Provincial climate emergencies going national?

During the week the Canterbury Regional Council symbolically declared a climate emergency. Nelson City Council did the same soon after.

Environment Southland  and Invercargill City Council are considering doing something similar.

And Climate Change Minister James Shaw says that “some MPS” are considering doing it at a national level.

RNZ on Thursday: After Canterbury, Nelson declares climate emergency

Canterbury Regional Council earlier today voted to declare a climate emergency, becoming the first council in the country to do so.

The council said it joins other local governments in Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States in adopting the stance.

“We have no doubt at council that urgency is required – the science is irrefutable and we have for some time now, been responding accordingly,” deputy chair Peter Scott said.

This morning’s vote followed lobbying from the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion.

While declaring a climate emergency is largely symbolic, members of Extinction Rebellion said it was an important first step towards achieving bigger environmental goals and openly acknowledging the seriousness of climate change.

Councillor Lan Pham said she hoped it had a snowball effect and inspired other organisations around the country.

Three councillors voted against it, saying there were other options to tackle climate change which the council was already pursuing.

So it wasn’t unanimous.

Regional council chair Steve Lowndes is an ordinary member of Extinction Rebellion, and as such declared an interest and did not take part in the council decision.

Lowndes’ interests are likely to have play a part in it going before the council.

Nelson later joined Canterbury in declaring a climate emergency.

A decision was made by the Nelson City Council, after a three-hour debate this afternoon.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese brought the declaration to the table because of the level of community interest, and noticeable environmental changes in the past few years.

She said the region had recently endured natural disasters on a scale she’d never before seen.

Some councillors were nervous about making what they called a symbolic gesture, and its implications for ratepayers.

Efforts to delay the decision were lost eight votes to five, but a decision was finally made 10 votes to three.

Also some opposed.

Stuff on Friday: Southern mayors to consider climate change state of emergency

Southern councils are watching closely the moves made by Canterbury and Nelson to declare a climate state of emergency.

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the council would be discussing the moves made by Environment Canterbury and Nelson with its councillors in upcoming weeks.

“The Southland Mayoral Forum and their councils are taking climate change seriously and have recently released a report on the likely impact of climate change in Southland,” he said.

Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said it would look into declaring a state of emergency but there were circumstances for Invercargill that needed to be taken into consideration.

“We will look into it but it needs to be looked into properly,” he said.

The effect of a declaration would have on industries such as the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter would need to be taken into consideration, Shadbolt said.

There would be huge celebration and a huge uproar if the smelter was shut down. I don’t know if no energy alternatives to smelting aluminium have been developed yet.

Stuff Friday night: MPs may vote to declare national climate emergency following regional leads

Climate Change Minister James Shaw agrees global warming has created an emergency, and applauded Environment Canterbury (ECan) and Nelson City councillors for taking the step.

And he revealed some MPs are in discussions about taking a similar stance on a national level.

That would require MPs to approve a motion in Parliament, as they have done in Britain and Ireland in the last few months.

The state of emergency isn’t binding and has no legal standing.

So what’s the point?

But Shaw says it does have practical significance.

“It says to council offices you need to respond to this as an emergency.

“And I have to say, my own experience of being in Government over the last 18 months, is it is hard to martial the resources across Government around this overall goal unless you get a political statement that says ‘look the elected members are saying this is so serious that we are actually declaring it as an emergency and therefore we have to organise around it’.”

More than 500 local authorities in 10 countries have adopted the stance which recognises that action on climate change should become a priority.

There is no single definition of what it means, but most regions want to become carbon-neutral by 2050, at the latest.

“For those councils it will be a significant move because it sends a signal to their own communities that they are treating this very seriously.

It means they are talking seriously about it, but it doesn’t mean they are doing anything serious about it.