Regional Climate Change Forum unites leaders for climate action
Today’s Regional Climate Change Forum brought together leaders from regional and local councils, and Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, to discuss climate action in a Wellington regional context.
This was the first meeting of the newly established Forum, which builds on a previous working group and invites elected members from Greater Wellington, district and city councils across the region, and mana whenua representatives, to share climate-related challenges, knowledge and insights from their own communities.
Greater Wellington Climate Committee Chair and newly appointed Forum co-chair, Thomas Nash, describes the Forum as a much needed opportunity to coordinate regional climate planning and to amplify local voices.
“It’s a place for regional leaders to come together and discuss how we’re tackling climate change in our communities, and then come away and champion what we’ve learned within our respective councils or iwi.
“It’s also an avenue through which we can present a united front for engaging with Government. It’s often up to us as community leaders to implement the Government’s climate strategy, so we need to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear when these decisions are being made.”
The Wellington Regional Leadership Committee, which brings together the region’s Mayors, Chairs, Iwi leaders and two Cabinet Ministers, has asked the Wellington Regional Climate Change Forum to lead the work on two major climate planning projects as part of the 30-year Wellington Regional Growth Framework that is currently underway.
“The Wellington Regional Growth Framework will shape the future of our region for the next 30 years and determine whether or not the region is operating within a climate safe context”, says Cr Nash. “This Forum’s regional climate planning - both to reduce emissions and to adapt to a warmer climate - will be central to the success of this wider regional spatial planning exercise."
Earlier this year, the Forum provided advice to He Pou a Rangi Climate Change Commission as the Commission prepared its draft report to Government. The Forum pushed for increased policy ambition, stronger recognition of the role of transport and urban design in delivering a low carbon environment, better partnership between local and central government, and integration with wider resource management reforms.
Informed by the Commission’s report, the Government is required to publish a plan before the end of the year setting how carbon emissions will be reduced across Aotearoa.
Today, Climate Minister James Shaw spoke to the Forum about the work ahead, including the need to adapt to the impacts of unavoidable climate change.
Shaw also commended the region’s work toward climate positivity, saying “The councils in the Wellington Region are a leading example of what local government can do to help address climate change, including through the setting of ambitious carbon reduction goals.”
He added that councils will have a crucial role to play in implementing many of the new emission reduction policies that the Government is developing through the forthcoming Emissions Reduction Plan and resource management reform.
Cr Nash says, “We spoke to the Climate Minister with a strong collective voice today about the climate responsibilities of local government. We look forward to continuing our climate advocacy work through the Forum and building a stronger partnership between councils and central government.”
Upper Hutt City Council Deputy Mayor Hellen Swales, who is a member of the Forum, says its vision is one of a resilient, connected community that can make the changes necessary to lower the impact of climate change.
“This Forum has been an asset to the conversations around climate change and how we collectively mitigate and adapt to our changing world. As a collective, through this forum, we exchange values, resources that ensure our region is in a strong position,” she says.
The Forum will continue to provide a place for regular kōrero on climate action, meeting four times a year at locations across the region as well as virtually.
COVID-19 restrictions meant everyone attended the inaugural meeting from home, fittingly making the August meeting a carbon-zero Forum.
Cr Nash adds, “This lockdown and COVID more generally have put a lot of pressure on people and families, and at the same time we can’t afford to delay our action on climate, so we were pleased to be able to keep this crucial Climate Change Forum on the agenda this week.”