Rosebank Advocates JULY – Auckland Council Declaration of a Climate Emergency

With Dr Grant Hewison, specialising in local government consultancy and legal services.

On 11 June 2019, Auckland Council declared a Climate Emergency.

This follows declarations made by Nelson City Council, Environment Canterbury and Kapiti Coast as well as the Waitakere Ranges and Waitemata Local Boards.

So what does such a declaration mean for businesses on Rosebank Road?

By way of background, Auckland Council acknowledged that climate change presents significant challenges and risks to Auckland, with a wide set of implications and impacts, particularly on Auckland’s most vulnerable people and communities.

The science has become irrefutable – climate change is already impacting ecosystems and communities around the world and in Auckland, with increasingly frequent and severe storms; floods and droughts; melting polar ice sheets; sea level rise and coastal inundation and erosion; and impacts on biodiversity including species loss and extinction.

Auckland and Aucklanders are already feeling effects like sea level rise and flooding impacts. These impacts are expected to increase in time unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly.

Auckland Council says it is committed to action, including organisational and regional commitments and initiatives. It has already demonstrated leadership in the face of climate change, including incorporating climate change considerations into council’s work programmes and decisions. The declaration builds on the Auckland Low Carbon Strategic Action Plan 2014.

Many nations and cities have declared a climate emergency, from the UK Parliament to the City of Vancouver. Auckland Council has also been previously addressed by the Extinction Rebellion group, which requested this issue be progressed. This group, alongside other community movements, have activated large scale protests and “strikes” that have seen large numbers of young people participate in globally and in New Zealand.

Also, an increasing number of governments around the world have recognised or declared a climate emergency in some form. This includes many local governments across several countries (at least 17 councils/cities in Australia, 96 councils/boroughs in the UK, 382 councils/cities in Canada, and 16 councils/cities in the United States).

While there is no standardised or official common meaning to the declarations, jurisdictions have been using the declarations to underscore the urgency and importance of taking action on climate change.

Although the Auckland Council declaration was not legally binding, nonetheless, it will have moral authority and will further highlight Auckland Council’s position regarding the importance and urgency of addressing climate change. The declaration will guide the actions of Council’s own management/staff and the activities of its council-controlled organisations (CCOs). No doubt such leadership from Auckland Council will also encourage other local authorities as well as central government in New Zealand to make similar declarations concerning a climate emergency or be more bold in their own actions, such as through the Zero Carbon Act.

The declaration will also likely increase the visibility of Auckland’s political commitment to leadership on climate action.

In addition to declaring a climate change emergency, Auckland Council also adopted an Auckland Climate Action Framework, with a focus on eleven key moves and actions.

These are to: 1) Enhance ecosystem services and connectivity; 2) Make development and infrastructure climate-compatible; 3) Shift to decentralised renewable energy; 4) Transform existing buildings and places; 5) Deliver clean, efficient and accessible mobility options; 6) Future-proof communities and empower individual action; 7) Enable a just transition to a zero carbon, climate resilient economy; 8) Grow a low-carbon, resilient food system; 9) Youth and intergenerational equity; 10) Resilient Māori communities; and 11) Lay the foundation for our success.

A number of moves will require central government and other stakeholder support. Many have implications for businesses, such as ours on Rosebank Road.

New Zealand’s Climate Stripes which show increasing warming from NIWA sites of just under one degree over the last century.