Climate change adaptation plan: how to evacuate cities and other realities laid bare in the first national adaptation plan

Savage weather has pounded the country yet again this week in the ninth severe weather event to hit Aotearoa in the past two months, as experts explain how climate change could be a factor. Video / NZ Herald

Entire towns and communities will likely have to be abandoned due to the impacts of climate change and laws will be in place to guide the high cost, last resort scenario by 2024.

The massive floods and landslides that have ravaged Tairāwhiti this year, cutting off entire communities, are a taste of what is to come if global warming continues on current trends.

Combined with rising sea levels, the sad reality that many of New Zealand’s coastal populations and cultural landmarks, from the marae to the urupā, will have to be relocated, is laid bare in a major plan unveiled today to help the country adapt.

The technical term “managed retirement” is tackled in the climate change adaptation plan, which could cover everything from cities to million-dollar riverside homes and the tricky subject of who pays and how much.

Under the plan, which covers more than 120 actions, the government will ask councils to take better account of high-risk climate change scenarios and will introduce a bill on climate change by the end of next year. managed retirement.

The plan covers a six-year period to 2028 and builds on a climate assessment completed in 2020. The process will be repeated five times to 2052 with public input, to allow for reassessment and reassessment of policies .

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the most important adaptation tool remains the rapid reduction of emissions to mitigate predicted impacts.

“However, even with a warming of 1.5 degrees, we are going to see the impacts of climate change on our communities and the way we live our lives.

“It is therefore absolutely crucial that we do everything possible to adapt to these changes.”

Climate impacts are already being felt

According to Niwa, in the last century alone, Aotearoa’s climate has warmed by 1.1°C.

There are more hot days and fewer cold days, with 2021 being the hottest year on record, surpassing the record set in 2016.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw.  Photo/Mark Mitchell
Climate Change Minister James Shaw. Photo/Mark Mitchell

Higher temperatures are changing weather patterns, creating new extremes ranging from droughts to more intense storms and increasingly severe tropical cyclones, presenting new and greater risks to people and nature, infrastructure and the economy .

This is accompanied by a rise in sea level, with an average rate of 3.7 millimeters per year between 2006 and 2018.

A recent report found combined with falling land in some places from sea level in our two largest cities and many other parts of the country will double what is generally expected – and much sooner than expected.

The scientists behind this inventory – giving projections for every 2km of Aotearoa’s coastline, up to the year 2300 – say councils should prepare for higher seas now.

By 2100, median sea level rise in Aotearoa is projected to increase by an additional 0.44 meters on average under a low emission scenario and by 0.83 meters on average.
in a high emission scenario.

Under the highest emission scenario, sea level rise in Aotearoa is projected to increase by 1.09 meters on average.

About 675,000 (or one in seven people) live in flood-prone areas, which accounts for more than $100 billion worth of residential buildings.

More than 72,000 people live in areas at risk from storm surges, and the number of people exposed will increase as rainfall increases, storms become more frequent and sea levels rise.

Between 2007 and 2017, climate change’s contribution to floods and droughts alone cost an estimated $840 million in insured damages and economic losses.

“We have already seen what can unfold. Severe weather events that previously seemed unthinkable even just a few years ago are now occurring at a rate and intensity that we have never experienced before.

“And when they do, everything from the roads we rely on, to our sewers and water supplies, to getting kids to school, can be seriously disrupted.”

Shaw said the plan will give people and communities the tools to adapt and prepare now.

“It will always be far more cost effective to invest in climate resilience early than to live with the costs of inaction.”

Councils must take stronger action

The 2020 National Climate Change Risk Assessment identified 43 priority risks in five areas: natural, human, economic, built and governance.

During the transition to the new system, councils will be required to “avoid locking in inappropriate land use or closing accommodation pathways before the new resource management system takes full effect”.

From November 30, councils will be required to “consider” this plan when developing or amending regional policy statements or regional or district plans.

This means councils will need to screen for hazards and risks in coastal areas, use the most recent downscaled climate projections and consider high-risk scenarios.

The plan also notes that three water reforms will be key to addressing inequalities around water.

From a planning perspective, the government intends to better consider climate impacts through reforms and processes in the Resource Management Act to ensure that development is climate resilient.

More frequent and intense rainfall could reduce the availability of drinking water if treatment systems are overwhelmed.

Projections also show that there will be fewer frost and snow days, which will also affect the biodiversity of ecosystems, the energy sector – hydroelectric dams – and irrigation.

Changes in temperature and seasonality will affect agriculture and horticulture – for example, where certain crops, such as kiwi fruit, can be grown.

It will also change the timing of key events in the natural environment, from when plants flower to when animals migrate and increase harmful animal and plant species, on land and in water.

Higher temperatures and wind speeds, as well as lower precipitation and relative humidity are likely to increase wildfire risk.

But climate change will also bring new opportunities such as lower heating costs in winter, increased productivity of agriculture and horticulture in new places, new fish species, more opportunities trade and employment in sustainable sectors and new tourist offers.

Inequitable impacts

There will be disproportionate impacts on Maori, with many communities located in rural and remote areas, including many on the coast, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

This includes homes, infrastructure and sites of cultural significance to Maori – including marae, urupā (cemeteries), waahi tapu (sacred sites) and mahinga kai (food gathering places).

Mātauranga Māori knowledge at the hapū and iwi level will be “essential in informing local and central government climate adaptation responses”, according to the plan.

“The government will work with Maori to help Maori explore adaptation
options for Maori, run by Maori.

The plan also emphasizes equity.

“No community will experience climate change in the same way,” the plan says.

“Inequity occurs in multiple areas, including income, housing, employment and accessibility.

“Climate change can also increase existing inequalities.”

This included coastal communities, financial impacts or those with specific adaptation needs such as the elderly and people with disabilities.

“If communities have to move, low-income groups have fewer choices of where to relocate and are less able to move elsewhere.

“People with reduced mobility and disabilities have specific needs that can be overlooked in the planning of new community locations and accessible housing.

“Those in poorer health, such as Maori and Pacific people, children and the elderly, may also suffer more physically from heat and illness.”

The government aims to improve its collection and sharing of data to help communities plan better. By January 2023, national climate projection datasets for Aotearoa will be available.

It will also help businesses, with less than 10% having assessed climate change risks and less than 20% intending to take action to reduce their risks over the next five years.

Land-based primary industries, fishing, aquaculture and tourism are the industries most at risk as they depend on climate-sensitive natural resources. They represent more than 60% of exports.

The adaptation plan comes after the release of the Emissions Reduction Plan in May, which guides policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and in line with limiting global warming to 1, 5 degree.

The emissions plan was backed by $2.9 billion in the 2022 budget.

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