Wellington Moves to Coordinate Climate Action

27 November 2009

A proposed draft 2010 Climate Change Action Plan released today will enable the City Council to take a strong lead in local efforts to address climate change.

The wide-ranging and comprehensive plan, which will be debated by City Councillors next week:

  • develops the Council's leading role in response to climate change
  • identifies the need to address global climate change as a citywide issue, requiring local solutions, research and investigation
  • embraces actions in response to impacts from climate change such as sea level rise
  • seeks to encourage business opportunities
  • proposes that Wellington be an early adopter of electric vehicle technology.

Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, the Council's Climate Change Portfolio Leader, says that the proposed plan responds to community expectations for the city to take the lead on climate change.

"It builds on things that we are already involved with, including improvements to encourage walking and cycling, greater use of public transport, leading-edge studies with research institutes, and technology innovations that are being developed in partnership with the region's economic development agency Grow Wellington.

"All these actions bring together the best science, planning and international thinking, ensuring that every decision that the Council makes in future will help us meet our climate change goals," he says.

Cr Ahipene-Mercer says while efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions need to be accelerated, this can no longer be the only primary focus.

"We also need to strengthen existing efforts to plan for the challenges that climate change will bring. Climate change is now a global reality, and there are obvious implications, particularly for waterfront cities like Wellington. However, we also need to be innovative and future-focused to give our city an edge in responding to climate change issues."

Embracing electric vehicle technology is just one of the proposals in the plan.

Cr Ahipene-Mercer says it makes sense for the Council to make sure the implications of this new technology are explored in more depth.   

The Council developed its first Climate Change Action Plan in 2007 and has already taken a number of significant steps, including measuring greenhouse gas emissions, capturing methane from the city's landfill and using it to generate electricity, and receiving carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme for areas of forest located on Council land.

But Cr Ahipene-Mercer believes that more action is needed, particularly to assess what effect changes like sea level rise might have on the city and how the Council can assist businesses, communities and individuals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

If the Council's Strategy and Policy Committee agrees next week, the proposals will be available for community input in about April next year.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast is set to attend climate change talks in Copenhagen from 13 to 18 December, as a representative of both Wellington city and Local Government New Zealand. The Mayor is taking part in a meeting of mayors from leading international cities. Wellington city has been specifically asked to attend this invitation-only event, involving major world cities taking action on climate change - such as London, Toronto and Los Angeles. Only 100 cities globally have received invitations to this important meeting.

"I look forward to discussing this critical issue with other city leaders, sharing our approach and bringing some of the world's best practice back to Wellington," she says. "We have so much potential to build on here."