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Auckland Council The Auckland Plan

Climate change

Overview

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

The climate is constantly changing as a result of natural processes, and there is strong scientific consensus that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly from the use of fossil fuels, are causing the climate to change at unprecedented rates.

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. 

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.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change is a challenge.

It means doing things that will have wider positive effects, such as reducing the environmental impact of transport, creating more green space, planting more street trees, and having cheaper and more reliable electricity and water. 

Auckland needs to be committed to a low emissions and low carbon future to realise long-term economic, social and environmental benefits. This requires multi-sector collaboration.

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

Increasingly stringent 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, due to issues such an increase in conscious consumerism, awareness of water quality impacts of dairying as well as concerns around 'food miles'. It may also reduce the viability of New Zealand as a tourist destination.

New Zealand and Auckland 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. Read more on the Ministry for the Environment website.

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. Find out more on the C40 Cities website.

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.

For Auckland this means we must dramatically increase action to reduce emissions. Our current emissions, while starting to decrease in per capita terms, are still increasing overall along with that of New Zealand as a whole, demonstrating the need for a step up in ambition.

Auckland Council's energy resilience and low carbon action plan, Low Carbon Auckland sets a target for Auckland to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2040 (based on 1990 levels).

Urgency

The projected long-term effects of climate change are that they will become more severe.

However, the immediate effects already pose significant risks and opportunities. 

The scientific and economic consensus, notably the Stern Review into The Economics of Climate Change (PDF 8.6MB), and research by the World Bank and by the New Zealand Treasury, show that the longer we delay reducing emissions, the more expensive and difficult it will become. 

How Auckland can respond to climate change

Auckland's urban areas

In 2011 the United Nations estimated that cities account for 70 per cent of global GHG emissions. They are also strongly affected by climate change. Read more on the ZDNet website.

Over 90 per cent of all urban areas are coastal, putting most of them at risk of flooding from rising sea levels and powerful storms. In response, cities around the world are leading the way in moving to a low-carbon future.

While Auckland's membership of the C40 Group supports actions in our urban area, we also need to be conscious of the role of our rural area in climate change.

Auckland's rural areas

Only 6 per cent of Auckland's GHG emissions come from agriculture. However, transforming forestry, agriculture and natural carbon assets are key opportunities to enhance Auckland's resilience to climate change and reduce our GHG emissions.

Opportunities include:

  • growing the extent of 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.

Auckland Council's role

Auckland Council is committed to working with central government, business and local communities to ensure we are ready to deal with the risks, uncertainties and opportunities associated with critical climate change and energy issues. 

Auckland Council has reduced energy, waste production and water use through its own operations, resulting in between $1.5 to $2 million annual savings.

For further information on Auckland Council's organisational GHG emissions reduction, see the Low Carbon Auckland updates on the council website.

Inventory of Auckland's GHG emissions

Auckland Council has been monitoring and reporting on Auckland's GHG emissions through Low Carbon Auckland.

The inventory provides guidance on Auckland's low carbon action investment priorities and tracks progress against our emissions reduction targets.

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

  • transport
  • burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and for other uses like domestic heating - so-called 'stationary energy' sources. 

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.  

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 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. 

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 3 per cent of the labour force.

Read more on the Club of Rome website.