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Future Auckland: It's time for climate action

Sustainability Champion John Mauro gives his thoughts on Auckland’s future

Published: 24 July 2019

Climate change has been described as “humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years” by the champion of the natural world Sir David Attenborough. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist, says that we should act as if “our house is on fire.”

Here in Auckland we’ve declared a climate emergency and Aucklanders are asking lots of questions. Climate emergency – now what? How climate-ready is Auckland? What actions do we need to take to cut carbon emissions?

Auckland’s sustainability champion and Chief Sustainability Officer John Mauro answers these questions and gives his thoughts on Auckland’s future.

What does climate change look like for Auckland?

We’re already seeing the effects like sea-level rise and flooding impacts on infrastructure, and it’s likely to get worse especially for our most vulnerable communities.

We have some solutions in place, but we need to do more. Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Action Framework outlines a direction to help our city prepare for a climate-safe future.

What is the Auckland Climate Action Framework? 

The framework outlines 11 key moves to radically reduce emissions and to rapidly increase our resilience to the impacts of climate change, and deliver a healthier, more climate-ready Auckland for everyone. 

The framework was co-developed by iwi, community groups, rangatahi, central government, businesses, and a range of experts.

Is it possible to cut our emissions by half and become a low-emissions city?

Yes. Cutting our carbon emissions by half is achievable, even in a short period of time.

It will take a lot of work to achieve this, but the benefits are powerful – cleaner air and water, better transport, healthier people and communities and protecting our natural environment.

Are we changing fast enough?

While people are taking personal responsibility for reducing emissions and making changes, systems and structures set decades ago are still playing out. Incremental change is not going to get us to change fast enough. The time for action is now. 

We need a major shift and collective action in structural change like how Auckland grows and develops, how we get around and how we power our homes and businesses.

What is Auckland Council’s role in addressing climate change?

Auckland Council plays a major role in delivering the change we need, and we will lead many of the actions and build climate action into the next 10-year budget. But it’s all hands-on deck. A challenge this significant requires all of those sectors and individuals who helped us develop the framework – and many more – to help us deliver it.

What can cities do that governments can’t when it comes to addressing climate change?

Cities can move more quickly, can innovate and can directly empower communities to be more resilient, creative and connected. 

When asked the same question recently, Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand has said: “Both councils and governments always need to take climate change seriously. There is a real sense of urgency for this. We know that it’s going to take government and councils working together, from legislation to local initiatives, in order to face climate change. Councils can help by investing in more climate-friendly ways to move around and set planning rules that account for the possibility of climate change.”

We also developed Auckland’s Climate Change Risk Assessment, looking into social and environmental risks and vulnerabilities at a local level. This was the first of its kind in New Zealand – and something that the government is sizing up for the rest of the country.

What makes you optimistic about Auckland’s future?

The solutions are in front of us – we only need the speed and courage to implement them.

What’s one solution would you like to see in Auckland’s future that doesn’t exist now?

Viable walking and cycling networks under canopies of amazing urban forests. 

Cycling is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to transform a city. Cities around the world that have embraced cycling have seen massive gains in air quality, congestion, liveability, health and social connection. It takes some guts to deliver a complete system, but cities that do are rewarded generously. 

In the future, how will we power our city with renewable energy?  

Most of our electricity is renewable, so that’s a good start. Generating our own local renewable electricity will make our system more resilient and possibly cheaper. Getting our gas and petrol (transport and industrial processes) to renewable will be harder, but the technology is already here, for example with the Auckland Ports hydrogen pilot project.

Where will we get our food from in the future? 

Auckland is perfectly positioned to grow a huge portion of our food locally – and not just in the rich soils of Pukekohe. 

Innovative urban agriculture practices will start to emerge from the ‘dead spaces’ of concrete and rooftops and revitalise our urban spaces and our diets.

What are you seeing in Auckland now that gets you excited?

People are moving to urban areas because they’re becoming far more liveable and exciting. Downtown Auckland has the fastest residential growth in the region, it’s become a residential community in its own right and public transport trips into the city centre have doubled in the last decade.  It’s an urban revival, the city centre is the place people want to be, the beating heart of an awakening city.

How does Auckland compare to other international cities?

We stack up very well in terms of our natural gifts – we undoubtedly live in a stunning place. We show promise in what’s emerging with public transport and public spaces, but we need to look to places like Copenhagen, Melbourne, Seattle, New York, Paris and Barcelona to take our city to the next level and stay globally relevant. Many of these cities are rapidly increasing resilience to climate impacts and have already radically dropped emissions.

Climate emergency – now what?

We invite all Aucklanders to have their say during the public consultation on Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Action Framework.

The framework outlines 11 key moves to radically reduce emissions and to rapidly increase Auckland’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Our climate is changing and the time for action is now!

To read the framework and have your say, visit akhaveyoursay.nz. Consultation closes on 6 September 2019.

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