By Paul Callister, 10 October 2022
This is the final blogpost of this series. It has been a collection of articles on local and national issues leading up to the local body elections. In this final post, we will look back at some of the themes we have covered and consider what it means to take responsibility as we face the future together.
While New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are relatively small on a global scale, our per capita emissions are among the highest in the world. On average, each Kāpiti resident creates 6.3 tonnes of CO₂ per year. Over half of this is the result of transport.
Some international research suggests we need to quickly bring this down to a maximum of 1.5 tonnes CO₂ per year.
To dramatically reduce emissions requires a huge transformation of the economy and our lifestyles.
We began this new blog series as a way to discuss various climate-related issues that affect Kāpiti. We wanted to pinpoint problems, consider possible remedies, encourage Kāpiti residents to engage in local body elections and, in the process, provide some suggestions for the incoming Council.
But, as the blogging continued, “unprecedented” events were taking place both locally and globally in the background: within a few weeks we witnessed European heat waves, Spanish and Chinese droughts, North American fires, Pakistani floods, Nelson flooding and, most recently, hurricane damage in Canada, a ‘super typhoon’ in the Philippines and hurricane Ian in Florida.
2030 is often seen as a key target date to minimise devastation. It is now only seven years away and, in this time, just two main election cycles, we all need to dramatically reduce emissions.
We all need to step up.
Changes we need to make ourselves
The actions each of us need to take to reduce emissions are well known.
In Kāpiti, reducing transport emissions is our biggest challenge. The only way to reduce them is to cycle and walk more, use public transport, and fly less.
Diet matters: we explored our eating habits. Moving more to a plant-based diet reduces emissions. We also need to reduce food waste.
In the future, more if us will live in higher density housing. Intensification of housing needs to go hand in hand with local shopping and local services, accessible by bike, walking and public transport. But to facilitate this, we need “fifteen-minute neighbourhoods”, where eight-year-olds and those in their 80s can easily and safely move about in a low emission way.
Energy production and use are important. While in Kāpiti we need to invest more in solar and wind, we also need to reduce energy demands. We need to rethink non-essential energy use far more seriously.
We need to live more simply.
Finally, we explored ways to deal with feelings of loss, grief, anger and despair as we feel the effects of climate change.
Direct action is a powerful strategy for change.
In 2021, Low Carbon Kāpiti supported the Poplar Avenue crossing campaign.
And while not a campaign for Low Carbon Kāpiti, four members recently helped organise a protest again the building and expansion of airports.
As our blogposts continued, Low Carbon Kāpiti supported another campaign, initiated by Jake Roos. This is to oppose the proposed biofuel mandate.
Challenges and actions for the incoming council
Individuals and businesses are very much constrained by what they can do by the environment we live in. Actions by central government, regional government and local government all have a strong influence on where we live, how we live and how we move around.
In order to drive and fly less domestically, it is primarily the government and regional councils who need to support the revival of low emission regional and long distance passenger rail services. Extending regular rail services to Ōtaki is essential. However, the incoming local council has many areas it can influence.
We offer our congratulations to the incoming council. It has a challenging job ahead of it.
Housing is a major concern for Kāpiti: as our local population grows, we will have to increasingly swap our urban sprawl for living in higher density housing. The government is trying to encourage this and local authorities are currently looking to change their rules. We face both a housing and a climate crisis. We need more warm, dry, low energy, affordable houses. For some, tiny houses will be part of this solution and KCDC needs rules that facilitate this.
The council also needs to work closely with both the historic and current owners of airport to allow it to close. The time of using ratepayer money to subsidise airlines needs to end. KCDC needs to work with developers and the public to ensure that the building of high-density housing on the land leaves plenty of open space and is designed in a way that supports low emission transport options. We have good examples of how this take place from overseas.
After a year of very wet weather, Kāpiti is increasingly needs to not only focus on coastal erosion but the increasing threat from flooding. Council supported nature based projects will help in both mitigation and adaptation of climate change and help turn around biodiversity loss.
With increasing support from government, we need to transform our streets so they are not just for cars but support safe walking and cycling for all members of the community. In some instances, car parks will need to be removed. We cannot afford to debate these changes car park by cark park, street by street. KCDC has yet to gain money offered by Waka Kotahi for reshaping our streets. Hopefully, this will change.
With vision, backed by bold action, Kāpiti could become the Holland of the South supporting safe cycling for all members of the community. This would be a big help in reducing transport emissions.
KCDC has been consulting on whether to set emission targets, including in transport. Across the whole of New Zealand, there is a goal of a 41 per cent reduction in transport emissions by 2035 from 2019. In particular, there is an aim to reduce kilometres driven by 20%. We need to set ambitious targets for the district and equally ambitious strategies for meeting these targets.
We look forward to our new council rising to these challenges and, with passion and courage, leading the change.