Opinion | Alec Tang, Auckland Council Chief Sustainability Officer (Acting)
In a few days’ time, He Pou a Rangi / the Climate Change Commission’s much anticipated carbon budgets and policy proposals will be released for public input.
The Climate Change Commission’s advice comes at the same time as Aucklanders are asked to provide feedback on the region’s 10-Year Budget 2021-2031 which, for the first time ever, has identified some specific investment focused on accelerating our climate response in Tāmaki Makaurau.
This year, Aucklanders will also have the opportunity to comment on the draft Regional Land Transport Plan which, given 43.6 per cent of Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transport, will have a significant influence over the region’s emissions reduction efforts.
Both the Climate Change Commissions’s carbon budget and the 10-Year Budget are significant public discussions that have the potential to determine whether or not the country and Tāmaki Makaurau will meet the climate commitments that have been set and ensure we do our fair share in addressing the global climate crisis.
Through the coming debate, there will inevitably be concerns about our ability to deliver on the climate commitments that we have made, given the need to deal with the implications of COVID-19 alongside a range of other emerging and persistent societal challenges such as housing, inequity, welfare and inclusion.
And whilst each and every one of these issues are equally critical to the sustainability of our communities and wellbeing, there are two critical issues that we cannot overlook.
Firstly, these crises are not isolated issues – they are intrinsically linked, often amplifying and intensifying each other, although if we are cognisant of these links, we have the opportunity to develop broad solutions that tackle multiple issues and address the underpinning systemic issues. Secondly, these issues do not line up and wait patiently to be resolved whilst we address the latest pressing emergency.
Climate change will not wait. Every moment of delay exacerbates the climate risks that we are exposed to – both physical risks, such as increasingly variable rainfall patterns, drought, heat, sea-level rise, as well as the ‘transition risks’ of Aotearoa stagnating as a fossil-fuel-driven dinosaur in a world that’s rapidly embracing a zero-carbon future.
At the same time, our solutions to the housing crisis, the COVID pandemic, inequity and intolerance will be insufficient and short-lived if they do not take into consideration our present and emerging climate threats as well as the changes that we will need to make in response.
If our COVID-19 experiences only provide us with an approach to managing the next global pandemic, then we’ll have missed the opportunity to build the more resilient systems and structures that we’ll need to ride through the multitude of broader risks and crises that we will inevitably continue to face.
As we consider the Climate Change Commission’s carbon budgets and the 10-Year Budget, we must keep in mind that our climate response provides an opportunity to create solutions that address our most pressing societal issues and ensure they are sustainable and resilient to the risks and transformations that are to come.
We must move from solely thinking about how we address this issue or that issue and start delivering solutions that address both this and that.
As President Biden noted in his inaugural address to his fellow Americans, but no less relevant to us in Aotearoa: “We face…a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis…any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once…We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.”