Bay of Plenty Regional councillors received a standing ovation from community members after deciding to recommend the council declares a climate emergency.

A regional council committee today voted in support of declaring the climate emergency in what was, at times, an emotional meeting in Tauranga this morning.

Councillor Jane Nees was moved to tears as she implored her fellow councillors to vote for the recommendation, which would enforce the regional council to act on reducing carbon emissions and addressing other climate change threats.

"For me, this is the most important issue we've dealt with," she said.

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"I'm sorry if I get emotional. This is about our future, our children's future. I think this is something that we need to do as a regional council to show leadership to our whole community. We can see there's huge support from the community."

Applause broke out from the packed public gallery to Nees' comments, and support of the recommendation.

The council voted 9-3 for the recommendation. Councillors Kevin Winters, Norm Bruning and Andrew von Dadelszen opposed the move, expressing concern at the use of the word emergency.

The decision followed public submissions in which councillors were told now was the time to act.

It was standing room only at the regional direction and delivery committee meeting at the regional council's 1st Ave offices this morning .

The regional council commissioned the Sustainable Business Network to investigate what the Bay of Plenty needs to do to work towards lowering the district's carbon emissions and address climate change related issues.

Sustainable Business Network's Glen Crowther told the room the region could not afford to wait before doing anything.

"The time is now," he said.

Crowther said there had been concerns from businesses declaring a climate change emergency would mean legislation telling them what they can and cannot do.

"It's not about that at all. It's about enabling long-term sustainability for businesses in this country.

"I know some people may be curious as to whether 'emergency' is an appropriate word. The key thing is that this is serious. It's dangerous and does require immediate action. We can't wait. They [scientists] are saying we can't wait even a year or two."

Transport in the Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga was responsible for two-thirds of the Western Bay's carbon emissions.

Crowther said this level needed to drop by at least a third. A significant way to do this would be to allow free bus transport for all the Bay of Plenty children.

"Show you can have a good social outcome. It's not that expensive. It's $147,000 a year - cheap as chips."