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Auckland Council The Auckland Plan

Te hurihanga o te āhuarangi

Climate change


The sun’s energy warms the earth’s surface, oceans and atmosphere. Greenhouse gases (GHG) occur naturally in the atmosphere and trap the sun’s heat to make life on earth possible. The most important GHGs are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

However, human activity has caused an increase in the volume of GHGs being released into our atmosphere, trapping more heat than would naturally occur.

This greater warming effect is driving what is commonly referred to as ‘climate change’.

As a result of climate change, temperatures are rising significantly around the world.

We are already seeing the impacts of climate change in Aotearoa.

The New Zealand Climate Change Commission has said:

  • temperatures are rising significantly
  • average sea level has increased by nearly 30 centimetres compared to 100 years ago
  • coastal erosion rates, coastal flood frequency and extreme weather events are all increasing.

All these changes have flow-on effects to our economy, people and communities, causing damage to businesses, houses and infrastructure.

While the effects of climate change will become more severe and pronounced, local and global records for rainfall and temperature are already being broken on a regular basis.

Learn more about climate change projections and impacts in Auckland (PDF 19.55MB).


Auckland faces climate-related risks such as heat waves, droughts, tropical storms and sea level rise.

How we address the implications of climate change will affect Auckland and Aucklanders for decades to come.

We must:

  • tackle climate change by making significant reductions in global GHG emissions and moving to a low carbon economy
  • develop ways to protect and increase our ability to withstand and recover from the adverse effects of a changing climate.

Key climate-related risks for Auckland include:

  • our natural and human-made systems won't work as well as a result of changing climate conditions or damaging extreme events
  • direct impacts on biodiversity, cultural heritage, productivity or changes in market demands for goods and services
  • unequal distribution of impacts, with those such as the elderly, the very young, those living in poverty or with chronic health issues more likely to be negatively affected.

Key climate-related opportunities for Auckland include:

  • innovation and savings through the transition to a low carbon economy, but also significant risks to our competitiveness if we are left behind
  • significant cost savings from embedding long-term climate change considerations into planning decisions
  • significant cost-savings from reducing the need for major retrofitting or land-use changes as impacts become more frequent and severe.

​The international context

The scientific evidence is unequivocal; climate change is a grave and mounting threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet.

The International Panel on Climate Change 2022 report states people’s health, lives and livelihoods, as well as property and critical infrastructure, including energy and transportation systems, are being increasingly affected by climate change.

Impacts of international climate change policy

Increasingly tough international climate change policy affects New Zealand, and may reduce our ability to sell products and services in important economic sectors and export industries, including tourism and agriculture.

For example, there is a risk that rising climate change awareness could undermine the willingness of people overseas to buy New Zealand produce, because of:

  • an increase in conscious consumerism
  • awareness of water quality impacts of dairy farming
  • concerns around 'food miles'.

It may also reduce the viability of New Zealand as a tourist destination.

New Zealand policy frameworks

New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement and has committed to reduce GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. See Ministry for the Environment website.

The Climate Change Response Act (CCRA), including the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 creates a legal framework for New Zealand to develop policies to:

  • limit global average temperature increase to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels
  • prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The act also provides for a GHG emissions trading scheme in New Zealand and levies and enables New Zealand to meet its international obligations under the:

  • UNFCCC at New York 1992
  • Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention at Kyoto 1997
  • Paris Agreement 2015.

The CCRA set two emissions targets:

  • to reduce biogenic methane by 24 to 47 per cent by 2050
  • to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (other than biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050.

The 2019 amendment established a Climate Change Commission.

It also set emissions reduction targets and requires the government to prepare:

  • emissions budgets
  • an emissions reduction plan
  • a national adaptation plan.

He Pou a Rangi / the New Zealand Climate Change Commission (NZCCC) was formed in November 2019 to provide independent expert advice to the government and take decisive action to address climate change.

The NZCCC will monitor and review the government’s progress in reducing emissions and adapting to a changing climate.

In 2021 it provided a report to the government about transitioning to a low emissions environment. It also provided advice on the government’s first three emissions budgets.

In May 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand’s first emissions reduction plan was released setting out how the government will meet its emissions reduction targets by 2050.

The National Adaptation Plan was released in August 2022.

It represents a central government-led plan to enable all New Zealanders to prepare for, adapt and strengthen resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Auckland’s policy frameworks

Auckland became a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group in 2015, a strategic global network of over 90 cities working together to reduce GHG emissions and climate risks.

Research and analysis by the C40 Group has identified the upper limit of carbon that cities can emit if the temperature rise scenarios in the Paris Agreement are to be achieved. This 'carbon budget' was divided amongst member cities.

Auckland must dramatically increase action to reduce emissions. Our current emissions are still increasing overall, demonstrating the need for a stronger response.

We responded in 2019 by declaring a climate emergency.

We also adopted an Auckland-wide climate plan: Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri, Auckland’s Climate Plan (2020).

Auckland’s Climate Plan sets goals to:

  • reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030
  • achieve net zero emissions by 2050
  • adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Auckland Council’s role

We are committed to reducing emissions and ensuring we are resilient to the impacts of climate change.

