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Local approach to a changing climate

Opinion Piece

Many of us have been inspired by the words of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg:

“Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.”

Of course, being inspired into action is what adults have been directed to do through this impassioned plea from a young person — especially in the face of a global crisis her generation will feel the effects of far more than those of us who were born last century.

Our region continues to experience population, industry and tourism growth. These all have impacts on our environment. We need to consider how we plan for the impacts, as well as the effects of climate change.

Climate change denial is alive and well in a number of countries, including Australia and the United States. The results of a recent global survey indicate a significant portion of people simply don’t believe humans have anything to do with causing climate change.

Scientific evidence for climate change is “unequivocal”, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Who are they? The IPCC’s latest report, published in October 2018, had 91 authors and 133 contributing authors, over 6000 cited scientific references, and about 42,000 expert and government review comments. Despite the weight of evidence provided by the most respected research organisations in the world, climate science denial persists.

The recent circular economy conference held at Te Poho o Rawiri Marae highlighted the need for local government to be cognizant of the impacts of climate change when discussing the region’s future. The concept of the circular economy offers a concrete perspective on how we can organise our produc­tion and consumption so that it emits less CO2.

The transition to a circular economy begs reflec­tion on the questions of how we can meet our needs (eg living, mobility and food) with less mate­rial consumption, and how the materials that are truly needed can continue to circulate through the value chain in closed cycles with as little impact on the environment as possible.

It was great to hear from local businesses about the initiatives they have under way and are working on within the circular framework.

Discussions from the forestry sector about the opportunities that exist within a circular economy for another energy resource and other uses for wood waste encouraged us to think about the positive potential this industry has. If we can look at extending the lifecycle of our forestry plantation, it leads to fewer products required globally to fulfil a specific need. This then creates CO2 sequestration gains in the extraction, production, transport and waste-processing phase of these avoided products.

Circular strategies also provide a perspective on additional local job creation through repair, recycling and remanufacturing.

Opportunities for permanent native forest carbon sinks present an even more sustainable option, as the price of carbon increases, to provide income to landowners, nurseries and planters — as well the priceless value of biodiversity gains that exotic forests can’t offer.

Our region has the capacity to look into this circular economy. Climate change requires a change to the current system; a new approach that is based on a past approach.

Mayoral candidate: Meredith Akuhata-Brown.