Wellington Scoop

City Council declares climate emergency, plans to become “carbon zero capital”

The Wellington City Council today voted to declare a climate emergency. Councillors also supported a plan for Wellington to become a Zero Carbon Capital. .

News from WCC
Wellington City Council has declared an ecological and climate emergency as it adopts a blueprint for becoming a zero carbon city. The climate emergency declaration was made at the City Strategy Committee meeting today. It means the Council will put protection of our environment and climate change at the front and centre of its decision-making.

“Wellington City Council accepts the best scientific evidence that we must now step up and take further action as climate change bites,” says Mayor Justin Lester. “A declaration confirms our ambition to place a climate change lens on everything we do. The Council has led on efforts to curb emissions since 2007 and today we commit to do more.”

Councillors were also adopting Te Atakura – First to Zero, a blueprint for Wellington becoming a Zero Carbon Capital by 2050. It went out for consultation earlier this year which means the Declaration will be supported by an action plan.

Te Atakura attracted more than 1250 submissions. There was very strong support for the Council to act on climate change with more than nine of 10 submitters agreeing the city must become net carbon zero by 2050.

Four out of five want the target reached earlier and there was a lot of support for better active and public transport; nature and green space; and a zero-emissions fleet.

“People are saying they want us to flip the transport system on its head – we need to change the fundamentals of the way we move,” the Mayor says.

Councillor Iona Pannett, who holds the infrastructure and sustainability portfolio, says “the Declaration should be seen as a symbol of hope and a response to the thousands of Wellingtonians who have called for action on climate change.

“There are many positive solutions to the problem of climate change which will have multiple benefits for the city. It’s about us making greener, low-carbon options easy for people to use, such as better options for recycling and composting and transport, such as walking, cycling and mass transit and transport; planning for denser living and building strong, resilient buildings.”

The Council will also look at investing in a fund to protect infrastructure from sea level rise, planting more trees to absorb increased rainfall and better buying policies to buy more green goods such as electric vehicles,” she said.

Details of Te Atakura and the Declaration are available here: https://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/meetings/committees/city-strategy-committee/2019/06/20

Te Atakura – carbon zero capital
Planning for growth – results of consultation

Earlier Report from RNZ
The Wellington City Council looks set to join the growing list of cities declaring a climate emergency. The council is today debating whether to declare a climate emergency – at the same time as it considers a new strategy to make the city carbon neutral by 2050. Mayor Justin Lester said recent feedback showed 92 percent of self-selecting residents support urgent action on climate change. “We haven’t declared earlier like other cities, because we actually want to attach it to a plan,” he said.

The declaration and plan would tell council staff to make sure they’re thinking about climate change and emissions in their work, he said. The first steps were to make it easier for people to change how they get around, and how they power their homes and businesses.

Councillor Iona Pannett said it was not about forcing people to change their ways – rather, it’s about the council making greener options easy for people to use. “So good cycleways, good systems for disposing of waste and re-using resources, making sure we provide good regulation for building and so on. Individuals can only do so much,” she said. The emissions that came from building that infrastructure needed to be tracked and offset, and materials re-used where possible.

Read also:
Council to decide on growth plans for city and suburbs


  1. Donald T., 19. June 2019, 13:05

    The urgent emergency is the number of buildings closed because of the Council’s adherence to earthquake standards. And, if there is a problem about CO2 emissions, then stop importing more CO2 emitters (aka people) into Wellington!

  2. anon, 19. June 2019, 14:05

    The council say they are going to change the climate without a plan? Maybe they were thinking the fleet of diesel buses will warm up winter? I say the only emergency is that of the Council, that has a shambolic faux consultation process. A city with no Library or Town Hall because of an erroneous new code that it enforced. The Council have a long way to go in recycling before they pat themselves on the back (though this will not change the climate).

  3. TrevorH, 19. June 2019, 14:51

    When the “emergency” is predictably declared, no doubt the first things the Council will do will include withdrawing support for the runway extension and stopping the convention centre. Both of these projects encourage people to undertake unnecessary travel by air, creating thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases. Support for international tourism such as the ratepayer top-up for the Singapore Airlines connection should also be withdrawn as a matter of urgency. And tear up those sister city agreements which also contribute to global warming through pointless exchanges of officials. These are some of the easy, early “wins” within the Council’s power. Let’s do this.

  4. greenwelly, 19. June 2019, 15:04

    “…it’s about the council making greener options easy for people to use.”
    So it’s business as Usual with a green spin. The point of the word emergency is something that requires urgent intervention. Simply making green options “easier” is not what I would call a response to an emergency.

