10 October 2018 Kate Palmer

WSP Opus climate change experts are unsurprised by the dire warnings issued by the UN Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) this week but believe there is time to change.

Earlier this week the IPCC said that rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society are required to limit global warming to 1.5C.                                

Although we’re a needle in the haystack compared to global players like China, the USA and the EU – New Zealand’s gross emissions per person are extraordinarily high.

Our gross emissions have increased 19.6% since 1990 (MfE). Methane from dairy cattle and carbon dioxide from road transportation have contributed the most to this increase. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of motor vehicles in New Zealand increased by 48% with light passenger vehicles accounting for 70%.

Saul Chambers, WSP Opus Manager Sustainability & Climate Change Solutions, says that with New Zealand having one of the highest rates of CO2 emissions per capita in the developed world, we need to take a sense of personal responsibility.

“It’s important for people to look at themselves and their daily lives and to draw the line somewhere. We have a lot of power as consumers and can make decisions – such as what type of car we drive, how we get to work, what we eat – that can make a big impact.”  

While the signs are grim, there is still time to make a change says Chambers, who believes that for many, 2018 will be the year the reality of climate change hits home.

Extreme weather events in Europe, the Pacific and across America are evidence of the beginning of the catastrophe that is engulfing the planet, combined with a growing realisation that we’ve used up and squandered the world’s resources.

“Against this devastation, as outlined by the IPCC, is the undeniable hope that through reducing our emissions now we can - and must - transition to a low-carbon society. We welcome the IPCC call to action statement because it will help drive the sense of urgency we need for widespread change to happen.”

Chambers says the window of opportunity for innovative thinking to combat the effects of climate change is narrowing. He believes that as a nation New Zealand should take the opportunity to decide what it wants for the future.

“This is a really good time for New Zealand to take a breath and decide what we want the country to be in 20, 30, 50 – even 100 years’ time – and let’s look at what we can do together as a nation. It’s an opportunity to dream big. The children that are growing up today expect us to make good decisions and we have a responsibility to them and to the planet.”

He is proud of the steps being taken by clients and is delighted that WSP Opus is working alongside them to bring new ideas, innovation and creativity to the challenges created by climate change.  

"Is climate change just weather?"

Saul Chambers talks with NewstalkZB, Kate Hawkesby