Climate emergency: What Auckland Council's declaration actually means

Auckland Council's declaration of a climate emergency may appear hollow to some, but the head of the environment committee says there will be genuine change to the way the city approaches the environment.

The council declared a climate emergency on Tuesday after around an hour of debate on the topic, but the move has been rubbished by opponents.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said the declaration was just "politics" and he thought the use of the word emergency was unnecessary.

The council set out a number of commitments as part of the declaration, including incorporating climate change into all its work programmes and decisions.

It also says it will provide strong leadership for local government response to climate change, advocate for action from central government, increase the visibility of its climate change work, monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and include climate change impact statements on all council committee reports.

Councillor Penny Hulse told The AM Show the declaration has gotten people talking and given the council something to focus on.

"With a climate change emergency, and climate change now our full focus we change the lens through which we set policy and set our budget."

Hulse said the emergency wasn't the only thing decided on yesterday, as the council also released its plan for action on climate change.

"We also have launched our climate change framework out there for consultation with the Auckland community, so this is the big conversation.

"This says to do you feel if we're going to shift some of the budget from some roading extensions through to electrifying the bus fleet, what do you think about that?"

Auckland isn't the only council to have declared a climate emergency - Nelson, Canterbury and Kapiti Coast have as well.

Environment Canterbury chair Steven Lowdes told Stuff in May the declaration means different things, but it was declared because of a failure to act on 40 years' worth of warnings.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said work on the emergency would last for decades.

"We should be treating this as an emergency, and not as a one-off emergency response but as an ongoing effort that could take years," she told Stuff.

The United Kingdom became the first country to declare a nationwide climate emergency on May 2, which The Conversation reports suggests more aggressive cuts to fossil fuel use would be coming.

At the time of the declaration, the UK had committed to an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, but MPs are calling for a goal of net zero by 2050.

Various other local councils had declared a climate emergency before the United Kingdom did. The BBC reports the Welsh town of Machynlleth declared an emergency in January and is looking into encouraging electric vehicles and energy efficiency to meet a goal to become carbon-zero by 2030.

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick put forward a motion to declare a nationwide climate emergency in Parliament on May 28, but the opposition objected to it and it was rejected.