Auckland Council’s environment & community committee declared a climate emergency yesterday.
The committee also approved a draft climate action framework for consultation. Last week, the council’s audit & risk committee endorsed a report on the current state of the council’s climate change mitigation & adaptation actions.
Yesterday’s decision to declare a climate emergency will commit the council to:
- continue to robustly & visibly incorporate climate change considerations into work programmes & decisions
- continue to provide strong local government leadership in the face of climate change, including working with local & central government partners to ensure a collaborative response
- continue to advocate strongly for greater central government leadership & action on climate change
- continue to increase the visibility of the council’s climate change work
- continue to lead by example in monitoring & reducing the council’s greenhouse gas emissions
- include climate change impact statements on all council committee reports.
The committee noted that “climate change does not satisfy the definition of an ‘emergency’ under the Civil Defence & Emergency Management Act 2002, and that a declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ has no other inherent statutory or legal implications; however, such a declaration may further highlight Auckland Council’s belief in the importance & urgency of addressing climate change”.
“Emergency” may not be an appropriate term for what amounts to continuing – or perhaps increasing the urgency of – programmes already in place, because it can too easily be treated as a “cry wolf” and therefore be ignored.
But the committee set out debates, workshops & conferences preceding yesterday’s declaration, pointing to urgency to prepare for change here, and also to support people forced to migrate as a result of changes already occurring around the world.
A technical report prepared by Arup for the council in March details specific Auckland concerns – sea level rise, reduced air quality, conditions for disease to be spread.
The framework document before the committee yesterday covers impacts of climate change here, the pathway to zero net emissions, and promotes 11 key moves.
The declaration highlights 4 stress points:
- Sea level rise could put infrastructure & ecosystems at risk while flooding poses direct & indirect risks to people, infrastructure & services
- The changing climate will create an environment that allows water & vector-borne diseases to thrive, which will affect people & ecosystems
- Terrestrial, marine & freshwater ecosystems are at risk and face a combination of stressors. The most vulnerable species are those that have limited capacity to migrate and those that will experience a ‘coastal squeeze’
- Changes to these ecosystems are likely to impact on human wellbeing & the economy.
Council to step up action
Both mayor Phil Goff & committee chair Penny Hulse said the council would step up climate change action.
The mayor said: “By unanimously voting to declare a climate emergency we are signalling the council’s intention to put climate change at the front & centre of our decisionmaking.
“Our obligation is to avoid our children & 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 & economically.
“In declaring an emergency, we are signalling the urgency of action needed to mitigate & adapt to the impact of rising world temperatures & 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 & national actions are critical, at a local & personal level we need to play our role in achieving that target.”
And Cllr Hulse said: “Our declaration further elevates the importance of an immediate national & global response to address our changing climate.
“We want to be a part of the global community calling for change. We have listened & are listening to people; to Aucklanders who supported targeted rates to improve the health of our environment & 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 & to the many others who have made their voices heard, I say thank you.”
Cllr Hulse said the science was irrefutable that climate change was already impacting ecosystems & communities around the world: “We are experiencing increasingly frequent & severe storms, floods & droughts; we’re seeing melting polar ice sheets, sea level rise, coastal inundation, erosion & impacts on biodiversity including species loss & extinction.
“We must limit global warming to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees or face an uncertain future. This requires rapid & far-reaching transitions in energy, land, industrial systems & infrastructure like transport networks & buildings.”
Actions the council is already taking
Cllr Hulse said Aucklanders backed targeted rates that are accelerating improvements to our water quality and increasing protection of our natural environment for future generations.
“The council already demonstrates strong leadership in the face of climate change, including:
- incorporating climate change considerations into the council’s work programmes & decisions
- working with regional partners to ensure a collaborative response
- advocating & engaging with central government, and
- leading by example to reduce in-house emissions.”
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 & insulate homes
- Developing coastal management plans to prepare for the impacts of climate change
- Setting resilience & emission expectations through the council group’s significant procurement levers
- Developing an emissions reduction plan with internal targets for the council’s asset portfolio
- Implementing a plan for water, waste, travel & energy efficiency to meet a partnership agreement with EECA (the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority)
- Zero waste initiatives to achieve the council’s plan of zero waste to landfill by 2040
- Providing E-bikes in the fleet system
- Supporting Live Lightly& development of ‘Future Fit’, a carbon footprint tool
- Completion of a risk ‘deep dive’on the organisation’s readiness & response to climate change (with climate change identified as one of its top risks)
- Advocating to central government on its Zero Carbon Bill
- The ‘Million Trees’ programme
- A list outlining the current status of the council’s climate change mitigation & adaptation actions
Cllr Hulse said the declaration would increase the visibility of Auckland’s political commitment to leadership on climate action.
Secondly, the public will be consulted on the draft action framework, which 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.
Environment & community committee meeting stream
Auckland’s draft climate action framework for consultation – Te Taruke-a-Tawhiri
Arup, March 2019: Climate change risks in Auckland
Current state of council’s climate change mitigation & adaptation actions
Council programme: Live Lightly
Council programme: Future Fit
Council audit & risk committee, 5 June 2019: 12, Climate change risk deep dive
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
C40 Innovator City
C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
Auckland Council, 21 September 2018: Leaders commit to tackling climate change
NZ Climate Leaders Coalition
Attribution: Council releases, documents.