Auckland: Among Climate Champions


Much has been made of the suggestion cities are at the vanguard of combatting climate change.

It is a suggestion too often dismissed by those sceptical of cities' abilities to make any meaningful difference to the climate change threat; those cynical that city efforts could indeed reduce up to 3.7 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Despite the research, local action continues to be painted as a miniscule, futile response to a remote global danger.

Of course, this view is also helpful ammunition for those ardently opposed to local authorities being involved in anything beyond their perceived core functions.

However, the attitude that cities are crucial actors with the potential for bold and exciting eco-leadership - fostering sustainability through local programmes and role-modelling - certainly isn't short of buy-in.

It is an ethos Auckland Council has embraced. Back in January, I wrote about the promising opportunity afforded to Auckland through our membership of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group - an opportunity now being more than realised.

Auckland's chorus of environmental efforts are paying off, with impressive results. Kōkako, for example - an endangered bird species native to New Zealand - have resumed their breeding in the Hunua Ranges, after the council's pest management offensive significantly culled their predators.

Our just-announced Special Mention in the esteemed 2016 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize lauded Auckland's efforts to conserve our 'rich environmental heritage'. It also emphasised the role of the Auckland Plan - the city's supreme spatial planning document - as setting out a 'compelling and achievable vision' for sustainability and liveability.

This month's visit by Mark Watts, C40's Executive Director, dramatically raised the profile of Auckland's climate change initiatives, and underscored the alliances we are building with our global partners.

"The reason I am optimistic that we will tackle climate change is because of the leadership shown by mayors around the world in C40, and indeed, very much in evidence in this city," Mr Watts told an Auckland Conversations audience in his keynote address.

With cities accounting for 70 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, they must be at the forefront of investment, innovation and co-ordinated action.

Being part of C40, alongside the world-class cities Auckland aspires to, is enough of a compliment on its own - affirming our amalgamation and its economies of scale, and rewarding our vision of liveability and innovation with a place on the international stage.

More importantly, however, our C40 affiliation represents an unequivocal recognition of my council's environmental leadership to date. It heralds Auckland's status as an influential champion for a more sustainable global - and local - future.

Photo: Auckland's determined to keep its natural resources in the wake of the changing environment (Tawharanui Regional Park).