Climate emergency declarations not matched by council actions

There has been a recent fad for councils around the country to declare climate emergencies, but these declarations are at risk of being seen as ‘me too’ posturing without any significant change – in fact there are indications that some councils are walking a different walk, and expect others to actually do something about climate change and it’s effects.

Stuff:  Councils declare climate emergencies, but will it result in any real change?

Councils around the the country are declaring climate change emergencies, but questions are being raised over whether the move will create any tangible change.

Scientists and activists believe the declarations will be meaningless unless they’re backed up by solid action, offsetting criticism the measures were purely tokenistic.

Hutt City Council became the latest in an ever-growing list of local government agencies in declaring a climate crisis on Thursday, joining Wellington City, Hawke’s Bay, Kāpiti and Porirua councils.

Wellington city councillors opposed to the emergency declaration claimed the measure was “preachy” “nonsense” and an example of “green-washing”.

While Victoria University Wellington climate scientist James Renwick believed the move “put a stake in the ground” and underscored the seriousness of the issue – he said definitive action was needed.

Local Government NZ president Dave Cull said councils were at the “front line” of combating climate change, but there was “no national framework” for how local bodies should tackle the issue.

Really? beyond the talk and the declarations, is much actually being done?

Some things are being tried, but they could be counter productive. Cull is mayor of Dunedin, where there has been a program of installing cycle lanes around the flat parts of the city, but there are scant numbers of cyclists to be seen on most of these, and traffic congestion has worsened – which increases use of fossil fuels.

“Declaring a climate emergency acts as a catalyst for urgent action. It’s a way for councils to increase focus on this issue, and call for greater national support on climate change adaptation.”

Cull’s own council has just declared an emergency: DCC votes to declare climate emergency

At a full council meeting which began at 1pm, councillors voted 9-5 to declare the emergency and accelerate efforts to become a carbon neutral city.

The council had aimed to reach a net zero carbon target by 2050, but would bring that forward to 2030, councillors decided.

Most councillors spoke strongly in support of declaring the emergency, while only Crs Lee Vandervis, Mike Lord and Andrew Whiley argued against it.

Cr Aaron Hawkins said the council had been hearing from “countless” people and organisations for years, calling for action.

Progress had been too slow “and meanwhile the clock is ticking”.

“This needs to be at the front and center of all of our decision-making. A business-as-usual approach is not just inadequate, it’s effectively intergenerational theft.”

Mayor Dave Cull also backed the move, saying the city needed to keep pace with the changing scientific consensus to avoid “a point of no return”.

“The cost to council is not whether we do. The cost to council will be if we don’t do anything.”

That sounds like standard Green rhetoric.

The debate prior to the vote was stacked with pro-emergency spokespeople.

There were applause and cheers as Jennifer Shulzitski, of Extinction Rebellion, urged councillors to act now.

But the applause grew louder still as four young pupils from North East Valley school boiled the issue down to blunt terms.

But this declaration clashes with Dunedin City Council flying high with third highest travel expenditure in country

The Dunedin City Council has racked up the third highest spend on travel expenditure among all New Zealand councils.

It spent $347,885 on air travel in 2017-18 – $214,067 on domestic travel and $133,818 on international.

That puts Dunedin third behind much the much larger councils of Auckland (which spent $1,221,571) and Wellington ($591,310).

A council spokesman told Stuff there were several reasons contributing to the air travel expenditure, including the council’s size and geographical location.

“Many important meetings, conferences, training courses are held in Auckland or Wellington, and are therefore not easily accessible by other modes of transport.”

The spokesman said while the council did not currently offset travel emissions, “we do have a range of strategies and initiatives in place aimed at reducing carbon emissions across the city”.

The council’s declaration of a climate emergency and bringing forward its goal to be a net carbon zero city by 2030 would also “make us look even harder at where we can reduce our travel costs and/or offset travel emissions”.

Something more substantial than ‘looking ‘even harder’ is required to match their climate emergency rhetoric.

Also last week QLDC declares climate emergency

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has voted to declare a climate emergency after a presentation by Extinction Rebellion Queenstown Lakes.

