Climate emergency just 'politics' - Simon Bridges

National leader Simon Bridges has struck out at local councillors playing "politics" after Auckland Council voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency.

By declaring an emergency, Auckland council has committed to visibly incorporating climate change considerations into their decisions, as well as advocating for central Government action.

It follows large strikes across the country from young people demanding change and real action to stop global warming.

Councils in Canterbury, Nelson and Kapiti Coast have declared a climate emergency, as well as the Waitakere and Waitematā local boards. Last month the United Kingdom declared a climate emergency.

But Bridges believes it's all just "politics".

While he says he supports taking climate change seriously, that doesn't mean calling it a "climate emergency" is necessary.

"I take climate change seriously and that is why we have been working with the Government on what they are doing, but to have a climate emergency, as they are called, it is simply politics," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.

The National Party supported the Government's Zero Carbon Bill - which provides targets on how the Government will address climate change - in its first reading in May. However, the party has disagreed with the proposed agricultural methane target.

MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Getty.

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick attempted to pass a motion in Parliament in May that would have declared a climate emergency. But members of the Opposition opposed it.

Bridges said he had some advice for local councillors contemplating whether announcing a climate emergency in a local election year was the right move.

"I don't think it gets anywhere. If you are on a council right now, my respectful advice to you would be to start thinking about the long-term issues, about adaptation and what you do, but to be out there in a shrill way saying 'climate emergency' to get votes, I don't think it's on."

School Strike for Climate Change organiser Luke Wijohn said the declaration is a start but it needs to be followed through.

"I'm really excited about today because declaring an emergency is the first step we can take to have real action on climate change," he told Newshub.

Auckland Council has put aside $40 million for a long term plan for climate change but Mayor Phil Goff said on Tuesday that isn't enough and there needs to be a more detailed plan in place.

"If we defer those costs now, those costs don't get smaller, they get bigger and they get worse. We're putting together a framework, but a framework is nothing until we have an action plan that's fully costed," Goff told the council.

Simon Bridges
Simon Bridges Photo credit: The AM Show.

Environment and Community Committee chairperson Penny Hulse said the decision elevated the importance of "an immediate national and global response to address our changing climate".

The Climate Change Stocktake Report for 2017/18 notes that by 2040 New Zealand's air temperature is forecast to increase by 0.7-1C, and 3C higher by 2090.

As a result of warming temperatures, sea levels are projected to rise by 0.3-1 metre by 2100. But the threat of Antarctic sheets collapsing could mean this range substantially increases.

In 2015, New Zealand signed up to the Paris Agreement, agreeing to keep global average temperatures below 2degC and pursuing efforts to limit to 1.5C.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have only roughly 12 years to reduce global carbon emissions in order to reach the Paris Agreement target of 1.5C

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