Council’s Climate Change Action

Responding to climate change means reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the expected impacts on the Nelson region that will result from a changing climate.


Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

In May 2018 Council committed to adopting and implementing a comprehensive plan to reduce its carbon emissions. The need for action was further supported by the declaration of a Climate Change Emergency in May 2019. The first step was for Council to measure its own carbon footprint.

To measure our footprint, we first had to identify the sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) across Council facilities such as waste, electricity, diesel, petrol, air travel, LPG, paper use, fertilizer use, accommodation, taxi, refrigerants, emissions from the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). This data is collected yearly and the carbon footprint is calculated by using the quantify of the activity (e.g. kWh used) multiplied by the emission factor. The common unit used to represent all GHG emissions in a carbon footprint is tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Council’s carbon footprint

Note: The graph above represents the greenhouse gas emissions estimated for each financial year since 2017/18. In accordance with ISO 14064-1 directions, the baseline for 2017/18 was recalculated to take account of methodology and emission factors changes. However, the 2018/19 and 2019/20 inventories were calculated using different baseline methodology. Therefore, comparisons between the base year and 2020/21 accurately show the actual emissions reductions, but comparisons with 2018/19 and 2019/20 should be treated with caution.

Council’s GHG emission reduction targets

Council is committed to emissions reduction targets for its own activities in line with government targets.

Council is also committed to its obligations under the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019. This will include reducing GHG emissions from its own activities, under a system of emissions budgets that act as stepping stones towards the long-term target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The net-zero 2050 target doesn’t include biogenic methane, which requires a reduction of 10 per cent below 2017 levels to be achieved by 2030, and 24–47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

Council has adopted targets for Council’s own greenhouse gas emissions which are in line with the Government’s targets.

The following are the interim targets (which act as ‘stepping stones’ towards the 2050 targets for reducing Council’s operational greenhouse gas emissions, which are in line with the five-yearly emissions budgets adopted by central government:

  • 6.1%  reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions (2022-2025)
  • 21%  reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions (2026-2030)
  • 37.8% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions (2031-2035).

Note: The percentage reduction above was estimated based on the emission budgets published by the Ministry for the Environment and the NZ baseline year of  2019 emissions levels (77.2 Mt CO2-e) from New Zealand’s Greenhouse gas Inventory 1990-2020 published in 2022.

All percentages are the average reduction per year across the emissions budget period.

The reduction expected will be measured against the FY 2017/18 base year of Council’s operational greenhouse gas emissions. 








Annual average emissions at emissions budgets levels (in Mt CO2-e)




Required reduction from 2019 level (in Mt CO2-e)




% reduction as % of 2019 level




Nelson City Council is a signatory to the Local Government Climate Change Declaration and the Local Government Leaders’ Position Statement on Climate Change. The declaration outlines our commitment to developing and implementing the Climate Action Plan that identify initiatives that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and supports resilience within Council and our community. Achieving New Zealand’s emissions objectives requires partnership with, and action by, central government, local government, iwi, businesses, community groups and residents.

Delivering a climate-resilient future requires all cities to take transformational action to reduce transport emissions, improve building energy efficiency, remove fossil fuels from the energy supply, minimise waste to landfill and change consumption patterns. Examples of actions being taken now to achieve Council’s commitment to reduce our carbon footprint and support our community to reduce GHG emissions are:

  • One of the emissions reduction initiatives Council has implemented is an electric-first policy, which will see electric vehicles considered first when replacing or adding vehicles to its fleet


  • By the end of the 21/22 financial year, Council had five full electric vehicles (EVs), four Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and two Hybrid vehicles as part of its fleet. These vehicles have led to significant savings in fuel and maintenance costs.
  • Programmes that reduce the volume of organic waste going to landfill e.g. the organic kitchen waste trial
  • Allocating resources to support the work undertaken by other organisations to reduce emissions in the wider community. Some of the organisations we support are: Businesses for Climate Action, Nelson Tasman Climate Forum and Tasman Environmental Trust
  • Supports educating our tamariki and rangatahi to make better choices about using resources and reducing waste; reduction in energy consumption; habitat restoration/ protection and active transport through our Enviroschools programme
  • Conducting energy audits in key Council buildings and water, wastewater and stormwater assets
  • Supporting our community to reduce consumption and avoid waste through the Rethink Waste programme
  • Providing Eco Design advice to residents to help reduce energy usage and improve performance
  • Supporting and promoting active transport (in particular cycling), as well as ride-sharing, use of public transport, and investigating the adoption of new technologies, where safe and effective
  • Protecting our natural environment and biodiversity through the Nelson Nature, Healthy Streams and Sustainable Land programmes


Action Council can take to reduce the physical impact of climate change on our region

The science is clear: our climate is changing and will continue to do so in the future. Part of Nelson City Council’s role is to understand what the changes will be for our region and to work with our community to understand these impacts and their effects.

Council is following a 10-step process developed by Ministry for the Environment (MfE) - Figure 1 - which involves the assessment of coastal inundation (flooding from sea water) and coastal erosion hazards. This 10-step process is known as Dynamic Adaptive Planning Pathways (DAPP).

Council is currently working on the early stages of the DAPP process, which involves assessing coastal hazards, determining the community values which may be impacted, and considering the vulnerability and risks to the community from these hazards.


Figure 1: The 10-step decision cycle grouped around 5 key questions
(Source: Adapted from National Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance 2017)

The process assists Council and the community in identifying the different options (short and long term) for adaptation and assessing these against various climate change scenarios. Once the priority risks have been identified, options or pathways will be evaluated, and strategies developed in conjunction with the community.

The MfE document, Coastal Hazards and Climate Change: Guidance for local government (2017), sets out the process

As Figure 1 above makes clear, obtaining the views of the community and government agencies through a community engagement process will be an essential part of this work.

Central government intends to introduce legislation and guidelines in relation to climate change management over the coming years.

Other hazards including river flooding, wildfire, drought and extreme temperature increase will also be considered in Council’s adaptation planning.

For more information on climate change and what is happening along our coasts, see our Coastal Hazards webpage. 

Items of Interest