Climate Change Forum Opening


Kia ora. Nau mai! Haere mai!
Ki tena taone nui o te Whanganui a tara.
Tēna koutou, Tēna koutou, Tēna koutou katoa.

(Hello, welcome to this great city, Wellington)


Sir Paul
Iwi representatives
Hon Nick Smith
Distinguished presenters, speakers and delegates
Ladies and gentlemen

It's my pleasure to open this forum and welcome you to the coolest little capital in the world. I am delighted you will address some of the key questions about how communities should respond to climate change, now and into the future. Today's renewable energy is shining benignly rather than rushing past, which is very pleasant!

At Wellington City Council, we've been working on Climate Change issues for some time, employing an Energy Manager years ago, updating our District Plan with an Renewable Energy Chapter and committing to ICLEI's Communities for Climate Protection.

Wellington has some exemplar Green Star buildings – Meridian's Green Star on the waterfront, the refurbished Conservation House and soon we will see Victoria University's entry into the US Solar Decathlon have a temporary presence in Frank Kitts Park.

Last June, Wellington City Council adopted its 2010 Climate Change Action Plan which is a comprehensive look across all sectors of the city and goes beyond our own direct obligations.

Our primary target is to reduce the city's emissions by thirty percent by 2020 and eighty percent by 2050. We also must work together to addresses the increasingly important need to prepare, and adapt to, the effects of climate change and Wellington City Council is working across local, regional, national and international networks to do so. Future targets are important but it's somebody else who will be elected in 2050 so we have also made a target to hold this Council to account – we aim to reduce the city's emissions by three percent by June 2013 (below 2001 levels).

Internationally we have been involved in the C40 Mayors forum – part of the Clinton Climate initiative made up of 40 major cities world-wide taking action on climate change. We were also fortunate to have been specially invited as a 'smaller city' to the Copenhagen Summit in December 2009.

We are a member of the Carbon War Room Programme – Richard Branson's initiative designed to link forward-thinking businesses with funding to reduce their emissions.

We are a signatory to the Mexico City Pact – a commitment to sharing our greenhouse gas inventory information and promoting strategies and actions aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

There is some excellent work taking place across New Zealand in response to climate change.

We have been working closely with Greater Wellington Regional Council and other local councils to develop a consistent and coordinated approach to measurement.

District plan rules are in place to restrict development in vulnerable coastal areas. We are studying the risks imposed by future climate change in different areas of the city, including the vulnerability of the CBD which already has to have seawater pumps in some basements. We have placed a number of our regenerating bush reserves into the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative.

Our own Climate Change Action Plan is focused on a number of important issues. We are currently working on scenarios for our coastal areas. We need to understand the impacts of storm surge; do level-rise modelling and outline our best options and possible solutions are for dealing with a change in sea level. This will in turn inform our future planning for infrastructure and city preparedness.

We are looking at how we can be more energy efficient – as a Council, and how we can encourage businesses and individuals. We have partnered with central government, industry associations, NGO's, research institutes, and others to coordinate with a diverse range of community groups on climate change – for example including a Curtain Bank in Newtown.

We are updating our Council's greenhouse gas inventories activities and for all of Wellington. We will continue to attend Climate change conferences and events like this one. This August we will be Foundation sponsor for the 2011 Climate Change and Business Conference in Wellington. We are developing a carbon policy to manage our commitments under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

We are also excited about exploring new technologies. You may have seen one of the eight electric cars that are part of Mitsubishi's pilot programme that we initiated moving silently about town... or the city’s first electric vehicle charging station up and running.

When my bike's just not going to get three of us to the opening of the Wellington Free Ambulance building, Government House and back in time for the next meeting, our leased yellow MiEV is a great alternative. Of course electric trolley buses are already well-loved in Wellington, a friend has an electric scooter and the Swiss Ambassador lent me her electric-assist bike – very attractive but I prefer chocolate fuel!

There are some other exciting developments in the clean-tech industries. We are exploring bus induction charging, supporting marine energy, and in partnership with Kapiti, piloting generating energy from sewage waste.

Climate Change responses must include many other aspects as well as technology but new green technology will certainly be a key part of the solutions and a major economic benefit to early adopters and early inventors.

Decoupling a successful economy from increasing emissions must be our goal. In Wellington City we have begun to achieve that with both waste generated, and water used, decreasing since 2005 despite increasing population. Traffic growth has stabilised but that area seems one where climate change action and investment are not, what shall I say, perfectly aligned.

GDP is now widely recognised as an inadequate measure for sustainable development. Other measures need to come to the fore, and be embraced as key measures of real progress within society. It's exciting to see that the regional GPI (genuine progress indicator) is about to be launched from the Wellington Regional Strategy team, a collaboration.

I look forward to the future and to the ideas, suggestions and outcomes that will be generated from this forum and others like it. Every small step builds momentum for further, greater action in the future but we need to regain a sense of political urgency. The scientific urgency has never diminished, quite the contrary.

Again, welcome to Wellington. I wish you all the best for an enlightening conference. Even the most driven and passionate will work better if you enjoy some relaxation too. Enjoy all that we have to offer in this coolest little capital in the world.

The speech delivered may vary from this text.