Our climate change impacts
Port Hills sunset. Image – John Hunt.
Climate change continues to be an increasingly topical issue. While the public and political debate is relatively recent, the phenomenon has been recognized by researchers for considerably longer. For about three decades, our scientists have been studying soil carbon and CO2 exchange processes between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere, and our work continues to contribute to improving global knowledge. Our leading scientists are recognised globally in the field of climate and global change science, and two were honoured as lead authors who contributed to the IPCC winning the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with Al Gore, in 2007.
In recent years, our research has broadened to include understanding and mitigation of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), particularly from agricultural systems. Our work also includes understanding potential impacts of climate change on natural, productive and built environments, and developing land management strategies to reduce and mitigate emissions. Support for business and industry includes the Enviro-Mark®, carboNZeroCert™ and CEMARS® programmes delivered through our subsidiary Enviro-Mark Solutions, and greenhouse footprinting for various sectors (e.g. horticulture, wine, construction).
One of the four National Outcomes of our Core Purpose is the "improved measurement and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from the terrestrial biosphere". However, much of our research in the biodiversity and land resources Outcomes also contribute to better understanding and management of carbon sinks. Research in the development within environmental limits outcome area also contributed to managing greenhouse gas emissions associated with trade.
Collaborative Research Partnerships:
- The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) – a partnership of five CRIs, Massey and Lincoln universities, DairyNZ and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRC). We lead the Centre’s soil carbon research as one of six Principal Investigators, and are contributing to research strategies for methane and nitrous oxide.
- The New Zealand Climate Change Centre (NZCCC) with Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury, and all the CRIs.
- The Global Research Alliance facilitates collaborative research on mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. About 30 countries have joined the Alliance, which was initiated and championed by New Zealand. One of our science team leaders has been appointed as a New Zealand representative on the Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling Cross Cutting Theme spanning the three focus areas: paddy rice, croplands and livestock.
- NzOnet, a network of nitrous oxide researchers from four CRIs, two universities and DairyNZ
- Methanenet, a framework of methane researchers from four CRIs, two universities and DairyNZ
- CarbonNet, a network of soil carbon researchers from five CRIs, the New Zealand Biochar Research Centre and three universities
- The DNDC Global Network, an international network of researchers and model developers using the process-based Denitrification Decomposition model (DNDC).
History of managing our own climate change impacts
Landcare Research has been monitoring its travel and energy use since 1994/95; we reported on this in our first sustainability report in 1999 (published 2000), and again in more detail in 2001. While these reports recognised the principle of using carbon storage by trees to offset CO2 emissions from travel and energy use (‘eco–balance’), we did not have a formal mechanism for managing offsets. We developed EBEX21, which later split into the carboNZeroCert™ programme (measuring emissions, managing activities to reduce emissions, and mitigating unavoidable emissions) and EBEX® (natural regeneration of native forest in a measured way to offset greenhouse gas emissions and deliver multiple environmental benefits such as stabilising marginal hill country, protecting catchment headwaters, and contributing to biodiversity restoration). EBEX was designed to act as a credible, impartial intermediary for New Zealand landowners enabling them to profit from the sale to third parties of verified, high quality carbon credits.
The EBEX programme finished on the 30th June 2013.
Enviro-Mark Solutions Limited
On 1 July 2013, our subsidiary company carboNZero Holdings merged with the Enviro-Mark NZ programme to form Enviro-Mark Solutions Ltd, which is wholly-owned by Landcare Research.
The carboNZeroCert™ programme and CEMARS® are internationally recognised greenhouse gas certifications and accredited through the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand. CEMARS and carboNZero certification were the world’s first accredited Certification Scheme under the ISO 14065, the international standard for greenhouse gas quantification and reporting. The carboNZero programme is able to certify organisational greenhouse gas inventories against ISO 14064-1 and product carbon footprints against PAS 2050, and is the only accredited body outside of the UK able to certify product carbon footprints.
In May 2014, the new Energy-Mark programme was launched. This is based on the international standard for energy management systems, and is designed to meet the needs of large energy users. Further new programmes are planned (e.g. for product stewardship, water and environmental footprinting). The focus of all initiatives is to provide clients with high quality, defensible environmental credentials.
The CEMARS programme is delivered into the UK market through licence partner Achilles Information Limited. Customers include the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency and the Scottish Parliament, EuroStar, High Speed Rail, Scottish & Southern Energy and at least 20 of the top construction companies. CEMARS is accredited by the UK Environment Agency as equivalent to the Carbon Trust Standard for companies that report into the UK domestic emissions trading scheme. CEMARS is also accredited by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) as a verification standard for companies reporting their greenhouse gas emissions into the CDP.
This year, the programme received further recognition with the UK Government endorsing it as suitable for ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme) – the new energy compliance obligations for large corporates.
The Chief Executive of Enviro-Mark Solutions is the New Zealand delegate to the International Organisation for Standardisation Working Groups on carbon and greenhouse gas standards.
The Enviro-Mark® programme is one of the leading Environmental Management Systems in this country; its client base (in terms of numbers) is similar to that for ISO 14001 certifications.
Imputed CO2 emissions from our own operations
Each year we calculate CO2 emissions from all our travel, energy use and other activities (in accordance with the carboNZero certification process) across all sites. We began offsetting some of our emissions in 2001/02, and by the end of 2004/05 we were almost carbon neutral. Since then we actively manage our activities and materials use to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and offset all remaining greenhouse gas emissions each year. Our Greenhouse Gas Emissions Management Policy complements our Sustainability Policy.
AsureQuality, approved verifiers to the carboNZero programme, reviewed our systems and records to verify our carbon–neutrality claims across all sites. Our subsidiary Enviro-Mark Solutions is not included in our reporting or our carboNZero certification as they are independently audited by AsureQuality and offset their own emissions.
Offsetting our emissions
This year (2015/16), we again offset our unavoidable emissions. We purchased 1400 credits from Positive Climate Care 9.75 MWBundled Wind Power Project Activity (Savita Oil Technologies and its group companies in the state of Maharashtra, India) and 100 Hinewai Reserve (Permanent Forest Sink Initiative) credits through Enviro-Mark Solution’s carboNZero programme. Now that AsureQuality have verified our emissions as part of our carboNZero certification (6th October 2016) at a total of 1529.92 tonnes CO2e we will now purchase the final 30 Hinewai Reserve credits to offset our 2015/16 emissions.