work.

The call came at the final meeting of Greater Wellington's climate committee for 2020, and is aimed at driving the regional council towards its goal of becoming climate positive by 2035.

"Recognising and incentivising the removal of carbon by rebuilding natural infrastructure such as wetlands, which we’re doing in Queen Elizabeth Park, would benefit both the climate and the environment," says Greater Wellington climate committee chair Cr Thomas Nash.

"Other land users will be much more likely to protect and restore their wetlands if they can qualify for carbon credits in the same way as forests do. As a result you'll see enhanced biodiversity, improving water quality and better defenses against floods and droughts."

Wetlands are subject to new protections under the National Environmental Standard on Freshwater and the forthcoming National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity, but those regulations do not provide incentives in the way that a carbon credit scheme would provide.

"Awarding carbon credits for the restoration of wetlands is absolutely in line with the government's climate emergency declaration and we're keen to start the discussion as soon as possible."

Greater Wellington has a stock of emissions trading units generated from its existing forests. With the value of carbon rising more quickly than the cost of borrowing the council's Climate Committee yesterday recommended that Greater Wellington should borrow against the units for the next three years to fund further carbon reduction projects through its Low Carbon Acceleration Fund.

"The bigger picture for us is to expand our stock of units and create a funding stream outside our rating base that helps pay for our work to cut emissions and become climate positive by 2035," says Cr Nash.

"We are restoring the natural hydrology of the peatlands, a rare type of wetland running along the coast between Paekākāriki and Raumati. This action changes the land from being a source of emissions to being a permanent carbon sink. But currently this activity is not rewarded for the climate benefits it brings. 

"To make real climate and environmental gains we all have to go beyond carbon neutrality towards climate positivity, a state in which we actively remove more emissions than we emit. The sooner we start this drawdown of emissions, the more chance we will have of building a climate safe future," says Cr Nash.

"We're calling on the Government to unlock the mechanisms that will make that possible."

Updated March 30, 2022 at 4:35 PM

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