A long-term shift in global temperatures and weather patterns is referred to as climate change. With the last decade on record as the hottest in human history, climate change is happening now.

Its cause is human activity such as burning coal, petrol and diesel fossil fuels for transport, heating and manufacturing, or from farming. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the atmosphere, trapping in heat from the sun and creating global warming.

Because COstays in the atmosphere for a very long time, a percentage of it from every journey or function powered by fossil fuel will continue to heat the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

Although extreme weather events and other effects of climate change are being felt worldwide, by slowing down the rise in temperatures we could avoid the worst consequences. To do this we must keep global warming well below 2C which requires urgent climate action.

For context, since the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th century the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 50%. This has resulted in a warming of about 1.2C.

Assessments of the impacts climate change on Christchurch and the district have been undertaken and work is underway with communities in our most vulnerable areas to explore potential responses to these risks.

To reflect our community’s concerns and drive awareness about the important issues, in 2019 the Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency. In doing so, we joined the Government and a growing number of councils across New Zealand and over 2000 cities and communities in 37 countries worldwide committed to taking urgent action to reduce their emissions.

Central to our community’s concerns are the risks and costs of not acting quickly, with delays making it harder and more costly to respond.

We’re already feeling the effects of a changing climate in the form of hotter, drier and longer summers contrasted by shorter and milder winters. More frequent extreme weather events include rain, drought, wind and wildfires.

Over time the Canterbury plains will be increasingly prone to drought and our low-lying coastal areas will be more exposed to flooding and sea level rise.

Risk assessments that identify the physical risks to different parts of the Christchurch district and to the Canterbury region have been undertaken, and work is underway with communities in our most vulnerable areas to explore our potential responses to these risks. 

Find out more about how climate change is affecting Christchurch(external link).

Read the latest Climate Change Risk Screening for our district [PDF, 2.5 MB].

We’ve adopted targets to reduce our district’s emissions. Meeting the challenge of climate change through every means available is one of the Council’s strategic priorities. The objective is to slow global warming to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Our aim is to halve emissions by 2030 compared with 2016-17 levels, and achieve carbon zero by 2045.

These targets are in response to strong feedback from our community, who are at the heart of our decision-making. By declaring the Climate and Ecological Emergency in 2019 we joined a growing number of councils across Aotearoa New Zealand and cities worldwide committed to taking urgent action to reduce their own emissions.

Plenty has already been done to ensure we meet these ambitious targets and many more measures are underway. 

Find out more on our climate change page.(external link)

Carbon neutral means that any emissions released into the atmosphere from the likes of transport, households, agriculture or manufacturing are measured and balanced by the equivalent amount being removed. Simply put, whatever the amount of emissions produced, exactly the same amount are removed.

Measuring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the first and most important part of managing our carbon footprints.

Carbon offsetting means that where we can’t avoid producing emissions we compensate by investing in reductions elsewhere. Examples of carbon offsetting are investing in tree-planting or clean energy projects that can have a proven and measurable reduction in emissions.

Offsetting investments can be made to support developing nations transition more quickly to a clean energy based economy, and to support biodiversity goals. It’s important to maximise any additional benefits to ensure the best outcomes for people and nature. For example, planting natives improves biodiversity, and planting days generate social benefits for the community and environmental groups, private land-owners and businesses that come together for them.