Local government and climate change – what can I do?

So local government elections are only a few weeks away. You might have seen an outbreak of hoardings on berms and fences near you, or seen coverage of the candidates in the local paper.

But what does this have to do with climate change?

Quite a lot, as it turns out. Every three years, we elect councillors and mayors who make decisions about things like transport, waste and urban development, which can all make a difference on whether carbon emissions go up or down.

For example, city councils and regional councils both influence the public transport network – how big it is, how often it runs, and how well it fits in with other forms of transport like walking and cycling. Tweaking or transforming this network could encourage more people to use public transport rather than drive to work or use their car to run errands.

More emissions come from landfill waste than we realise – 5% of New Zealand’s total emissions. Introducing food waste collection to turn it into compost, helping set up community gardens or composting schemes, or capturing the gas from landfill to use for energy can make a real difference. 

And councils are making big purchasing decisions now about the types of roads, buildings and energy they use, which will also affect emissions. Councils can also help people affected by the transition to a low-emissions economy, and lobby central government for lower emissions policies.

So what can you do?

Get informed – find out where your local candidates stand on climate change

Common Climate Network NZ was inspired to develop a scorecard for local body elections following Generation Zero’s work in 2016. Generation Zero are covering the main urban centres and Common Climate Network has made a toolkit available to help other regions use the scorecard more widely.

Where can I find the results for my local council?

Scorecard results will be published by Generation Zero www.localelections.nz. Find out if your region is covered.

When will all the scorecard results be posted?

The questionnaire was sent out in late August. The responses for each region are being analysed and each candidate given a grade. The results will be published after September 22.

How can I get involved?

Spread the word: Talk it up on social media and send out updates from Common Climate Network Facebook / Twitter, and Generation Zero, to all your contacts. Share the information coming out from your local election networks.

Encourage people around you to vote: Local body elections have a notoriously poor voter turnout, particularly among young people.  Talk to your friends and family about the importance of addressing climate change at a local level as well as globally.  Check out this slideshow on how you can make a difference.

It’s not too late to enrol or help someone you know enrol to vote. You will then have to request special voting papers from your local electoral officer, but democracy is a great habit to get into. Follow RockEnrol for more information.

Photo: The File sculpture, Upper Hutt. Artist unknown – if you have any information, please let me know so I can give proper credit.


Author: Catherine Jeffcoat

Wellington-based communications manager.

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