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Auckland Council declares climate emergency

Published: 11 June 2019

“By unanimously voting to declare a climate emergency we are signalling the council’s intention to put climate change at the front and centre of our decision making,” says Mayor Phil Goff

Today, members of Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee voted to join a growing community of cities around the world who have formally and publicly recognised the urgency for action on climate change by declaring a climate emergency.

“Our declaration further elevates the importance of an immediate national and global response to address our changing climate,” said Councillor Penny Hulse, chair of the committee.

“We want to be a part of the global community calling for change. We have listened and are listening to people; to Aucklanders who supported targeted rates to improve the health of our environment and water, to the students who went on strike and demanded action on climate, to groups like Extinction Rebellion who came to the council and pleaded with us to take more action including declaring this climate emergency. To these groups and to the many others who have made their voices heard, I say thank you,” says Councillor Hulse.

Mayor Goff says, “Our obligation is to avoid our children and grandchildren inheriting a world devastated by global heating. Scientists tell us that if we don’t take action, the effects of heating will be catastrophic, both environmentally and economically.

“In declaring an emergency, we are signalling the urgency of action needed to mitigate and adapt to the impact of rising world temperatures and extreme weather events. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have only around 12 years to reduce global carbon emissions to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.

"While international and national actions are critical, at a local and personal level we need to play our role in achieving that target.”

 

What does this mean for Aucklanders?

By declaring a climate emergency, the council is committing to:

  • continue to robustly and visibly incorporate climate change considerations into work programmes and decisions
  • continue to provide strong local government leadership in the face of climate change, including working with local and central government partners to ensure a collaborative response
  • continue to advocate strongly for greater central government leadership and action on climate change
  • continue to increase the visibility of our climate change work
  • continue to lead by example in monitoring and reducing the council’s greenhouse gas emissions
  • include climate change impact statements on all council committee reports.

What the science says

The scientific consensus and evidence of climate change is widespread, and research and reports have shifted primarily toward a better understanding of the pace and patterns of change and impacts.

Councillor Hulse says the science is irrefutable that climate change is already impacting ecosystems and communities around the world.

“We are experiencing increasingly frequent and severe storms, floods and droughts; we’re seeing melting polar ice sheets, sea level rise, coastal inundation, erosion and impacts on biodiversity including species loss and extinction,” said Councillor Hulse.

“We must limit global warming to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5-degrees or face an uncertain future. This requires rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, industrial systems and infrastructure like transport networks and buildings.”

Recent research commissioned by the council to better understand regional climate impacts for the Auckland region shows Auckland’s mean annual temperature is rising, rainfall patterns are changing, and our coastlines are being increasingly impacted by ongoing sea level rise.

Aucklanders are already feeling the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and flooding impacts. These impacts are expected to get more serious over time and will persist for the next several decades and beyond.

Climate emergency
Photo credit David St George

The council is taking action

Councillor Hulse says Aucklanders backed targeted rates that are accelerating improvements to our water quality and increasing protection of our natural environment for future generations.

“Aucklanders overwhelmingly supported the targeted rates because they want to leave healthy, beautiful blue and green spaces for their kids and grandchildren,” says Councillor Hulse.

“The council already demonstrates strong leadership in the face of climate change, including incorporating climate change considerations into council’s work programmes and decisions; working with regional partners to ensure a collaborative response; advocating and engaging with central government; and leading by example to reduce in-house emissions.”

What we’re doing

Auckland’s ambitious targets and leadership on tackling climate change have earned C40 Innovator City status from the global C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the council is a signatory of the New Zealand Climate Leaders Coalition.

Examples of our projects include:

  • Retrofit Your Home, a programme to help heat, ventilate and insulate homes.
  • Developing Coastal Management Plans to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
  • Setting resilience and emission expectations through the council group’s significant procurement levers.
  • Developing an emissions reduction plan with internal targets for our asset portfolio.
  • Implementing a plan for water, waste, travel and energy efficiency to meet a partnership agreement with EECA.
  • Zero-waste initiatives to achieve our plan of zero-waste to landfill by 2040.
  • Providing E-bikes in the fleet system.
  • Supporting Live Lightly and development of ‘Future Fit’ a carbon footprint tool.
  • Completion of a risk ‘deep dive’ on the organisation’s readiness and response to climate change (with climate change identified as one of its top risks).
  • Advocating to central government on its Zero Carbon Bill.
  • Our ‘Million Trees’ programme.

A list outlining the current status of the council’s climate change mitigation and adaptation actions can be viewed here.

What next?

Councillor Hulse believes this declaration increases the visibility of Auckland’s political commitment to leadership on climate action.

“This council has long acknowledged the importance and urgent need to address climate change for the benefit of current and future generations,” says Councillor Hulse.

“And today, the council approved public consultation of a draft climate framework for Auckland - Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Action Framework.

The draft framework is intended to be the main framework for delivering on Auckland’s emissions reduction targets and increasing Auckland’s resilience to climate change impacts through local action plans.

“Auckland’s Climate Action Framework and the plan we develop from that is a critical part of meeting our responsibilities,” Mayor Goff said.

Keep an eye out for public consultation on the draft framework and have your say on climate action soon.