From our Chair: Refocusing on climate change

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Wherever you look, whatever you read, whatever you see or hear, Covid-19 has completely dominated this year and pushed climate change aside. 

While thoughts and actions across the globe have, understandably, been focused on fighting this terrible pandemic, it’s not like other urgent issues have magically gone away.

Swamped by Covid concerns, it would be easy to forget, or choose to ignore, that the Earth is in trouble on many fronts and has been for years.

Climate Change - our biggest threat

Climate change, the acceleration of natural habitat loss and species extinctions, increasing plastics pollution from the depth of our oceans to the top of Mt Everest – these and others remain major problems which humankind has to own and do something about, with or without the more immediate distractions of Covid-19.

It’s telling that governments in many parts of the world have very quickly been able to find billions of dollars to cope with the pandemic and to issue strong directions to their people in attempts to stop the virus’s spread and minimise mortality rates.

Nobody could argue against the need for these extraordinary efforts against Covid. Yet, when it comes to climate change, which unchecked in the coming decades will cause many deaths through flood and fire and famine, there is huge reluctance by many governments to show the kind of leadership, and provide the money, to make the changes necessary to save the world we know.

Climate Change at the heart of everything we do

At Environment Canterbury we put climate change at the heart of everything we do, from air quality to freshwater management, transport and urban development, to biosecurity and biodiversity.

When we became the first council in the country to declare a climate emergency in May 2019, it was noted we were already showing leadership in climate-change work and would keep doing so.

Supporting climate change reports

So what new work has Environment Canterbury been doing on this front?

Climate change projections for the Canterbury Region

Earlier this year, the regional council commissioned NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) to analyse projected climate change in Canterbury.

The report, based on global climate model simulations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment, and then applied to Canterbury’s unique climate, is available on our website and will help inform communities across the region to understand and better prepare for the future.

View NIWA report: Climate change projections for the Canterbury Region (PDF File, 16.5MB)

Regional risk screening report

In August, the Canterbury Mayoral Forum released a regional risk screening report, which is basically a “long list” of risks which will help determine priorities for more detailed investigation, a task about to get underway.

Both of these reports are worth a look at over the summer, as in March we are going to be asking you what you think we should be doing and prioritising when it comes to climate change when we consult on the Council’s 2021-23 Long-Term Plan.

You only need to look at some of the statistics from these reports and others to see how alarming some of the projections really are.

Upcoming consultations

The Climate Change Commission is also undertaking consultation on its first package of advice on how to reduce emissions from February 1 to March 16.

Climate change will be the driver for just about every other change likely in our region over the next few decades.

Even if you do not normally get involved with consultations, I strongly encourage you to visit our website and learn more about the implications of climate change for Canterbury.

As we learn more through further study, we’ll be updating this information to keep our communities informed.

Keep an eye out for these consultations on our 'Have your say' page.