Climate emergency declaration: Auckland Council challenged to act

Members of Climate Conscious Mana Rangatahi Summit address Auckland Council ahead of its vote to declare a climate emergency. - Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Climate change campaigners are challenging Auckland Council to deliver on its declaration of a climate emergency.

Auckland yesterday followed Canterbury Regional Council and the Nelson, Christchurch and Kapiti councils in voting to declare a climate emergency.

Sarah Thomson from Waitematā Low Carbon Network said it was a small step in the global effort to address climate change, but would change how the council operated.

"The council has committed to having impact reports on climate change for all their major decisions."

Advocacy groups and the public could now hold the council to account on its actions.

"When it's making decisions that are inconsistent with [the declaration] we can point to that and say 'you need to treat it like an emergency like you said it was'."

Ms Thomson said councils would also have a strong advocacy role to put pressure on central government to play its part.

"There are some things that are in the council's direct control but there are other things that it's going to need central government to act on, for example making serious changes to the Resource Management Act."

Climate change activists from Extinction Rebellion Auckland at Auckland Council Environment Committee meeting.

Climate change activists from Extinction Rebellion Auckland at an Auckland Council Environment Committee meeting. Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Greenpeace climate campaigner Gen Toop said the declarations needed to be followed up by government climate policy to get the country off fossil fuels and start reducing emissions from agriculture.

"What these declarations show again is that people standing together and demanding action from our leaders in government works and that that's really what's going to keep the world from warming more than 1.5 degrees."

Climate scientist James Renwick said local council declarations sent a strong signal and showed leaders were waking up to the idea something had to be done.

"That idea that we need to take urgent action has really started to get through."

He hoped it would lead to real action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"We've had decades of the wrong sort of action, we've doubled global emissions of greenhouse gases since the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change process got under way 30 years ago.

"We've got to reverse that as quickly as we can."

Auckland mayor Phil Goff acknowledged the move carries no statutory or legal obligations but said council decision-makers were well aware of the political reality.

During yesterday's council meeting, Generation Zero reminded councillors more and more young people would soon be able to vote, and if politicians wanted their support they'd need to take action.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council will also consider declaring a climate change emergency at a meeting next week.