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Source: Auckland Council

This opinion piece is written by Alec Tang, Auckland Council Acting Chief Sustainability Officer.

Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70 per cent of global CO2 emissions, so have a critical role to play in meeting our emissions reduction commitment. On top of this, with 90 per cent of the world’s urban areas situated on coastlines, cities are at high risk from some of the devastating impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms.

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is no different. In fact, with a seemingly indefatigable obsession with automobiles and a push for further growth into areas already at risk to climate impacts, Auckland’s challenge is one that epitomises the need for a transformational approach to climate action, not simply business as usual with a bit less carbon.

In December 2015, Auckland was represented at the Paris Climate Conference by then Mayor Len Brown and marked the occasion with news that it had been admitted to the C40 cities global network as an ‘innovator city’. Five years later sees the launch of the digital version of Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan, a plan that ramps up Auckland’s 2015 target (40 per cent reduction by 2040) to ones more consistent with the Paris 1.5°C ambition (halving emissions by 2030, reaching net zero by 2050) whilst also acknowledging the need for the region to take a precautionary approach to planning for the impacts of climate change.

On top of these overarching goals, over the past five years, we’ve seen Auckland’s commitment to the Climate Leaders Coalition of Aotearoa New Zealand as well as C40 declarations on Green and Healthy Streets and Zero Waste, alongside an involvement in its Invest Divest Forum and Reinventing Cities competition.

But whilst commitments and targets show ambition, it’s the change on the ground that is most interesting and exciting, a change that ignites the possibility of transformation even in the face of significant status quo-ism. We’ve seen streets transformed to be more people-centric, a bustling cycle network emerge slowly (excruciatingly slowly), the escalation of public transport use and a growing array of compact residential developments that do away with the concept that everyone must drive everywhere.

We’ve even seen our underpinning finance systems shifting, driven by global markets and enabled by the work of groups such as the Aotearoa Circle Sustainable Finance Forum. For the council, this started with divestment from fossil fuels, the adoption of a more integrated annual report and the start of a programme of green bond issuances through to its recent public disclosure of climate related financial risks using the globally recognised Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosure framework and the inclusion for the first time ever of a specific package of climate-related investment in its 10-Year Budget 2021-2031 proposal.

But if we are to meet our lofty commitments and targets, these actions need to accelerate, amplify and multiply across all sectors in our region. Emissions reduction and climate resilience can no longer be a side-consideration in how this city grows, but needs to sit at the core of the decisions we are making about how and where we develop. We cannot continue to make decisions that add to our emissions, or increase our exposure to climate impacts, as these decisions are simply making the achievement of our climate goals much more difficult.

Fortunately, we have a blueprint to achieve this in Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri, but to achieve our goals and deliver on this plan, we need bold, collective action from all of us – local government, central government, business, industry, community and individuals.  

Visit www.climateAKL.co.nz to learn more about the plan.

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Article originally published on Linkedin.

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