Auckland’s Climate Action Framework – Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri is a very readable piece of work resulting from extensive public engagement, and covering a lot of topics. It’s time to make your submissions – they’re due Monday.
Auckland has had a Low Carbon Strategic Action Plan since 2014. The most important point of difference offered by this Climate Action Framework is in these words:
Measuring progress and indicators
We have identified a set of indicators to monitor the impact of the framework and its delivery against outcomes. Some indicators already exist, and some will be developed. Together, they’ll ensure we track progress and can change course where needed to deliver a net zero emissions, climate resilient Auckland.
Over the coming weeks we will also set detailed targets and indicators against each of the 11 key moves, informed by the consultation feedback.
The setting of detailed targets and indicators – more than the narrative of the document itself (which is already pretty good) – is the most important task for Council now. This is what we need to help them to get right. Penny Hulse gives some context for how it will immediately shape outcomes:
The next few years are critical. Major changes take time to implement and many of the decisions made many years ago have locked us into high emissions…
The Climate Action Framework will inform detailed costed actions for Auckland Council and our council-controlled organisations. This will feed into the council’s next ten-year budget, which will be finalised in 2021.
In 2015, Auckland became a member of C40, a network of cities committed to addressing climate change. We committed that our peak of carbon emissions will happen no later than 2020
and that we will have a plan to reach the C40 targets shown by the red squares in this graph from Auckland’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory to 2016 (February 2019):
Council describes the measured emissions as follows:
Gross and net emissions in 2016 dropped from 2015 levels, however it is not clear if this is the start of a downward trend following a peak in emissions. Several years of data will be required to determine a trend.
Despite overall emissions dropping between 2015 and 2016, transport related emissions increased during the same period and also increased overall from 2009 to 2016.
Why this is no longer something you can ignore
Climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than predicted a decade ago. A report released on Sunday for the United Nations Climate Action Summit has found:
The average global temperature for 2015–2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1°Celsius (± 0.1°C) above pre-industrial (1850–1900) times.
There’s not a lot of wriggle room left between 1.1°C and the 1.5°C limit the world must stay below to prevent catastrophic impacts. The Climate Action Framework summarises the impacts at 1.5°C vs those at 2.0°C. Even at 1.5°C the coral reefs are toast, but at least we’ll be able to save a framework of other ecological systems:
Greta Thunberg told the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday:
The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.
Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.
To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.
How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.
The report released on Sunday, United in Science, details the emissions reductions required:
The current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are estimated to lower global emissions in 2030 by up to 6 GtCO2e compared to a continuation of current policies. This level of ambition needs to be roughly tripled to be aligned with the 2 °C goal and increased around fivefold to align with the 1.5 °C goal.
However, if NDC ambitions are not increased urgently and backed up by immediate action, exceeding the 1.5 °C goal can no longer be avoided. If the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is very plausible that the goal of a well-below 2°C temperature increase is also out of reach.
From now on, stabilising the climate by reducing our emissions must take centre stage in everything we do. Obviously, we need a bold plan, and we need to remove any and all barriers to implementing it.
I don’t have space to cover all the issues. With transport being the biggest contribution to Auckland’s emissions, what I will look at is how the Climate Action Framework considers transport and the closely related land-use issues.
Auckland’s a relatively sprawly, car-dependent city, due to poor planning and poor investment decisions over many decades, but we have access to C40 planning advice, with focus areas on:
- Comprehensive planning for denser, more liveable cities
- Enabling transit-oriented development
- Integrating climate change and adaptation priorities into land use plans and policies
A compact city reduces the travel per capita immensely, and allows for rapid modeshift to the sustainable transport modes. The Auckland of 2030, after ten years of housing provided only in the city centre, the inner suburbs and along transit corridors would be a much more compact and low-carbon city than the Auckland of 2030 created after ten years of business as usual sprawl development.
The demand for more housing within the central part of the isthmus comes not just from the growing population. It also comes from existing Aucklanders who – due to our housing crisis – are living on the outskirts of Auckland, often in overcrowded or substandard housing, and suffering longer commutes than they are happy with. Together, these are several hundred thousand more people needing housing in areas that tend to have restrictive building regulations.
A medium-sized city like Auckland should have a wide swath of 4 and 5-storey development throughout the isthmus, particularly along the transport corridors. For the sake of our poorest people today, and as an appropriate response to the climate emergency, we must enable this to happen now, and rapidly.
Here are some minor changes I think should be made to the narrative.
KEY MOVE 2: Enhance, restore and connect our natural environments
This section talks of “preserving” healthy, viable soils and an opportunity for a “blue-green network approach”, but it doesn’t go far enough to establish that, first, we must do no harm. Sprawl is incompatible with preserving healthy soil. I suggest the first actions should read:
- Stop sprawl.
