What's the issue?
Patterns of temperature, rain, wind, and sunshine make up the climate of Aotearoa New Zealand. We have learned to live and thrive with our climate, and tend to take it for granted because we generally know what to expect – even the unexpected.
But the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mainly from burning fossil fuels for the past 200 years) is changing the climate around the world and in our own country.
The changing climate is affecting us, but it is a two-way street – our actions and activities are also affecting the climate. Many of the things we do every day contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Our future is interconnected with the climate because climate shapes social, cultural, and economic aspects of our lives.
We know that the changing climate will have implications on New Zealand's weather systems, freshwater availability and our communities' exposure to hazards.
In Southland, over time, we are likely to experience warmer weather all year round, summers will have more dry days and there will be extended periods of relatively higher temperatures. Average annual rainfall is projected to increase, mostly in winter and spring, and is likely to occur in more intense events. Coastal flooding will increase steadily with increasing incidents of pure tidal flooding even on fine days.
Some other general Southland impacts include an increase the frequency of severe weather, and the size and duration of unprecedented weather events.
What are we doing?
Taking action to address climate change impacts now and in the future is a priority for Environment Southland. We are committed to making a difference in our business and doing the same for Southland.
In December 2020, the Environment Southland Council confirmed its position on climate change and supported the Government's climate change emergency declaration. Read the media release here.
Find out more about how we're responding to climate change in Southland below.
Climate Change Action Plan
Environment Southland has a draft Climate Change Action Plan. Development on the plan began in July 2019 following a council meeting that decided not to declare a climate change emergency and instead, accorded urgency to developing the plan.
The draft Climate Change Action Plan is being developed in two parts. The first part is focused on what Environment Southland can do, particularly in its day to day business. The second part takes a regional approach, which the Council is working on with other Southland councils.
The first part of the plan identifies a wide range of actions. Some of these include initiating a full engineering review of the Waihopai flood management scheme, developing a stocktake of actions that can be undertaken within existing budgets, and the design and implementation of an emission reduction programme across all of the Council’s operations. Some actions are already underway such as the transition to hybrid and low emission vehicles.
Work is also underway on developing the regional climate change actions, through a cross-Regional Working Group. This collaboration started with the Southland councils jointly commissioning the Regional Climate Change Impact Assessment, which was endorsed by all four of Southland’s councils from May to July 2019.
Southland Climate Change Impact Assessment
The Regional Climate Change Impact Assessment was commissioned by all four of Southland’s councils with aim of providing the best information to address the risks associated with climate change. It will be used by the councils to inform catchment-based planning, infrastructure planning and engagement with communities to help people understand how the range of impacts might affect them.
The assessment considers two different global warming scenarios (a mid-level warming and a high level warming) that are dependent on the level of emissions over the next century. The combination of climate models and warming scenarios provides for a plausible range of future climatic responses.
Natural climate variability is always present and may add to, or subtract from, the climate change effect. The resulting potential impacts of climate change are presented through averaging of the model projections, which reduces the underlying natural variability to some extent.
The projections represent likely changes in climate relative to a model of the present climate.
The present day model closely approximates Southland's actual climate records collated in 2013. The purpose of the projections is to enable forward planning around a range of possible options for dealing with the impacts of climate change. The intent is for the community to be enabled to be prepared for significant impacts, and as far as possible, develop no regrets policies for future resource management.
Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration 2017
In October 2017 Environment Southland became a signatory to the Local Government Leaders' Climate Change Declaration.
The Local Government Position Statement on Climate Change and the Local Government Leaders' Climate Change Declaration set out local government's position and commitments for responding to climate change.
A report by Local Government NZ published in July 2017 concluded that almost any local government role or responsibility is in some way affected by climate change or can impact on climate change outcomes. It outlines three components for climate change actions: actions to reduce emissions, planning and actions to support public safety and effective adaption, and limiting or removing pressure on systems affected by climate change.
What can you do?
Read more about how climate change may affect the way you live and work:
- Environment Southland maintains flood protection and control schemes to protect property, lives and livelihoods. Check out our natural hazards map on our mapping service Beacon.
- Ministry for the Environment - Our atmosphere and climate: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/...
- Ministry for the Environment - Aapting to climate change in NZ: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/...
- Dairy NZ - What climate change means for farmers: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/environment/climate-chan...