  5. Michael Gibson, 19. June 2019, 15:16

    I will be very interested to hear how Councillors reconcile their views on rising sea levels with their irresponsible attitude towards, say, Site 9.

  6. Brendan, 19. June 2019, 16:14

    No light rail on the waterfront then! Uber Gondola anyone?

  7. Nora, 19. June 2019, 20:22

    The Mayor and councillors should have been at the lecture at Rutherford House on 13 June by Professor Tim Naish from Victoria University and Catherine Lorns on Sea-Level Rise…How Much, When and What can we do. The lecture should be on the agenda for the City Strategy Committee at the Council tomorrow…..with any plans for more buildings around the harbour and the Bays.

  8. Fleur Fitzsimons, 19. June 2019, 23:13

    I will vote for the Wellington City Council to declare a climate emergency tomorrow and move an amendment with Clr Brian Dawson that we adopt and promote a just transition for vulnerable & low paid Wellingtonians by ensuring the burden of change is equitably shared. [via twitter]

  9. Dave Armstrong, 19. June 2019, 23:18

    Congratulations Fleur and Brian.
    Q: What is responsible for almost a quarter of Wgtn’s CO2 emissions? Aviation. A blanket opposition to the runway extension by Labour councillors, who presently support it, might be the most practical way of dealing with climate emergency. [via twitter]

  10. GotB, 19. June 2019, 23:29

    Let’s hope this will spell the end of the runway extension, Shelly Bay, 4 lanes to the planes & other fossil fuel powered developments for the 1% and the start for REAL Climate Action in Wellington. [via twitter]

  11. Donald T., 19. June 2019, 23:33

    @FFs- Climate change and vulnerable low paid workers? Aren’t council workers on a ‘living wage’ already. How about the effect on ratepayers who pay Councillor salaries?

  12. glenn, 20. June 2019, 6:47

    So a climate emergency is another method of putting up people’s rates? How about councillors do what they are elected for, and leave climate decisions to central government.

  13. Mark Spencer, 20. June 2019, 8:25

    It is my opinion that there is no “climate emergency”. In saying that, we should still reduce pollution, emissions, and recycle plastic but these things don’t drive the climate.

  14. Andrew, 20. June 2019, 8:55

    Fleur, what do you mean by ‘a just transition for vulnerable & low paid Wellingtonians by ensuring the burden of change is equitably shared’? It is a rather nebulous statement.

  15. michael, 20. June 2019, 9:13

    The biggest emergency in Wellington is fixing what is broken (ie library, town Hall, public transport) and stopping the spending on vanity projects and airport runways etc. That would go a long way to supporting a climate emergency.

  16. Clive Mate, 20. June 2019, 9:26

    Fleur – what does that even mean? I don’t know where this “climate emergency” fever gripping councils has come from but it is something best left to central government to address by applying a uniform framework for the whole country to adopt. Councils can stick to their knitting – parks and reserves, functioning libraries, crumbling infrastructure, public transport that actually works etc.

  17. Conor, 20. June 2019, 10:33

    All the things that could make Wellington better would also reduce carbon emissions. Do it!

  18. Harry M, 20. June 2019, 13:31

    This reminds me of the Chicken Little story.
    “Emergency emergency” … yeah emergency … someone took our Library and Town Hall under the guise of a deeply flawed code for insurance companies.
    Historically, emergencies have often been created where there are none. A manipulative technique used to pass unfair and or unfavorable policies/legislation on to the people .

  19. Kelly McGonagal, 20. June 2019, 14:01

    By declaring an emergency, the Council can now use emergency powers. Emergency powers to request structural inspections on privately owned buildings .Whereas it could not before.

  20. James Shaw, 20. June 2019, 15:09

    Great to see WgtnCC declaring a climate change emergency. It provides direction from the political leadership to Council officials that they should treat climate change at the same level of magnitude as a civil defence emergency and marshal the necessary resources to respond. [via twitter]

  21. Salient, 20. June 2019, 15:16

    Every member of the Committee voted in support of the declaration, except for Councillor Nicola Young. [via twitter]

  22. Benoit Pette, 20. June 2019, 15:23

    Great. Now, I guess we can definitively ditch the runway extension, since “it’s our commitment to place a climate lens on everything we do.” Only electric trucks and buses will be purchased by the city, and a decreasing cap will be set for petrol powered ships and planes, followed by cars. Yes? [via twitter]

  23. Brendan, 20. June 2019, 15:27

    Nicola’s got my vote! Politicians and Climate Change ‘Scientists’ cry wolf too often.

  24. TrevorH, 20. June 2019, 15:42

    Well done Councillor Young for refusing to be part of this charade.

