Monday, July 22, 2019

Climate Change: Emergency measures

Over the past few months, we've seen a number of local authorities respond to public pressure over climate change by declaring a climate emergency. So what should they do next? Writing in The Spinoff, Sarah Thomson has some suggestions. Most of urban New Zealand's emissions come from transport and energy use, so local authorities should be trying to minimise those in the long-term, by planning for more compact and efficient cities. This means growing up, not out, ending urban sprawl, and giving the streets back to the people rather than cars. It also means using district plans to require efficient buildings, and local body policy to encourage uptake of solar panels - and councils doing that for the huge number of buildings they manage. One obvious thing missing is also to require large developments like shopping malls and parking buildings to install EV fast-chargers, to push the rapid uptake of greener vehicles.

Most of this is focused on city councils. But there's a huge role for regional councils as well. Most importantly, boosting public transport, so it can be a reliable replacement for cars for more people. Also, regional councils have control over air and water quality, so using those rules to drive electrification of industry and force destocking of dairy farms is vital. They're up against the RMA, which bans councils from explicitly regulating climate change, on this, but many councils already heavily regulate coal to prevent air pollution, and an increasing number are restricting nitrates to protect waterways. Pushing harder on that, and regulating natural gas to prevent NOx (which leads to smog) and leaks (which are straight-out contaminant discharges) is vital.

Of course, it can't all be done by local government. But they're one tool, and we should get them doing everything they can. Because otherwise, they'll be doing more of this instead.