- Use a blue-green network approach in regeneration areas.
- Remove the pressure to develop on green spaces by enabling and promoting the use of brownfield and paved areas such as carparks, and communicate the need for high density in the isthmus.
KEY MOVE 3: Make development and infrastructure climate-compatible
This section talks of a compact urban form but doesn’t prioritise this. I suggest the actions should start with these points:
- Enable quality compact urban form that supports low carbon, high density, resilient development of existing urban areas.
- Stop sprawl and stop building and widening roads.
- Remove all barriers to high density development on existing brownfield sites and paved areas such as carparks, landfills, poorly developed sites, oversized roading infrastructure, disused industrial sites, and areas where people-unfriendly streetscapes, a lack of transport choice and ugly development have left a rundown and unappealing legacy.
KEY MOVE 5: Deliver clean, safe and equitable transport options
This section starts with electric vehicles, which do need to be part of a good transport plan. However, congestion, safety, transport poverty, urban destruction to accommodate ever widening roads and rapidly mounting road maintenance bills are problems stemming from our car dependency that are not solved with electrification. We are far better to use all best-practice tools available to us to reduce emissions by reducing traffic as we transform the whole transport network into one that offers better access by sustainable and healthy transport modes.
Emissions have dropped significantly in the low-traffic neighbourhoods of Waltham Forest.
I suggest these actions:
- Rapidly implement a “walkable city” with high quality, wider, well-maintained footpaths, trees for shade, lighting, water fountains, pocket parks with seating, frequent raised pedestrian crossings and top priority at signals.
- Rapidly implement a complete protected cycling network on all the main and arterial roads.
- Enforce regulations that impact on safety for walking and cycling, such as parking and red light running rules.
- Create low-traffic neighbourhoods throughout the city, including with default lower speed limits, in order to enable rapid modeshift to cycling and walking, including to public transport.
- Reallocate road space on the main and arterial roads to buses and cycling.
- Expand the bus network – improving bus priority everywhere, improving the frequency and span on all routes, increasing the number of frequent bus routes, improving the quality of bus stops. Ensure bus drivers are paid and treated well. Electrify and increase the bus fleet and associated infrastructure.
- Improve the passenger rail network with adding the 3rd and 4th main lines, prioritising maintenance and upgrade work and adding rolling stock to increase frequencies.
- Ensure each project can only decrease traffic volumes, not increase them. For this, effective road capacity, parking provision and intersection width for traffic should always be decreased, never be increased.
- Reduce parking supply and prevent the addition of any parking supply in a Council-owned facility.
- Use pricing to capture all externalities of driving, including public health and climate change costs.
- Enable the shift of deliveries to small electric vehicles, including cargo bikes.
- Enable the shift of freight to rail, and move the port business to Tauranga and/or Whangarei.
What will make this Climate Action Framework effective is setting it up with targets other than carbon emissions themselves, which have more than a two-year lag before we receive the data. The measures need to give much more immediate feedback.
Most important of all is establishing automatic pathways of action if the targets aren’t met; pathways that are “good to go” and don’t require any extra consultation to implement.
I’ve only just started working on my targets. You can see where I’ve got to in this document.
For those with the least time: the core proposals in the Framework are on pages 27 to 55.
For those with more time, these three submissions are the best I’ve read and raise many important points:
- The submission by Stephen Knight-Lenihan, a senior lecturer in environmental planning at the University of Auckland.
- A collated response from individuals in Plant and Food Research, Grey Lynn 2030, Waitemata Low Carbon Network, Equal Justice Project, Extinction Rebellion, Generation Zero, For The Love Of Bees, Women in Urbanism, Auckland University.
- A Response to the Framework from two workshops held at the University of Auckland. The workshops were open to graduate students and staff from across the University and there were 37 participants in all.
A fifty percent chance of avoiding catastrophic outcomes is not acceptable to me, but we’re not even tracking near that trajectory. Our children currently have very little chance of a decent future. I also understand the earlier we alter our infrastructure, the earlier we’ll have a liveable city, and the less it will cost in the long run.
Many people are trying to reduce their emissions, but people shouldn’t have to risk their lives cycling or walking on unsafe roads or spend long hours commuting. To really tip the scales for the climate, the city has to be rebuilt to make sustainable lifestyles the easy option. Let’s build that city.
Edit: It’s also occurred to me as we approach the council election, that landlords getting to vote in each ward they own property in has a strong dampening effect on Council being able to respond appropriately to the climate emergency. This antiquated quirk of our Council voting rules is not democratic. One action the Climate Action Framework should also include is advocating to government for a change to the legislation.