Earlier this year, the United Nations issued a stark warning to the world: to avoid a climate catastrophe, carbon emissions need to be drastically reduced.
It was described as a "code red" for humanity, an emergency requiring decisive action to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees.
And in Auckland this week, councillors received an update on progress so far on Auckland's Climate Plan. The prognosis was equally bleak: Auckland's emissions "are not remotely tracking in line with the target to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2030".
We now have less than 100 months — eight years — to meet our 2030 emissions reduction target. To put that in context, Auckland Council unanimously declared a climate emergency 30 months ago.
Time is running out and it is clear we are not doing enough. We need to take urgent action.
And we can. To respond to this challenge, I have proposed a billion-dollar climate action package to reduce carbon emissions and deliver more buses, ferries, cycling and walking and urban tree canopy in Tāmaki Makaurau over the next 10 years.
It will be funded by a Climate Action Targeted Rate that will raise $574 million over 10 years, ringfenced for direct climate action. Funds raised will be leveraged with the aim of unlocking a further $471 million through central government co-funding and other sources.
This will guarantee direct and ringfenced funding to cut our emissions up until 2032, including a more than half-billion-dollar boost to deliver new and frequent bus services across the region. This will see a million Aucklanders living with 500m of a frequent bus route, dramatically expanding access to public transport, especially in areas that are underserved.
Experts tell us that the best way to reduce future emissions is to enable people to change from car use to public transport. The first step is to ensure there is frequent and more accessible public transport available to use, which this package contributes strongly towards.
As well as cutting emissions, the climate action package will deliver significant co-benefits throughout Auckland. It provides a widespread improvement in bus services across the city including new or more frequent services throughout the north, south, east and west; will plant 15,000 mature native trees in urban areas, 4000 trees and plants for new tiny forests; māra kai and bush remnant extensions; allows us to accelerate decarbonisation of our ferry fleet (which currently contributes 21 per cent of carbon emissions from public transport); and adds new cycling and walking connections.
It will reduce existing inequalities by ensuring increased services for lower-income areas, enabling more people in these areas to travel by public transport, on foot, or by bike, addressing the equity impacts of future congestion charges.
It also provides more green spaces and trees for areas that currently have lower canopy coverage, greening and protecting those areas from heat exposure.
For someone with a median-value home worth $1.18 million, this will mean a contribution of around $1.10 a week. While there's never a good time to increase rates in the life of council, we've heard clearly from Aucklanders that they want us to do more on climate change and to improve our public transport system.
We must be able to say to future generations that we used every tool in the toolbox to tackle the climate crisis.
When my grandchildren ask me what I did in response to the greatest threat of our time, I want to be able to say I stepped up and worked with my community to take action —action that made a real difference.
The Climate Action Targeted Rate alone won't solve all our climate challenges. But it lays the foundation for the urgent changes we need to make to reduce emissions so we can protect our children and grandchildren from the most severe impacts of global heating.
If we boldly commit direct funding to climate action, then it will help reach our targets in Auckland to help stop severe climate change. It's as simple as that. The clock is ticking on the future of our city, country and planet. The time to act is now.
• Phil Goff is Mayor of Auckland City.