Climate change and carbon SIG

The Zero Carbon Act which passed into legislation last month will commit New Zealand to zero carbon by 2050 or sooner. It has set a legally binding pathway to this target.

The law will set up an independent climate change commission, which will advise governments on how to meet the zero net carbon emissions by 2050 and a reduction of between 24 and 47 per cent of methane emissions by 2050.

These targets are intended to keep global warming to within 1.5C by 2050. The legislation requires the government to set a number of emissions budgets as stepping stones to the zero carbon target, and for government to introduce policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

How does this affect the water industry?

There will be a requirement to adapt to climate change and reduce embedded and operational carbon, which will be set against a backdrop of higher treatment requirements (which can lead to higher carbon inputs) for water supply and wastewater discharges.

These challenges are being faced by water utilities all around the world, many of whom have more opportunity to invest in research in new technologies and approaches to construction to minimise carbon. These utilities are also facing many similar issues to adapt to issues such as changing rainfall patterns, sea level rise and potential increased demand for potable water due to climate related migration. There is already guidance available that can be picked up and used in New Zealand. Water New Zealand would like to understand if there is interest from around the water industry to set up a Climate Change and Carbon Special Interest Group. The purpose of the Group might be to:

  • Provide access to information that is already available that can be applied to our industry to help mitigate and adapt to climate change
  • Enhance water industry collaboration on climate related issues through sharing relevant knowledge and best practice processes
  • To help us prepare, as an industry, to respond to the impacts of climate related environmental and policy change
  • Build a national community of water industry professionals that are equipped with the skills and understanding to support NZ towards a carbon resilient future

If you would like to discuss this idea further, please contact Jon Reed of Beca (09 300 9000). If you think that the SIG should go ahead, then please email Katrina Guy (

Any SIG would need to be led by the industry (rather than Water New Zealand); if there is support from this call then we will probably set up a couple of regional meetings to discuss focus areas and identify people to support this initiative.