  25. Matai Man, 20. June 2019, 15:42

    Benoit. Errr no because it will be argued by our councillors that a longer runway will enable a fewer number of bigger planes to carry an ever increasing number of people more directly to and from our much needed conference centre that will be re-designed to be carbon neutral, thus saving the planet.

  26. Manny, 20. June 2019, 15:45

    As Kelly said, they need the use of Council emergency powers to enforce their yellow sticker scam on building owners.

  27. A Bstain, 20. June 2019, 16:07

    Well the Council have made a ” Zero Library and Zero Town Hall Capital” .
    They’ve made it first to zero in my book. If they want us all to stop exhaling (C02) in the capital, well I’m deeply concerned about their slogan and paradoxical plans.

  28. Andrew, 20. June 2019, 16:54

    Eh? So they will ‘offset’ everything in the race to be first to zero, by buying questionable carbon credits using ratepayer money? Where is the plan councillors? Without one, this looks like a mass re-election stunt.

  29. Michael Gunson, 21. June 2019, 0:49

    Personally I count five scientists as either friends or scientists I interact with on a frequent basis. Many of whom are either ecologists, coastal scientists, or climate scientists, including a couple who are leaders in their field, not just nationally, but internationally. What scares me the most is the amount of middle aged white males I meet who “don’t believe” in human-induced climate change. I was talking with another one the other day. You throw the facts at them, and they just shrug their shoulders and say it is all exaggerated. These are guys who are educated, but for some reason are in denial of the facts before them. True exponents of the “American dream” I suppose.

  30. Kelly McGonagal, 21. June 2019, 10:44

    Michael don’t you mean the large number of middle aged white male non believers? I don’t believe in man made climate change. Yet as a “heretic/denier,” I agree we should put efforts into recycling, clean energy, changing lifestyles, plant based foods, peace and changing the way we live.

  31. Jeff, 21. June 2019, 16:56

    Landed at Wellington. No sign of an Emergency. No Army in the Streets. No refugee centres. No Military planes at the Airport. No signs of Aid being flown in. [via twitter]

  32. Diane Calvert, 21. June 2019, 18:49

    It’s fair to say that the climate change “emergency” declared by our Council is more akin to the type of emergency that you have with a “slow-motion earthquake” … This is not a criticism but just putting things into perspective, given additional funding & a pragmatic action plan still needs to be determined. [via twitter]

  33. Keith Flinders, 22. June 2019, 0:04

    The very same WCC that sat back and allowed the vandalism of the trolley bus infrastructure, which if retained could have been modified with new trolley buses capable of running both under and off the wires. This valuable infrastructure, reduced to scrap, was owned by Wellington ratepayers.

    So for the past 24 months we have suffered a 95% plus diesel bus fleet including 50 ex Auckland cast offs with over a million kms clocked up already.

  34. Manny, 22. June 2019, 6:33

    Diane. What is needed is right action. We see none of that and the last thing we want is for the Council to run off wasting more money on “trying to stop a slow-motion earthquake” (whatever that means).
    We need the Council to focus on actual problems not create imaginary ones.

  35. Save the Basin, 24. June 2019, 8:44

    It’s good that the WgtnCC has declared a climate & ecological emergency. But the real test is what happens next. More road capacity, an airport runway extension, new developments at sea level: that all has to stop. [via twitter]

  36. Thomas Nash, 24. June 2019, 9:19

    The Regional Council should follow the City Council and declare a climate emergency. Bringing our transport system into the 21st century with clean reliable electric mass transit is the single biggest climate action this region can take. It’s more than urgent. [via twitter]

  37. greenwelly, 24. June 2019, 9:43

    “It’s fair to say that the climate change emergency declared by our Council is more akin to the type of emergency that you have with a slow-motion earthquake …”
    According to this:
    “Should we be worried? For the most part, slow slip events help to relieve built-up tectonic stress, instead of this stress being relieved by large earthquakes. So, they are a good thing….”
    I don’t think any council in NZ has declared an Emergency due to a “slow-slip” earthquake event…..

  38. Donald T., 24. June 2019, 11:45

    @Thomas – The single biggest thing GWRC and all the councils could do is limit population to what it is today. Put simply one out = one in. Just like a night club. All the rest of our Councils’ pontificating is just a load of ‘hot air’.

  39. anon, 24. June 2019, 12:49

    There is no climate emergency, the Council are just following trends and XR’s suggestion. They appear to be alarmists and, with the new diesel buses fleet and planned runway extension, hypocrites.

  40. Thomas Nash, 25. June 2019, 22:23

    The Regional Council should follow the City Council and declare a climate emergency. Bringing our transport system into the 21st century with clean reliable electric mass transit is the single biggest climate action this region can take. It’s more than urgent. [via twitter]