Climate change

11 June 2019 Kate Palmer

Today Auckland Council was the fifth local authority in New Zealand to declare a climate emergency, joining Environment Canterbury Regional Council, Nelson City Council and Kapiti Coast District Council.

WSP Opus sustainability and climate resilience experts, who span a number of key infrastructure sectors such as Water, Environment, Transport, and Property & Building, welcome the symbolic move.

Dr Rowan Dixon, WSP Opus Principal Professional Sustainability & Resilience, is working with a number of councils across New Zealand and says there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

“How a council and their communities de-carbonise can be complicated and some tools cater to this. But many high impact actions are simple. Clear signals to the market and supply chains help and time-bound procurement rules are an obvious start. For example:

• ‘our fleet and supplier fleets will be EV by 2024’,
• ‘we won’t buy mineral fossil fuel by 2025’,
• ‘90% the steel we use will be from recycled sources by 2029’,
• ‘all our concrete use will be 25% less emissions by 2023, 50% less by 2030, and 90% by 2050’,
• ‘catering with meat is a special request, not a default’,
• ‘air travel is the last option and only by exemption’.

“Some of it can sound pretty miserly, people love steak and flying. But these are relatively simple, achievable and will re-direct spend and investment into the safe climate future we are asking for. This boldness is what leadership starts to look like in an emergency.”

Five questions on climate emergency answered

1. What is a climate emergency?
It’s a commitment to take action, with the lens of climate change being placed over all decisions that flow through council.

2. What isn’t it?
A solution in itself. Without setting ambitious targets and actions that will limit global warming to 1.5°C, it’s not going to change anything.

3. Is there a proposed solution for Auckland?
Auckland’s Climate Action Plan, passed today, will set a path to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 degrees of warming and help prepare Auckland for the impacts (opportunities and challenges) of climate change. This will replace the existing Low Carbon Auckland Strategic Action Plan, which was launched in 2014, and aimed to reduce Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% (based on 1990 levels) by 2040 and improve Auckland’s energy security, resilience and efficiency.

4. What action is already being taken?

  • Kapiti Coast District Council has set a target of being carbon zero by 2025
  •  Nelson City Council has committed to looking at how its plans, policies, and work programmes can support action to address the climate emergency, and ensuring that a climate emergency strategy is embedded in all future Council strategic plans.
  • Environment Canterbury has committed to robustly and visibly incorporating climate change considerations into Council work programmes and decisions, monitoring and reducing Council’s GHG emissions. 
  • Christchurch City Council has already set itself the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and is now working towards setting a carbon neutral target for the city as a whole in consultation with our communities.
  • Auckland Council and its Controlled Organisations, NZTA and Auckland Airport are piloting and adopting tools to reduce GHG emissions in infrastructure planning, design, construction and maintenance. These include the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia’s IS Rating tool and Greenroads Foundation’s Greenroads Rating System. These tools require that GHG emissions are reported and that actions are taken to reduce these emissions, they also involve climate change risk and vulnerability assessments and resilience actions.

5. What can businesses do?
Businesses have a critical role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy by reducing greenhouse gases (GHG’s) emissions while maintaining economic growth. While 80% of the 500 largest listed companies in the world have adopted GHG emissions reduction targets, most are short-term and incremental, falling short of the emissions reductions required to prevent the worst climate change impacts.

WSP has developed a guide for companies to set emissions reduction targets based on climate science whilst taking responsibility for their share of the emissions reductions required to mitigate climate change. Download the free guide to setting science-based targets here.