Wellington City Council has asked for ideas for its Annual Plan. Here’s my idea:
Wellington is not yet taking climate change seriously enough – either in terms of mitigation, or adaptation. The city is now talking a good game, but the Council’s actions don’t yet reflect that. This is especially crucial in a city situated between steep hills and the rising sea, with much of its infrastructure, including its CBD, very close to sea level.
We need to stop doing things that make climate change worse, and start doing things that give the city the best chance of resilience in the face of the changes ahead.
In the first category, investing further in fossil-fuel-based infrastructure needs to stop. The city should withdraw its support for the proposed airport runway extension (a project which, especially in its approaches, is itself vulnerable to sea-level rise), support electric transport – including public transport, and strongly oppose the use of the city’s facilities for fossil fuel infrastructure, such as oil drilling.
At the same time, there needs to be serious and prolonged engagement with the public and businesses, and especially those in the most at-risk areas, over the medium-and long-term future of the lowest-lying parts of the city. Can every street and every suburb be protected against sea-level rise or the increased risk of flooding? How much will that cost, and who pays?
Failing to act due to such issues as legal worries over the wording of LIM reports will help no-one in the long term.
Adapting to climate change will be costly and difficult for Wellington – but the longer we postpone taking action, the more costly and the more difficult such action will become.