3 July 2019
At today’s council meeting councillors engaged in a robust debate, finally agreeing that climate change needs urgent action, but deciding against declaring a climate change emergency.
The debate attracted a large peaceful crowd which included people listening outside via a sound system when the council chamber became full.
Two speakers addressed the council on the topic ahead of the councillors’ debate. Nathan Surendran put forward a range of reasons why he thought the council should declare a climate change emergency. Denis Bartley also spoke in support of declaring a climate change emergency, drawing on his experience as an oil industry engineer, Anglican priest and grandfather.
Two motions relating to climate change were on the agenda.
The motion put forward by Eric Roy was successful:
Environment Southland acknowledges that climate change is an important issue which we have to engage with. The Council commits to applying best practice and best science to its responsibilities and accords urgency to developing an action plan.
Councillors who voted in favour of the motion were Eric Roy, Nicol Horrell, Lloyd McCallum, Ross Cockburn, Eric Roy, Grant Hubber, Neville Cook, David Stevens, Jeremy McPhail, Lyndal Ludlow and Maurice Rodway. Councillors Robert Guyton and Rowly Currie abstained.
An earlier motion put forward by Councillor Robert Guyton: That the Council declares a climate emergency, was defeated 8-4. Councillors Robert Guyton, Lyndal Ludlow, Rowly Currie and Maurice Rodway voted for the motion; all other councillors voted against it.
Councillor Maurice Rodway put forward an amendment to Councillor Robert Guyton’s motion before the vote that included a definition of ‘climate change emergency’, but this was defeated 10-2. (Councillors Maurice Rodway and Rowly Currie voted in favour.)
Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said it was good to have the debate and acknowledged Councillor Robert Guyton’s efforts in raising climate change for discussion at council and publicly.
“It was good to hear everyone’s views and to have such good public interest. In the end we had an almost unanimous outcome. The word ‘emergency’ was a sticking point for many of us, but it was clear from the debate that we all agree that urgent action is needed.
“The council is already doing a lot of good work in relation to climate change and that came through too. Now, we will work on an action plan that articulates where to next, but as was clear during the debate, it will take everyone coming together to make a collective difference,” said Chairman Nicol Horrell.”
Amendment by Councillor Maurice Rodway to the defeated motion:
That ES declares a climate emergency* and
- Acknowledges that the world is in a state of climate change that requires urgent action by all levels of government; that human-induced climate change is a serious threat to humanity, other species, and the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, as they have existed since human civilisations developed.
- Recognises that the potential for technology, expertise and capacity exists for humans to mitigate and adapt to this global challenge, but that collaboration and action is essential.
- Commits to examine how Council's plans, policies and work programmes can address climate change and ensure a response strategy is embedded into all future Council strategic plans.
- Prioritises collaboration with the Government, other councils and Governing Bodies, iwi, business, and scientific sectors, and with the wider community, in order to maximise collective action that will achieve climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience.
- Recognises that transparency and accessibility of climate change information, along with education and participatory community engagement in collective action, will be essential to achieve climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience.
Councillor Maurice Rodway’s definition of climate change emergency
*Climate emergency means a response to the warming of the atmosphere caused largely as a result of the discharge of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from human activities. It is not a sudden unexpected situation such as a Civil Defence emergency caused by a flood, earthquake or similar unexpected catastrophe which requires the urgent transfer of funds and effort to resolve the situation and rescue lives that are at immediate risk. It requires sustained action over a period of decades at least.
BACKGROUND INFO fyi
- Environment Southland is a signatory to the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration
- The challenge of climate change is discussed in Environment Southland’s Annual Plan 2019-2020 pages 16-17, 21-23 and in the Annual Plan 2019-2020 Overview. Both are available on our website.
- Environment Southland along with the other 3 Southland Councils commissioned NIWA to do the Regional Climate Change Impact Assessment report, which was approved by ES council in April. It provides important data and addresses potential impacts of climate change on a range of components relating to climate, hydrology and coastal processes across Southland, and will be very useful in informing our planning for climate change impacts. The report is on our website.