Otago Takes Three Years to Develop Climate Action Plan

Otago Takes Three Years to Develop Climate Action Plan

University hopes the climate will wait for them to get their shit together

Otago Uni approved a Carbon Zero Programme in 2019, but did not hire a staff member to work on it until last month. The programme was first proposed in 2018.

“The programme business case, including a road map to carbon zero, will be created approved and well underway by the end of 2021,” said Otago’s Sustainability Office Head, Ray O’Brien. He explained that “Covid impacted the recruitment of the Programme Manager.”

“We’re in the middle of a climate crisis, yet Otago is not going to have their climate plan ready until the end of this year, three years on from its proposal,” said surveying student Jett Gannaway from climate organisation Generation Zero. “Covid-19 should not be used as an excuse for inaction. It’s an opportunity for Otago to reset and transition away from carbon intensive practices — for good.” 

Gannaway also said it was “embarrassing” that the 2019 Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which is the Uni’s first complete emissions assessment, showed that Otago created more than twice the emissions of Victoria University in Wellington. The 2019 Greenhouse Gas Inventory was released last month.

The inventory showed that in 2019, Otago was responsible for 34,961 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of seven and a half thousand cars being driven around for a year. For reference, Victoria University’s 2019 emissions assessment showed them emitting 14,528 tonnes of CO2.

Ray O’Brien said that accounting technicalities meant that Otago’s emission levels were not as different to Victoria’s as they appear. “We calculated emissions as a result of the food purchased for residential colleges, events and retail ... Victoria has not included this,” he said. 

He also claimed that unlike Otago, Victoria’s emissions assessment failed to include the complete climate impact of air travel, because Victoria’s emissions only included the actual fossil fuels used in powering the plane and not another sciency-sounding impact called “radiative forcing.” 

“In effect, the total global warming impact of aviation is almost double that of just the burning of the fossil fuel,” he said. He said that this makes a big impact, especially given that air travel made up over a third of Otago’s emissions, and provided some numbers to back it up.

After some quick math and a vape, Critic decided two things. Firstly, even taking O’Brien’s numbers into account would only reduce the gap by approximately two-thirds, leaving Otago’s emissions still thousands of tonnes greater than Victoria’s. Secondly, climate maths — and Vic students — are very complicated and very boring. Just sort it out already.


This article first appeared in Issue 2, 2021.
Posted 2:23pm Saturday 6th March 2021 by Adam Currie .