Wellington Scoop

What’s needed is action


by Ian Apperley
The fur is flying over today’s vote at the Wellington City Council on whether to declare a Climate Emergency. The usual suspects on social media from both sides of the divide are in full voice, while the rest of us are struggling to figure out what it means.

It feels a bit like the situation where, in a faraway country, a mighty war is underway, and casualties are escalating by the day. Our usual response is to write a letter, usually from the United Nations, rather than doing something about it.

Climate change is real, the deniers are falling on the wayside, and declaring a Climate Emergency feels like flag-waving semantics as opposed to something actionable. It’s like writing a terse letter to ourselves about how terrible things are.

Is it political? Undoubtedly. If the younger vote gets off their backside this year under the stirrings of the likes of Teri O’Neill and Tamatha Paul, then at the top of their list will be Climate Change and what the WCC has done about it. They will no doubt highlight Councillors who vote against a Climate Emergency today.

While the Council is making some inroads (one electric rubbish truck) into Climate Change at a practical level, there is a perceived degree of hypocrisy that continues to come through. Nicola Young has suggested that the WCC is most likely the largest producer of plastic bags in the city, for example. She went further:

Councillor Nicola Young said the climate plan struck her as “very do as I say, and not do as I do”. Since the reduction of single-use plastic bags in supermarkets was introduced, the council itself may be the largest producer of plastic bags in the city, she said. Young called the plan “greenwashing”, “lip service” and “preachy”. “I’ll be voting against it because it’s just nonsense. If we started to do something about the landfill and about the plastic bags, then maybe I’d think it’s serious, but it’s not, it’s just virtual-signalling, and chest beating.”

A valid point. Will the declaration of a Climate Change Emergency change that fact? No. It won’t.

The Council could be leading in this area but it seems to be stuck in the past. They are still holding onto the airport extension, a massive white elephant, which would see a massive increase in emissions. They, and by extension, we, are heavily reliant on dozens of tourist cruise ships that each release huge emissions.

They could move to a fully electric car fleet given the size of the city but haven’t.

They could spend far more on kickstarting sustainable businesses and schemes across the city but haven’t.

They could have a plan for Climate Mitigation, god only knows we need one, that looks at the coastlines and vulnerable infrastructure, but they don’t.

They could have raised unholy hell about the fact that the GWRC has stuffed up bus transport, leading to many, many people getting back into cars, but they can’t do anything about it until next year.

They could have had immediate plans around LGWM to reduce emissions and climate damage, but it’s decades away.

They could scrap the majority of their international visits and air flights in general but haven’t.

They could have fought far harder to retain the trolley bus wires which delivered electricity from renewable sources, but they didn’t.

And we still have the vanity projects.

Now, that may be unduly harsh, in which case I withdraw a little because I do know some good stuff has been going on. The problem is, it is not nearly enough, and this issue is not a priority.

So. I ask again. Will declaring a Climate Emergency further any of those areas? Absolutely not.

There is an argument that declaring an emergency “starts a conversation” and raises it in the mind of elected officials. Well, I don’t see any climate deniers on the Council, I do see a Council that has its priorities in the wrong areas, so maybe that could shift some thinking, but I doubt it.

There is another issue, a potential unintended consequence, and that is the cost of insurance. There is some debate going on in terms of the impact of declaring a Climate Emergency on insurance rates.

At the heart of all this is a simple thing. When something is declared, in this case a Climate Emergency, then there must be a plan of action that follows, so that we can hold our politicians accountable for their actions. If that plan and accountability does not exist, then a declaration is worthless. Worse, it may cause unintended consequences such as increased insurance cost, decreased house prices, implications for the construction industry, and a host of other areas.

The message that has been sent to the WCC time and again, growing stronger all the time, is that we need to act now. We don’t want a flag-waving exercise, we want action, now. Better our resources are put into that work, seriously, rather than making a declaration that will soon be forgotten.

First published by Inside Wellington.


