Environment Canterbury becomes first council in New Zealand to declare a 'climate emergency'

Canterbury's regional council (Environment Canterbury) has today become the first regional council in the country to declare a climate emergency.

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Environment Canterbury chairman Steve Lowndes talks through what the vote means on TVNZ1’s Breakfast. Source: Breakfast

An overwhelming number of members voted in favour of the declaration to declare a climate emergency in the region this morning.

The bold step had been called for by the environmental lobby group Extinction Rebellion NZ which protested outside the council's headquarters last month.

It's not clear what immediate action will take place, but council chairman Steve Lowndes says it sends a message, not only to the residents of Canterbury, but the whole of New Zealand, that they have to start taking climate change seriously and taking action.

He earlier told TVNZ1's Breakfast the region needs to act now, citing research from the October 2018 IPCC report which says we have 12 years to turn around the damage or the planet's future will be uncertain.

"The future is uncertain for all of us, but we're talking about having a future," he said. "We need to get real about this."

Mr Lowndes says climate change impacts are already being felt throughout the country, including the West Coast getting wetter and Canterbury suffering droughts.

While they may be the first in New Zealand, Environment Canterbury joins more than 500 regional councils throughout the world declaring a climate emergency.

Later today, Nelson will also be taking a vote on whether or not to declare a climate emergency in the region.