Bay of Plenty Regional Council has accepted a recommendation to declare a climate emergency but some Tauranga leaders remain unconvinced, labelling the move as "virtue signalling".
But regional councillor Paula Thompson has hit back, saying the council was putting its money where its mouth is.
Tauranga City councillor John Robson said the regional council's decision to declare a climate emergency was nothing more than talk and "words are cheap".
"I'll believe they're serious when they remove the diesel buses, when they made buses free to incentivise people to give up their cars ... actions speak a lot louder than words."
Robson, who voted for the Green Party in the previous two general elections, said Tauranga's biggest carbon dioxide issue came from transport. The regional council was in charge of running the district's public transport system.
Robson said he saw no evidence the regional council was doing anything about reducing the level of carbon emissions, considered to be a key contributor to climate change.
"There will be talks and committee meetings and statements and virtue signalling but what we need is a CO2 [carbon dioxide] light, if not free, electric transport system. People need the incentive to get on the bus."
Tauranga councillor Steve Morris said there was no denying climate change but regional councillors needed to show real leadership if they were going to go as far as declare a climate emergency.
"We live in an age where it seems important to say the right thing rather than do the right thing. Quite frankly, I think this is probably a symptom of that," Morris said.
Meanwhile, Tauranga councillor Larry Baldock said there are other crises and emergencies in the city like affordable housing, transport congestion and land supply.
"We could do a lot more good by focusing on those," he said.
"Even if you believe the most dire projections of the end of the world, people still have to live for another 50 to 100 years."
Baldock said anything New Zealand did regarding climate change would be minimal "for what is a global issue".
Thompson said she "totally and utterly accept this is an issue we are not all going to agree with ... I get that".
"But for some of us it's an important issue. If we don't do something sometime soon, our kids and their kids will suffer."
In Thursday's meeting, the regional council also signed off on a climate action plan which will underpin future council movements. The plan will ensure the regional council uses robust environmental science, ensure it adheres to the Local Government New Zealand Leaders' Climate Change Declaration, ensures all council decisions are assessed in terms of climate change impact and adheres to a waste efficiency scheme.
Thompson agreed more work was needed regarding carbon emissions and public transport but said the delayed arrival of five electric buses, which had been due in December and are now due in August, was out of the regional council's hands.