  1. Ms Green, 20. June 2019, 11:14

    Ian this is excellent. I reckon your proposals should become a bumper amendment for the Council to adopt. Then we would see real action.

  2. Donald T., 20. June 2019, 11:29

    If NZ doesn’t breath out a lung full of CO2 again, it won’t affect what happens to the world’s climate. Whereas what China, India, USA, Indonesia and Nigeria do with their massive and surging populations may affect the course of the world’s climate and will definitely affect the eco-stems of our little blue planet.

    What NZ does is ‘flag waving’ for others to see on the political stage. It’s good for selling NZ Inc since we are positioned at the dag end of the world for supermarket carbon ‘footprinting’ purposes. It would be prudent for us to (1) bank funds for reparation works (2) stop building in the wrong places and (3) stop importing people so other countries realise the implications of their own breeding and we can hang on to our remaining green spaces.

    So called ’emergencies’ enable our elites to introduce new rules, regulations and taxes that curtail personal liberty for the supposed benefit of the ‘collective’ whilst, of course, ensuring that their share of the pie never shrinks.

  3. michael, 20. June 2019, 11:36

    Well said Ian – I just hope the councillors read this and really think about it.

  4. Paul, 20. June 2019, 11:59

    Well said Donald T. – What I wanted to say but said so much better.

  5. Heidi P, 20. June 2019, 13:42

    You are right Donald. NZ produces only .02 of the world’s Co2. Co2 is not the villain it is made out to be. It is what we breathe, it is plant food, it is not the driver of the climate. Any action to try to change what has always been constant climate change is silly.

  6. David Mackenzie, 20. June 2019, 14:41

    If declaring a “Climate Emergency” were like declaring war, then perhaps objectives could be identified, targets set, resources could be allocated, personnel set tasks, regulations put in place to husband precious resources, laws absolutely banning the use of private vehicles in certain circumstances implemented. After all we are already at the point where our very survival as a dominant species is threatened. In other words, effective action could be taken to fight for the climate on the beaches and so on. A declaration would be mere verbiage. And to Donald T I would say we can only fulfill our responsibilities and duty if others do not. At least we will perish knowing we did something.

  7. Dave B, 20. June 2019, 14:50

    @ Donald T: NZ emits 0.2% of the world’s CO2 with only 0.06% of the world’s population. If the rest of the world emitted at the same rate we do, the problem would be far worse. And just remember that a fair chunk of the emissions from China, India etc are produced making goods that the rest of the world consumes – including NZ. We are a significant part of the problem and need to clean up our act.

  8. Marie A., 20. June 2019, 15:29

    @ Dave B – so NZ stops producing milk, meat and honey. Let them eat cake instead!

  9. Ms Green, 20. June 2019, 16:30

    How about WCC or the Govt or both introducing carless days? We survived them before.. and Wellington could take the lead!
    David McKenzie – good points except for the war bit.

  10. Dave B, 20. June 2019, 16:53

    @ Marie A – I mentioned nothing above about how NZ should curb its emissions, but since you have prompted the subject I will.
    I do not believe agricultural emissions are the problem. Sure, animals convert feedstock to methane but this breaks down in time to CO2 as part of the normal carbon-cycle, to be re-absorbed by production of new feedstock. This process adds no additional carbon to the ecosystem.
    The real problem is fossil-fuel emissions, whereby carbon that has been safely buried for millennia gets dug up and liberated as CO2 into the eco-system. This does add additional carbon. Fossil-fuel-powered transport is NZ’s biggest source of additional carbon being emitted into the ecosystem and this is what needs reducing. The answer is quite simple: Shift the focus of transport strategy away from excessive dependence on road transport. That is what our government is trying to do.

  11. Paula Benefit, 20. June 2019, 17:02

    Car-less days… so people can get fined for driving to work? It’s not ever possible right now. Maybe first they fix the public transport – only then can they talk about car-less days.

  12. mason, 20. June 2019, 19:30

    Does a global citizen emit more or less carbon based upon where they reside, because if not all we are doing is scaring them away from our economy to emit carbon elsewhere instead.

