Awatoto. Photo: Florence Charvin

I sat through the latest session of HB’s Climate Action Joint Committee (CAJC) last week, its third meeting of the year, not counting recent workshops.

Of course it’s the workshops where the heavy lifting, such as it is, would have occurred – should HB’s councils focus on adaption versus mitigation, dare we suggest our primary sector has a major burden to bear? Happily, we’re told such workshops are ‘out’ in 2024.

The Committee, with reps from our five councils and iwi, is chaired by HBRC Chair Hinewai Ormsby. Fittingly, as HBRC potentially would issue the policies and programmes of greatest relevance to our agricultural economy, HB’s major source of emissions (specifically animal-generated methane), and also drives our regional transportation planning, the second largest source of emissions.

So far, the Joint Committee has seen more slumber than action. Only now are draft Action Plans being identified across the first of six relevant areas – like transportation and waste. And even these will need to await ratification and embedding in the various councils’ Long-Term Plans, which won’t be adopted until June 2024.

Watching Committee members quibble over whether $30,000 should be included in the Joint Committee’s budget for grants to support local climate action projects (some balking, some saying the amount was ridiculously low), it’s hard to imagine how – or even whether – CJAC will deal with issues of major consequence.

Yet to emerge, for example, is what quantum of dollars will be allocated to CAJC (with its staff of one) by its constituent councils to deliver the requisite data and analyses to underpin the strategy (and should iwi contribute to the pot), how will it address farm emissions, will it get behind green energy projects (like biomass), will it set and monitor actual targets for emissions reductions across sectors, will it seek to stimulate ‘climate action’ on the part of other public bodies or the private sector or individual consumers?

Cyclone Gabrielle, the greatest alarm bell we could imagine with respect to the urgency of addressing climate change, has been used in the past year, ironically, as an excuse for the Joint Committee’s work not proceeding with greater urgency and ambition. Too busy to deal with our greatest threat. OK, some justification for that.

But no free pass in 2024. This Committee needs to pick up the pace dramatically, as do its member councils. Here’s the draft Action Plan as it presently stands.

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