WCC to vote on Climate Emergency; What we need is action, not declarations that will soon be forgotten

The fur is already flying over tomorrow’s vote at the WCC on whether to declare a Climate Emergency or not. The usual suspects on social media from both sides of the normal divide are in full voice while the rest of us are struggling to figure out what it means.

This feels a bit like the situation where, in a far away country, a mighty war is underway, and causalities are escalating by the day. Our usual response to that is to write a letter, usually from the United Nations, rather than doing something about it.

Climate change is real; the deniers are falling on the wayside by the day and declaring a Climate Emergency feels like flag-waving semantics as opposed to something actionable. It’s like writing a terse letter to ourselves about how terrible things are.

Is it political? Undoubtedly. If the younger vote gets off their backside this year under the stirrings of the like of Teri O’Neill and Tamatha Paul, then at the top of their list will be Climate Change, what the WCC has done about it, and will no doubt highlight Councillors who vote against a Climate Emergency tomorrow.

But at Council level, the weighting of these decisions will still be fundamentally political. This particular declaration was spurred largely by the youthful activism that has taken place this year, and it’s a way for Council to signal that they are listening.

The Bulletin: Climate emergency declared, now what?

While the Council is making some inroads (one electric rubbish truck) into Climate Change at a practical level, there is a perceived degree of hypocrisy that continues to come through.

Nicola Young suggested that the WCC is now most likely the largest producer of plastic bags in the city, for example. She went further;

“Are we trying to have our cake and eat it too and have somebody else’s as well?”

Councillor Nicola Young said the climate plan struck her as “very do as I say, and not do as I do”.

Since the reduction of single-use plastic bags in supermarkets was introduced, the council itself may be the largest producer of plastic bags in the city, she said. 

Young called the plan “greenwashing”, “lip service” and “preachy”.  

“I’ll be voting against it because it’s just nonsense,” she said.  “If we started to do something about the landfill and about the plastic bags then maybe I’d think it’s serious, but it’s not, it’s just virtual-signalling, and chest beating.”

Wellington climate plan called preachy, nonsense and ‘a farce’ by councillors

It’s a valid point. Will the declaration of a Climate Change Emergency change that fact? No. It won’t.

The Council could be leading in this area but seems to be stuck in the past. They are still holding onto the airport extension, a massive white elephant, which would see a massive increase in emissions. They, and by extension, we, are heavily reliant on dozens of tourist cruise ships that each release huge emissions.

They could move to a fully electric car fleet given the size of the city but haven’t.

They could spend far more than they do kickstart sustainable business and schemes across the city but haven’t.

They could have a plan for Climate Mitigation, god only knows we need one, that looks at the coastlines and vulnerable infrastructure, but they don’t.

They could have raised unholy hell about the fact that the GWRC has completely stuffed the bus transport in the city, leading to many, many people getting back into cars, but they can’t do anything about it until next year.

They could have had immediate plans around LGWM to reduce emissions and climate damage, but it’s decades away.

They could scrap the majority of their international visits and air flights in general but haven’t.

They could have fought far harder to retain the trolley bus wires which delivered electricity from renewable sources, but they didn’t.

But we still have the vanity projects.

Now, that may be unduly harsh, in which case I withdraw a little because we do know some good stuff has been going on, the problem is, it is not nearly enough, and this issue is not a priority.

So. I ask you again. Will declaring a Climate Emergency further any of those areas?

Absolutely not.

There is an argument that declaring an emergency “starts a conversation” and raises it in the mind of elected officials. Well, I don’t see any climate deniers on Council, I do see a Council that has its priorities in the wrong areas, so maybe, that could shift some thinking, but I seriously doubt it.

The change in language can bring a change in mindset – ‘change’ sounds soft and benign, as opposed to an emergency which demands action be taken. So for this to not be a tokenistic gesture, it needs to be followed up by assessments of whether the shift in mindset is actually being manifested.

The Bulletin: Climate emergency declared, now what?

Yep. You need to measure the effect that declaring an emergency would have.

There is another issue, a potential unintended consequence, and that is the cost of insurance. There is some debate going on around New Zealand in terms of the impact of declaring a Climate Emergency on insurance rates.

However, if more council’s up and down the country continue to declare climate emergencies will that lead to insurers hitting some areas and regions harder than others with risk based pricing?

Auckland Council joins other local authorities around the country in declaring a climate emergency. Steve Forbes looks at why they are doing this and what it might mean for insurance

At the heart of all this is a simple thing.

When something is declared, in this case a Climate Emergency, then there must be a plan of action that follows, so that we can hold our politicians accountable for their actions.

“The purpose of Parliament declaring a climate emergency – as opposed to simply the Government benches – is to create a sustainable mandate, which outlives politics, for the public services to coordinate themselves to act cohesively in response to the urgency of climate change.

“That’s why it’s important that we worked on Parliamentary consensus about what the climate emergency actually means. When politicians utter words and pass motions, they create a platform to which they’re to be held accountable.” – Chloe Swarbrick

Auckland Council joins other local authorities around the country in declaring a climate emergency. Steve Forbes looks at why they are doing this and what it might mean for insurance

If that plan and accountability does not exist, then a declaration it is worthless. Worse, it may cause unintended consequences such as increased insurance cost, decreased house prices, have implications for the construction industry, and a host of other areas.

National MP Todd Muller said he understands the sentiment of a climate change emergency, but “really it’s just symbolism, you know. There’s no plan or action plan that sits behind it”. 

“But I think what really matters in climate change debate and policy is action.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was the “action that matters”,

It’s time for NZ to declare a climate emergency, majority of Kiwis say in new poll

The message that has been sent to the WCC time and again, growing stronger all the time, is that we need to act now.


The council’s feedback analysis report summarises the views of 1288 submissions on the council’s plan. 

* 92 per cent agreed the council need to prioritise becoming zero carbon by 2050, no matter what.

Wellington climate plan called preachy, nonsense and ‘a farce’ by councillors

We don’t want a flag-waving exercise that has no action behind it, we want action, now. Better our resources are put into that work, seriously, rather than making declarations that will soon be forgotten.

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