  13. Dave B, 20. June 2019, 23:37

    NZ has foolishly allowed itself to become one of the most car-dependent nations on earth. Since the 1950s until quite recently it ran down its public transport services and channelled the vast bulk of its transport resources into building roads. It largely removed the choice to live a car-reduced lifestyle, and the adverse consequences of this have been huge.
    Over the past 20 years Auckland has chosen to shift its focus to re-vitalizing public transport and people who once had no option but to drive are now flocking to the improved services. Wellington needs to follow suit but unfortunately it has made some crass mistakes recently.

  14. Curtis Antony Nixon, 21. June 2019, 0:18

    mason, you are quite right. Coal used in the production of steel has a huge impact on each country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Lots of methane with plenty of CO2 and some nitrous oxide oxide as well. Western countries like UK, USA, and Europe have off-shored steel production to China (using coal sold to them by Australia). So China’s greenhouse gas emissions have gone through the roof while those other countries look like they are achieving reductions. Incidentally most former-Soviet Union countries have had plummeting gas emissions due to the collapse of heavy industry post-Soviet Union.

  15. TrevorH, 21. June 2019, 8:04

    WCC staff are making an average of five flights per day, many of them international. Where are they going? Their responsibilities lie here, in Wellington. Presumably this will stop now that a “climate emergency” has been declared? Or will it be another case of “Do as I say, not as I do”?

  16. Tony Jansen, 21. June 2019, 12:23

    You all forget about the mountains of rubbish that is part of any climate/planet emergency. We certainly contribute to that problem. In fact i bet we punch well above our weight.
    Regarding building roads and using cars. You can thank the National Party for this. They have been pro roads and anti public transport since the 1950s.
    Donald T – are you worried about a threat to your personal liberty? Seriously? Mate you need to stop reading all that Ayn Rand nonsense. It is time we thought about what was good for the collective instead of just thinking about ourselves.

  17. Conor, 21. June 2019, 13:50

    Most of the actions which would reduce carbon emissions would also make Wellington a more enjoyable city: https://conorhillformayor.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/wellingtons-climate-change-emergency/

  18. Mark Spencer, 21. June 2019, 14:20

    Tony beware the hive mind and its almost religious beliefs. Hive mind operates on the lowest common denominator – at one time it collectively believed the world was flat and burned women as witches.

  19. Henry Filth, 21. June 2019, 15:38

    What legislative powers does he WCC have to be able to make and enforce the changes necessary?
    Can it ban the internal combustion engine from the city?
    Can it force the GWRC to divest itself of diesel buses?
    Can it close Wellington Airport?
    Can it remove coal-burning marine shipping?
    Just which of these necessary steps can the WCC actually take, if any? Or, having made a cosmetic point, will the councillors break early for Earl Grey tea and toasted muffins?

  20. Ms Green, 21. June 2019, 17:39

    Henry, the council has much leverage in most of the areas you mention and more. But so far, no commitment to action on climate change. Not one councillor moved an amendment to take actual action. They could have made immediate plans around LGWM to approve only transport that reduces emissions and climate damage, and to make any resolution subject to reducing co2 emissions with future monitoring absolutely visible and transparent. Ian has made other worthwhile suggestions for what they could have done.

  21. Stefan, 25. June 2019, 18:02

    It is real. It is also political. What it lacks is a conversation with both sides presenting their views in a rational and non-hysterical manner. For anybody interested in ‘the other side’, here is an interesting conversation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRXzfJVcV6s
    Of course I don’t agree with all of it, but it is good to know more facts.

  22. Kelly McGonagal, 26. June 2019, 5:45

    The only good thing to come of this climate alarmism was when they associated Climate with other issues like pollution, recycling and landfills. To change all these negative behaviors regarding the earth and all living creatures on it, we need an inner shift. And that is where the urgency should lie as we can’t go on in this war on nature and seeing it through an usury/for profit lens .