by Rex Graham
The climate crisis is coming at us like a freight train, and we need to prepare.
Some may want to argue that it's a natural process but even if this is your position, it's hard to argue that the process is not being exacerbated by human behaviour.
It is in my view the biggest challenge facing humanity, and will have far-reaching and significant consequences for our children and grandchildren.
There is no point in wrapping this environmental catastrophe in cotton wool and presenting it any other way.
It's time to stop squabbling with each other about things that will fade into obscurity over time, and instead make this challenge our major focus as climate change poses a profound threat to our way of life.
As a community we need to take responsibility for the legacy of decisions made by people that have had devastating environmental consequences.
We are already seeing more extreme rainfall, heatwave days, and dry spell days. This year's drought was devastating, and a reminder of the impact of the climate on our environment, and regional economy.
Along with increased frequency and intensity of droughts, we are facing rising sea levels that are already threatening our coastal communities from Clifton to Tangoio, flooding and major storms, more wildfires, soil erosion, and an increase in disease.
Keeping within the climate safe zone of 1.5°C increase is very unlikely, according to the latest research.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 report indicated what is ahead if the world can't keep well below 2°C of warming; hundreds of millions suffering food and water shortages, mass migration, and significant biodiversity loss.
Given we are on a pathway for a 3.4°C rise, the IPCC report issued a stark warning out of character for scientists – that the world is "well off track" to keep in the climate safe zone.
We simply cannot continue with business as usual. Our window of time to act is short, and we can't delay.
In 2019 the Hawke's Bay Regional Council declared a climate change emergency, and our goal for the region is to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
Last month we have launched a Climate Crisis Campaign to raise awareness of how climate change will impact us in the region, what we are doing and what you can do to help.
We are likely to be consulting in this year's Long Term Plan to appoint a Climate Change Ambassador, who will bring councils, mana whenua, youth and other key organisation together to plan and take meaningful, collective action.
It's proposed the Climate Change Ambassador would be funded through leveraging the regional council's carbon credits, therefore reducing the impact on rates.
Most of our work to date has been focused on mitigating the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise and extreme weather events. Supply of water will be critical in the years ahead, as we experience more frequent droughts, and we are urgently working on a comprehensive water security programme for Hawke's Bay.
As part of this, we are conducting a regional water assessment that will show us the gap between our demand for water and our ability to supply it. We will keep the community up to date with these investigations.
We are spending millions on flood asset management to protect our communities, our families, businesses, and farms.
We know planting trees is the single most effective short-term action to restore erosion-prone areas, slow climate change and improve water quality and are looking to scale up our planting programme.
To achieve transformational change for the entire region, that will deliver as much carbon reduction as economically and practically possible, will take every single one of us on the waka.
We need to have positive and brave conversations in the community about how to achieve this, and work together towards a common goal.
As a community we need to come together and work out a path forward. We can and must do better. Let's act now and protect our future.
To find our more about our Climate Crisis Campaign, learn about what you can do and engage in the conversation, go to www.hbrc.govt.nz and search #climateactionhb
Rex Graham is chairman of Hawke's Bay Regional Council