The report from new Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton calling for a structured and long-term approach to climate change includes a number of important recommendations, Local Government New Zealand says.
A Zero Carbon Act for New Zealand: Revisiting Stepping stones to Paris and beyond says New Zealand needs to move on from a stop/start approach to such a significant problem, a position long held by LGNZ.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says introducing a Zero Carbon Act and a UK-style Climate Commission will require care to ensure they are suitable for New Zealand, and that the Commissioner’s recommendations provide sensible and pragmatic options around introducing emissions reduction targets in a staged manner.
Mr Cull says while the report focuses predominantly on mitigation we cannot ignore climate change adaptation, which presents the biggest challenges for local government and New Zealand’s communities.
“We agree with the Commissioner when he says the proposal to enact a Zero Carbon Act and create a Climate Commission provides an opportunity to reset the way New Zealand has been approaching our responsibilities around climate change adaptation,” Mr Cull says.
“We need to make some major changes and there is an urgent need for local and central government to be in alignment on adaptation.
“Local government is ready to do more but needs direction from the national level on a clearer decision-making environment and agreement on the financial responsibilities and funding for adaptation. We also think the Government needs to lead a national education and engagement programme to ensure communities are aware of the full extent of climate change impacts.”
Mr Cull says it is critical that the local government sector is involved in any conversations and decisions about the place of adaptation in the Zero Carbon Act and has a role in determining what agency or mechanism is adopted to carry out that work.
LGNZ also acknowledges the report’s strong focus on risk mitigation and its recommendation that the Zero Carbon Act includes regular national-level risk assessments and national adaptation strategy planning. It is LGNZ’s view this is now a critical and urgent need.
“A Local Government Risk Agency, developed between local government and the Crown in 2016 as a national agency to pool and coordinate local government resources to lower the risk and cost of disaster, would be the right platform for that work and we need to progress this with some urgency,” Mr Cull says.