May 6th, 2022

The Fossil Free State Sector Coalition welcomes today’s announcement from the Minister for Climate Change, Hon. James Shaw, that all coal boilers in schools will be replaced with renewable heating sources by 2025.

Executive Director of 350 Aotearoa, Alva Feldmeier, said “This is a huge relief to school communities across Aotearoa, especially in Otago and Southland where out of the 138 schools burning fossil fuel, 78% are reliant on coal boilers. But this still leaves around 600 schools still burning gas and at least 100 burning diesel. We require much bigger investments to replace all fossil fuel boilers in schools, and in the wider state sector.”

Emily Mabin Sutton, lead researcher of the Fossil Free State Sector Coalition, said “In the bigger picture of state sector decarbonisation, an enormous amount remains to be done. The Government has announced $10 million for coal boiler replacements. We estimate that a further 1.4 billion is needed to replace all remaining fossil fuel boilers in the state sector.” The vast majority of boilers in schools, prisons and hospitals are still fuelled by gas, coal or diesel. 


Some of the largest emitters in the state sector have been left out of today’s announcement, including Auckland DHB which is the overall largest consumer of fossil gas in the State Sector and Victoria University which is the largest consumer of fossil gas in the tertiary education sector. Feldmeier adds, “Not one correctional facility was included in the announcement, over 90% of prisons in Aotearoa run on fossil fuels. Some of our most vulnerable populations are still not accounted for and are most at risk of exposure to air pollution from fossil fuels including healthcare workers, patients, and people working and detained in correctional facilities”. 


Tim Jones, spokesperson for Coal Action Network Aotearoa, said “As the national organisation campaigning against coal mining and use, we are very pleased with this announcement. But we’re also aware that this still leaves many schools burning other fossil fuels, and a whole lot of coal being burned in other parts of the state sector. In 2022, in a climate emergency, it’s criminal that New Zealand continues to mine and burn coal. It’s time for the Government to announce an end to coal mining and use.”


Feldmeier explained why coal boiler replacements are not enough, “Coal is not the biggest problem in terms of emissions. Our real challenge is reducing our fossil gas reliance. We know New Zealand’s most emitted GHG is methane. The fossil gas industry leaks methane into the atmosphere at almost every step in the supply chain and is 86x more potent than CO2. We can’t afford to not replace gas and oil/diesel boilers.”


“As well as funding the replacement of coal boilers, the Government must ensure that we have workers trained and ready to do this decarbonisation work – helping to create a skilled, well-paid workforce for the transition to a low-carbon economy.”, added Jones.


Alana Kane, the Campaigns and Mobilisation Manager for the Fossil Free State Sector Coalition, says “We hope that this will not be the final announcement on state sector decarbonisation, as there is still so much to be done. We are waiting with bated breath to see what is included in the Emissions Reduction Plan in relation to the decarbonisation of the State Sector. We hope that this will include a comprehensive and timely plan that will finally put an end to fossil fuel use in the state sector, not just a net-zero approach through carbon offsetting.”


Read more about the Fossil Free State Sector Coalition.