Students march through the streets of Wellington during the strike to raise climate crisis awareness (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

We won’t let up: a youth climate activist on Auckland Council’s emergency call

This week’s emergency declaration by Auckland Council is a welcome development in the fight to save the planet, says 17 year old Rebecca Kerr. But there’s still so much to be done.

On May 24th, thousands of students marched down Queen St to call for New Zealand to wake up and declare a climate emergency. In a series of strikes throughout the country over the last couple of months, thousands more students left school on strike in order to demand that the government take serious climate action.

As the largest city in Aotearoa, Tāmaki Makaurau has the power to set an example for the rest of the country as to how we should be addressing the climate crisis. And we should be treating it as an emergency!

Seeing Auckland Council declare a climate emergency (with an unanimous vote in favour) this week was incredible as it is the first step towards real action being taken in this city.

Many people seem sceptical about the declaration, claiming they’re merely words on paper that will have no real impact on climate change.

However I, along with many other youth, strongly believe that the emergency declaration is a huge step towards climate change being taken seriously. The declaration tells us all that climate change is happening right now, and we have to take action.

Many people still see climate change as a distant problem – something that will only affect people centuries into the future. But they are not aware of the rapid rate at which our environment and people are already being significantly affected.

Auckland Council’s declaration of a climate emergency is also a plea for people all around Tāmaki Makaurau to call for action themselves. As Sarah Thomson said when addressing Auckland Council, “You are a step behind. You need to be a step in front – and you need to be changing the public’s opinion.”

It is important to recognise that we still need the majority of New Zealanders to support climate action at both a local and national level. Without their support, there’s a real risk that politicians won’t take the necessary steps for fear of losing reelection.

I hope that the declaration of a climate emergency will be the encouragement people need to call for change and give elected officials a mandate to lead with bold action on climate.

We still have a long way to go, and while this declaration is powerful, communicating the urgency of the climate crisis isn’t the only way to create change. It is important that we as the people of Tāmaki Makaurau hold the council to their declaration, and ensure that they work on the solutions we need now. We need tangible actions that are ambitious enough to help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

While this is a great step in the right direction, the School Strike 4 Climate movement will continue to strike and keep engaging in the civic process until action is taken by the government and Auckland Council. We will continue to work alongside the likes of Generation Zero to Elbow our Elders, because we still have a long way to go.

We have now seen that our collective choice to strike has the ability to cause change at a regional level. Now we will keep the pressure on, fighting for just and equitable climate action. Because from this point on, our lives and future depend on it.

Rebecca Kerr is a 17 year old student from Epsom Girls Grammar School. She has been involved with organising the School Strike 4 Climate in Auckland and is a strong advocate for climate action.

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