We will work with central government, businesses and local communities to ensure we are ready to deal with the risks, uncertainties and opportunities associated with critical climate change and energy issues.

Inventory of Auckland's GHG emissions

We monitor and report on Auckland's GHG emissions.

Our greenhouse gas emissions profile tracks progress against our emissions reduction targets.

The emissions inventory or profile shows the vast majority of Auckland's GHG emissions arise from:

  • transport
  • burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and for other uses like domestic heating.

New Zealand already produces about 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources.

We will need to maintain that percentage, at the very least, as our population grows and energy demands increase. Otherwise we will become increasingly reliant on imported fossil fuel supplies and vulnerable to increases in the cost of energy.

Our responses

We introduced a Climate Action Targeted Rate in the 2022/2023 Annual Budget.

This will help to fund:

  • greater access to low-carbon public transport
  • well-connected walking and cycling options
  • increased tree planting in parks and along streets.

These steps will support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

We also adopted a Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway to reduce transport emissions by 64 per cent by 2030. It recognises that tackling climate change requires transformational change across all sectors.

Actions include:

  • using sustainable transport modes for trips under 6 kilometres
  • converting 30 per cent of the city’s vehicles to electric
  • supporting a 10-fold increase in active transport (walking and cycling)
  • supporting a 5-fold increase in the number of public transport trips.

Our infrastructure strategy describes:

  • a transition to a low-carbon transport system
  • coastal management plans to capture coastal inundation and manage erosion risk to our core infrastructure
  • opportunities for climate-positive assets.

Our Auckland Water Strategy sets strategic shifts towards regenerative water infrastructure. It aims to achieve water security through a diverse water source portfolio.

Many other opportunities include:

  • growing our urban and regional forests
  • turning forest and organic residues into energy
  • enhancing local food production
  • exploring the potential for coastal and marine areas to trap carbon.

Adapting to a changing climate

Adapting to a changing climate requires flexibility and adaptability in all our decisions.

For example, future development of land will need to be located away from coastal and low-lying areas vulnerable to sea-level rise, flooding and coastal erosion.

The risk and opportunities map (shown below, originally published in June 2018) shows the areas of land that may be affected by sea-level rise in the future.

​We may also need to design our buildings and infrastructure differently.

Other opportunities to embed climate change resilience include the use of green infrastructure and adapting to a changing water future.

Because of transport's contribution to GHG emissions, transforming how we travel is one of the key mechanisms to reduce the overall carbon footprint.

In addition, improving energy efficiency and accelerating the shift to renewable energy resources will help to address the stationary energy component of Auckland's emissions profile.

Whatever measures we take to reduce GHG emissions, some impacts are unavoidable due to emissions already in the atmosphere.

We therefore need to prepare, build understanding and increase resilience across our environment, economy and communities.

As the effects of climate change are still uncertain and subject to change over time, it will be necessary to monitor climate change impacts and projections and to gather local environmental data.

This will enable us to identify the most appropriate climate change responses in relation to the risks, costs and benefits involved, and to adapt plans as more information becomes available.

Low carbon economy

Evidence and economic modelling indicate that shifting to a low carbon economy – an economy which reduces the causes and effects of climate change – has numerous benefits.

There are many short-term challenges associated with this shift, yet it also has the potential to deliver long-term, resilient economic growth and increased productivity.

Many components of a low carbon economy – more sustainable and active transport choices, cleaner energy, greater public green space provision, and a higher-quality and safer built environment – also deliver improved economic and social wellbeing outcomes.

Our Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway is a large step towards a low-carbon economy for Auckland.

A low carbon economy reduces energy insecurity and potential increases in the cost of power. This is particularly important since many low-income families spend a disproportionate percentage of income on energy.

There are also well-documented air quality and health costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

What the shift to a low carbon economy means for jobs is not certain.

Some sectors may see job losses and affected workers may need training and new skills. Some new industries will be created. Others will survive and do better.

Overall, the investment in more resilient infrastructure is almost certain to drive both job creation and growth in our gross domestic product as well as stimulate growth and innovation throughout the economy.

Circular economy

The concept of a circular economy is one that focuses on restoring and recapturing value within a product's lifecycle.

A circular economy finds new ways to reduce waste. It places more emphasis on building linkages between businesses delivering better outcomes for people and planet as well as profit for businesses.

A circular economy can also be defined partly by what it is not – it's not an inefficient and wasteful linear economy that simply extracts, consumes, and disposes.

Like any economy, a circular economy can exist at any scale, starting locally and expanding into organisational supply chains and the global economy. True circularity maintains strong local roots to deliver enduring local benefits and value.

Economic and environmental opportunities from creating a more circular economy are clear and enticing. The globally-recognised Club of Rome found that countries from France to Finland can simultaneously grow jobs and reduce carbon emissions.

For instance, Finland could cut up to 70 per cent of its carbon emissions, France could gain half a million jobs, and Sweden could drop emissions by two thirds while adding jobs at three per cent of the labour force. Read more on the Club of Rome website.