Climate Talk

As we grapple with the upheaval caused by Covid-19, I see people asking whether now is the right time to talk about climate change.

That’s a tough one for me. My home has the Tasman Sea for a front yard, a beach as my playground, and I have spent a good part of my life already watching it change irreparably.

This is also very real for the Kāpiti Coast District Council. We represent a low-lying coastal community. Many of the people who put me here will bear the brunt of more severe weather events and rising sea-levels.

So adaptation is a massive part of this mahi – making sure communities can deal with these challenges when they inevitably come. That means we have to discuss defences such as sea walls, we have to build infrastructure in different ways.

We need to make some serious shifts in the way we operate and the things we value - from profit to people and the planet.

We know we need to limit temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees if we are to avoid the irreversible impacts of catastrophic climate change, and we know we don’t have much time.

I am clear on where we need to get to, which means my energy is focused on the journey.

We have to take people with us, to make sure disadvantaged groups are not disproportionately affected as we adapt to climate change. We have to make sure the transition is fair as we reorient our communities and our work.

When we are considering the economic cost of purchases or decisions, we should be considering the societal and environmental cost as well. In fact we must - without a liveable climate we won’t have an economy.

For councillors like me this means connecting our work to an overarching purpose of protecting our environment; including climate friendly public transport, community resilience for living locally and infrastructure to support the rollout of electric or hydrogen vehicles.

What people have realised during lockdown is what a life closer to home could look like. I have talked to so many people plagued by the daily commute into the CBD from the Coast – and guess what?

We don’t need to do it. We can commute less, consume less, and come away with more. We can change our habits and build stronger local communities to better safeguard our local environments.

Abridged from Sophie’s chapter:  ‘Reimagining New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Future’ in our Progressive Thinking: Ten Possible Futures for Public & Community Services series. Read more at


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