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Climate change: Our biggest challenge

http://www.gwrc.govt.nz/climate-change

Climate change: Our biggest challenge

Updated 2 September 2019 12:11pm

Climate change is the biggest environmental challenge we have ever faced and will affect everyone in the region.

What is Greater Wellington Regional Council doing about climate change?

On 21 August 2019, Greater Wellington Regional Council (GW) declared a climate emergency and formally established a target for GW as an organisation to become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030. These announcements are backed by two indicative action plans, a Corporate Carbon Neutrality Action Plan, and a Regional Climate Emergency Action Plan. 

We will undertake further analysis and engagement on the plans to ensure the actions are feasible.

As part of this package, GW also agreed to develop a Wellington Regional Carbon Neutrality Plan in conjunction with key stakeholders across the region (eg, other councils, mana whenua, businesses and the farming community). The vision is that we will collectively establish a carbon neutrality target and work collectively across the region to reduce emissions.

These decisions signal a step change in how GW addresses the climate crisis, an area where government leadership is crucial and the closing window of opportunity to prevent the worst effects demands an extraordinary response. 

Corporate carbon neutrality target

Carbon neutrality is about reducing and offsetting the organisations’ greenhouse gas (‘carbon’) emissions, GW’s own, direct contribution to the causes of climate change. 

GW held a special workshop to agree on the target, reflecting the importance of the issue and that it requires a ‘whole of organisation’ response, rather than one that can be handled by an individual staff member or team. Read the background material from the workshop.

As well as becoming carbon neutral, it was decided that GW would reduce its net emissions by 40% by 2025, introduce 5-yearly carbon budgets and aim to be carbon negative (producing more carbon credits from our land than we need for offsetting) by 2035. The workshop delegates generated ideas that informed the Corporate Carbon Neutrality Action Plan.

Climate emergency declaration

The climate emergency declaration, made soon after the carbon neutrality goal was set, encompasses everything when it comes to GW and climate change, including the emissions from the Wellington region as a whole and adapting to the effects of climate change which are now unavoidable. 

The action plan for this sets out additional actions relating to these areas, and outlines governance arrangements that will also support the corporate carbon neutrality work. Read the Regional Climate Emergency Action Plan.

We’re already thinking about what our future might look like and we’re future-proofing the services we provide for our region.

Some of our on-going climate-proofing projects include:

  • Flood protection options and schemes for the region
  • Leading the Regional Natural Hazards Management Strategy
  • Whaitua catchment modelling

We’re thinking about the future of our natural resources, and have been working with the people of our region to create action that will safeguard our region’s resources for future generations.

We’re safeguarding other communities throughout our region, building new stop banks and helping manage local rivers and streams to protect people and we’re leading the charge to establish a coordinated regional approach to planning for hazards.

We’re already working with others in some areas but we need to make a greater effort. We need to work together to tackle the challenge and our first step was setting the strategic direction.

Preparing Coastal Communities for Climate Change

Greater Wellington Regional Council (Greater Wellington) and the territorial authorities across the Wellington region recognise the significance of climate change for the region and the importance of understanding the vulnerability of the region’s coastal communities to climate change. As a result, the Wellington Region Climate Change Working Group (WRCCWG) was established in 2017 and, in early 2018, agreed to progress towards a better understanding of this issue. A technical report, Preparing Coastal Communities for Climate Change, was commissioned to help assess coastal vulnerability to climate change, sea level rise and natural hazards.

The full report is available here:

Assessing coastal vulnerability to climate change, sea level rise and natural hazards

Climate Change and the Greater Wellington Region

Information commissioned from NIWA in 2017 projects that there will be significant impacts to our region by 2090 if global emissions are not significantly reduced:

  • Annual regional temperatures will increase by 3°C
  • Wellington and Wairarapa will experience significant increase in hot days
  • Frosts in the high elevations of the Tararua Ranges is likely to disappear
  • Spring rainfall will reduce by up to 15% in eastern areas
  • Up to 15% more winter rainfall could be experienced along the west coast
  • The risk of drought will increase in the Wairarapa
  • More extreme rainfall events

You can read a summary of the report here or read the full report in the 'In depth reports section' of this page to the right. 

GWRC made a submission to the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Bill on July 16. You can read it here