Conor Hill; Wellington’s climate change emergency

Republished with permission from Conor Hill

I recently wrote about Nelson council passing a climate change emergency and today Wellington follows suit. I don’t feel particularly hopeful about this, as action rather than proclamations are what count. After all we’re approaching the thirtieth anniversary of the Kyoto protocol and have gone so far backwards it’s hard to fathom. Climate change has been a reality my entire adult life, and we have made things worse during that time. My core positions are inspired by things I have seen work in other cities and towns, whether that’s cycling Amsterdam, living in an apartment in Korea, or riding public transport in most cities around the world. While not directly inspired by climate change, almost every thing I discuss would reduce Wellington’s per capita carbon emissions.

Anyhow, here are the things Wellington can and should do, which would have a direct impact on reducing carbon emissions.

  1. Allow people to build apartments and townhouses as outlined here. Immediately stop all green fields suburban development. Car reliant large houses in the suburbs have much more impact on the climate than apartments near public transport and amenities.
  2. Charge people for using roads. This would include both parking and congestion charging. Congestion charging would involve charging people who drive into Wellington CBD. A stage 1 is outlined here.
  3. Our public transport system needs to be so much better, and should include light rail to the airport. This should occur far before the 2030s as it is currently scheduled for. We should have many more frequent buses. The bus priority lanes outlined in Let’s Get Wellington Moving should be built well before late 2020s which they are mostly scheduled for.
  4. Let’s have a network of cycleways. Again, the CBD work outlined in Let’s Get Wellington Moving needs to occur as soon as possible. Personally, I’d also like to see the Newtown Connections built ASAP and a connection from Courtenay place to the Basin Reserve. Would love to know what the other cycling priorities are.
  5. Cancel the airport runway extension and conference centre vanity projects that rely on people flying, the single worst thing you can do for the environment.

To make Wellington the best it can be, we need frequent public transport, safe cycling networks, affordable well-located housing, and cities that are built around people, not cars. All of these things make for great, liveable cities. They happen to be far better for the climate than what we currently have, and what many of our councillors tacitly support. Declaring a climate change emergency while supporting policies that do untold damage to the climate is a hypocritical election year gimmick and should be called out as such. Our mayor and our councillors need to be held to account on their rhetoric.

Originally published on the Conor Hill for Mayor website