Good on Extinction Rebellion for getting into the act here as they did in Dunedin, but again this is one-sided public consultation.

Members of the public were packed into the council meeting this afternoon where the motion was passed 7-4 as part of the council’s consideration of its Draft Climate Action Plan.

Extinction Rebellion said in a statement last week it was “asking the council to use its role as a community leader to clearly communicate the reality of what we are facing and what needs to happen to our local community.”

Queenstown growth relies on tourism which relies to a major extent on air travel, so QLDC is not likely to make major moves against the use of fossil fuels.

The QLDC also narrowly voted 6-5 to receive Queenstown Airport Corporation’s controversial Statement of Intent (SOI), while inserting a clause requiring ongoing discussions over possible expansion.

So QLDC has voted in support of a possible airport extension whole voting for action on climate change.

It is election year for mayors and councillors, so a ramp up in climate rhetoric is to be expected.

Significant action is less likely, and talk of the costs of actions is likely to be avoided at all costs. Rate rises is a contentious enough issue as it is.


Someone else talking the talk was Robert Guyton in this podcast – Maureen Howard’s Eco Living in Action – 27-06-2019 – Declare a State of Climate Emergency – Robert Guyton, Councillor, Environment Southland

Robert is one who does more than talk the talk.

What’s the point on declaring a climate emergency?

Auckland City Council have jumped on the climate emergency declaration bandwagon “with encouragement from young activists”.

Stuff:  Auckland Council declares climate change emergency

Auckland Council has joined other cities in declaring a climate change emergency.

Mayor Phil Goff said he didn’t want to leave future generations the “rotten legacy” of climate heating.

“We have an obligation to act, and it would be irresponsible and reckless, not to act,” Goff told a council meeting on Tuesday.

While the declaration is largely symbolic, it signals the start of a more urgent and focussed approach by councillors to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The council separately agreed to seek public views on an “action framework” that could lead to costed initiatives in next year’s budget.

A symbolic declaration that ‘signals the start of a more’ and will seek public views that could lead to something next year sounds nothing like how a council should act in a real emergency.

The only action Goff and Auckland councillors seem to be intent on is pandering to votes in anticipation of the elections later this year.

emergency
noun
a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action

While it is arguably serious there is nothing unexpected about the current climate change concerns, they have been expressed for decades.

One of the only things these climate change declarations do is add political hot air, and are not being backed up by immediate action of any substance.

Running around shouting ‘the sky is heating’ is likely to fall on deaf ears if it is nothing more than political opportunism.

TPP and a lack of democracy

There were a number of TPP protests around the country today. Some protesters  need to learn what democracy means.

In Christchurch their stunt was to have a burial for democracy.

‘Democracy buried’ at anti-TPPA protest in Christchurch

Anti-TPPA protesters have “buried Democracy” in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon, as part of a mass rally against the trade deal.

Nearly 1000 people showed up at Cathedral Square around 2pm.

More arrived as an enactment of Prime Minister John Key burying ‘Democracy’ took place during the rally.

“If the TPPA treaty is implemented then a substantial portion of our democracy will be dead,” It’s Our Future Christchurch’s Charles Drace said.

I don’t think this sort of overkill helps their cause. Democracy has survived a number of other trade agreements in the past and I don’t think the TPP will affect it either.

Meanwhile in Dunedin their stunt was Octagon declared a ‘TPP-free zone’.

Up to 250 people have declared the Octagon a Trans Pacific Partnership-free zone at an ”action event” in Dunedin this afternoon.

Event organiser Jen Olsen said Dunedin should follow suit and become the first city to declare itself TPP-free.

How democratic is this declaration?

The handout at last night’s meeting said:

In Aotearoa New Zealand a majority of Kiwis reject the TPPA.

That hasn’t been democraticly determined as far as I’m aware.

We will use democracy to protect democracy.

You couldn’t get much more undemocratic than making a unilateral declaration without even consulting with all the people.

Perhaps the Christchurch protesters should come down for a burial in Dunedin. Activist groups declaring things without consulting with or getting a vote from the people of the city is quite undemocratic.