The Dutch Oven Effect – that’s how a friend describes the effect of releasing polluting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The gases trap the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, making it noticeably warmer, as well as making it a less and less pleasant place to find oneself.

When the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres released the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate mitigation earlier this year, he said “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable:  greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.” But, walking around the streets of Napier or Hastings, you could be forgiven for feeling like nothing has changed and the alarm bells are ringing elsewhere.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council joined the ranks of other national and international governing bodies and declared a Climate Emergency in June 2019. Three years have already gone by, but a lot has changed for all of us since then. The emergency declaration set the tone and the focus for the Regional Council to put climate change at the heart of every aspect of Council’s work. But what does that mean in practice? Here’s my view as HBRC’s ‘Climate Action Ambassador’.

Broadly, there are three main areas of climate action the Regional Council engages in: Reducing the amount of heat-trapping gases released into our atmosphere; Increasing the drawdown and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This ‘taking the lid off the oven’ happens mostly through planting trees and protecting natural carbon sinks. And finally: Planning for and creating necessary infrastructure so our community can continue to thrive in a warming environment with more weather instability and a creeping coastline. 

Much of this work is behind the scenes, and rightly so. Unless you’re engineeringly minded, why would you notice the height of the stopbanks protecting river communities from flooding unless the water was near the top?

The Regional Council has been working towards these goals for a long time, but to give increased momentum to that work, the role of Climate Action Ambassador was created at the beginning of this year. The role doesn’t come with a magic cape or a wand, and no one single person, or even single organisation, can respond to the complexities of the world we find ourselves living in. With the strong Regional Council team of policy and science experts, I work alongside colleagues from the Eco District Strategy team at Hastings District Council and the Napier City Council’s Climate Resilience specialist Heather Bosselmann.  We are also beginning to work with businesses who want to reduce their carbon footprints and ensure sustainability of their own services and products into the future.

Over the next year we want to work with all of you to draw on our shared vision and develop a Regional Climate Action Plan. To target meaningful actions that focus on the right areas, we need to tackle this together. It needs to be OUR plan, and that takes all of us – individuals, whānau, rangatahi, businesses, community groups and hapū.

That’s why we’ve decided to run a series of columns to share stories from the amazing people in Hawke’s Bay,  out working every day towards a better future for our region. You’ll hear from me, the Climate Action Ambassador, and I’ll explain some of the changes happening nationally and what that means in Hawke’s Bay. But, I’ll also introduce you to people working to create food resilience hubs, proposing nature-based solutions to climate change, transitioning farms to regenerative practices and creating new products and services out of the transition to a low carbon economy.

There’s no one size fits all to climate change stories and some may speak to you more than others. But thanks for reading and thanks for caring about the future we are shaping for our children and grandchildren.

Photo: Tom Allan

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