Mayors urge Govt to take action on climate change
A group of 39 mayors from across the country are calling for central government to take more action on climate change.
The mayors – about half of the country’s roster of 78 – made a declaration on climate change at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference last night.
They called for central government to develop an ambitious plan to transition New Zealand into a low-carbon economy that was ready to for the dangers climate change may present, such as rising sea levels and intense storms.
Members of the group include Christchurch’s Lianne Dalziel, Auckland’s Phil Goff, Wellington’s Justin Lester, Dunedin’s Dave Cull, New Plymouth’s Neil Holdom, as well as a wide spread of rural and regional leaders.
With or without central government help, the group planned to take ambitious action themselves.
‘‘There is clear and compelling evidence for the need to act now on climate change and to adopt a precautionary approach because of the irreversible nature and scale of risks involved.
‘‘Broad-based climate policies should enable all organisations and individuals to do all they feasibly can to reduce emissions and enhance resilience.’’
A group of 29 mayors made a similar call in 2015.
Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said then it was a matter for councils and insurers to debate.
New Zealand is a signatory of the Paris Climate Agreement, and has agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent before 2030.
However, the Government has been repeatedly criticised for failing to include the agricultural sector in the country’s Emissions Trading Scheme.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw said central government needed to do more to help local authorities, which were often left with the bill after the ‘‘hundredyear storms’’ that now seemed to show up every year.
‘‘Central government are quick to jump in when there’s an earthquake, but are much less responsive about climate-related events.
‘‘A lot of mayors – although nominally independent – are National Party aligned. My sense is they are still deeply frustrated with the Government’s lack of leadership over climate change.’’
Labour leader Andrew Little said a collaborative approach between local and central government would be his priority if elected. ‘‘Everybody’s got a role to play.’’
Like Melbourne, Christchurch is also starting to feel the impacts of climate change.
Melbourne, in case you haven’t heard, is the World’s Most Liveable City and has been ranked number one for the past six years.
This is something that they are proud of and something that I was interested in seeing in action when I was over there recently.
It is a vibrant, colourful, bustling city with a fantastic riverfront promenade, great bars and cafes, and a lot of character in its old buildings.
It was amazing to be in such a different central city after spending so much time in the work-in-progress that is the Christchurch CBD. I enjoyed it a lot.
What it’s not though is new and shiny. There’s litter, a lot of random tagging and the footpaths away from the river are patchy and uneven.
It also ranks amongst the world’s least affordable cities, with an average apartment price of A$1 million. Apartment living is common though and there is a lot of construction going on – in fact the city sounded a lot like home.
A new development at Fisherman’s Bend, an old industrial site on the Yarra River, is set to be more densely populated that Hong Kong.
But Melbourne wants to do and be better. It is one of 90+ cities worldwide that have joined the C40 organisation and like the others in the group has committed to becoming a carbon neutral city by 2050.
Why? Well, sitting on a continental land mass and with a large built environment Melbourne is suffering from the effects of climate change already. A heatwave last summer gave the city a week of 40 degree days and a survey of retailers showed that the economic cost to them alone was in the order of $10m per day.
They have also recognised what many others have, that the aspirations of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise under 1.5 to 2 degrees are not being met by the targets set by the nations that have signed it. With 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from cities, it needs to be cities that react.
Melbourne is seeing the climate crisis as an opportunity to make a more liveable, connected and sustainable city and evidence from other C40 cities shows that it’s a great idea economically too.
In Stockholm, which is aiming to be fossil fuel free by 2040 their greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 37 per cent yet their local economy has grown by 40 per cent at the same time.
Like Christchurch, Melbourne’s CBD is walkable, with most destinations within a 15 minute stroll.
They also have not one, but two, bike share schemes. The oBike, a dock-less system, has just popped up in the city in the past month and I saw a lot of them about, both parked and ridden.
I also came across a car share scheme in designated on-street parks bookable by the hour or day by local apartment dwellers. The council has provided the spaces for the scheme in recognition of the value it brings to lowering congestion in an already crowded city and I can see it working in the east frame.
The Melbourne Convention Centre is enormous and was holding three other conventions at the same time as the EcoCity World Summit I was at. It is a 6 Star building and recycles its black-water at a facility onsite before it is piped out to water gardens. I hope that ours will have the same eco- credentials.
Like Melbourne, Christchurch is also starting to feel the impacts of climate change. We are likely to get longer, hotter summers and more frequent floods, but our key impact will be sea level rise.
It was clear from the series of speakers at the summit that not only do cities need to take action, but that the technologies and knowledge about how to are ready now. The only question is do we have the will to take it?
The Christchurch City Council has just been awarded the Gold Energymark Standard, the first organisation in the country to do so. We are also the ninth council to achieve CEMARS accreditation, meaning that we are accurately monitoring our greenhouse gas emissions and have a programme to reduce them.
It is much harder to measure the emissions of an entire city, but it is being done elsewhere and it is time for us to start too.
We need to see the climate crisis as an opportunity to build a more liveable, connected, sustainable and prosperous Christchurch, not only for us, but for future generations.