Although Auckland has experienced tornadoes in the past, to date the storms to hit the harbour-side city have been relatively insubstantial, particularly in comparison to the class of colossal cyclone that regularly rages through the Midwest of America.

In fact, located in the North Island of New Zealand, Auckland is contained within a fairly stable climate. Yet even here, in one of the more temperate corners of the globe, the threat of climate change looms large.

Of the myriad climactic challenges Auckland may have to contend with, perhaps the most significant is the threat of stronger tornadoes, of size and power more akin to counterparts stateside. The urban settlement could also be looking at a washout future afflicted by frequent downpours of torrential rain and rising sea levels. The assault of this army of aqueous adversaries could leave Auckland struggling to keep its proverbial head above very literal waters. The city may have to face other potential problems too, including an increase in periods of intense heat, an increase in mean air temperature and a decrease in mean rainfall. Further to the disruption such issues could have on the natural and built environment in the city, the health of the people of Auckland could also be adversely affected.

This uninviting vista of the future is something that Auckland is trying to avoid. In order to minimise the contribution the city makes to climate change, Auckland is collaborating with a wide spectrum of stakeholders in an attempt to build towards a low-carbon future. To achieve this, the city has identified five key areas of transformation: energy use and generation; the built environment and infrastructure; creating a zero waste culture; forestry and farming; and natural carbon assets. The efforts to establish the proposed low-carbon future is being delivered through the execution of more than 100 separate actions.

Virgin Unite, sustainability, sustainia, cities, Auckland

Virgin Unite, sustainability, sustainia, cities, Auckland

These activities so far have been responsible for a significant change to infrastructure in the city. Updates include the launch of electric trains, the expansion of the Auckland cycle network and the introduction of sustainable design standards for buildings. A city-wide organic waste collection scheme has also been initiated. These strategies are supported by an existing revolving fund. In 2013, Auckland was granted $700,000 with which to invest in improvements in public-owned buildings. An example of a project financed with the grant is the retrofit of the Auckland Council Headquarters. The building was upgraded with sustainable innovations resulting in a 39 per cent decrease in energy usage, equal to an annual saving of $377,000.

The money made from this and other similar projects has been reinvested in the aforementioned initiatives. The savings are also scheduled to be used to finance future schemes, such as the planned installation of 40,000 LED streetlights. LED lights are far more energy efficient than conventional lighting systems and it is estimated that this strategy will result in total net savings of more than $30 million over 20 years for Auckland. In addition to the financial benefits of the solution, LED streetlights may help to save lives. The lights offer high quality illumination which could help to reduce night time road accidents. Given the success Auckland has thus far enjoyed from its low-carbon measures, this forthcoming innovation is unlikely to be the last bright idea the city drafts in as it attempts to blow off course the tempestuous threat of climate change.


Cities100 is a mission shared by Sustainia, C40 and Realdania to find the 100 leading city solutions to climate change. Read the 2016 publication, and follow the conversation online using #Cities100

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