In the run up to the globe's most important meeting on climate change, the #CIWEMtalksCOP26 series asks thought leaders from the water and environmental industry and beyond to answer a common question: what do you most want COP26 to deliver? Here we'll be serialising their answers.

Tom Porter is Gisborne District Council's environmental monitoring and science manager based on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. He is branch chair of CIWEM Aotearoa (New Zealand).

He manages two teams at the council that monitor the health of the environment and develop plans to protect and improve the environment of the 8,000 sq km region of Tairawhiti/Gisborne.

"Aotearoa (New Zealand) and our Pacific neighbours are geographically speaking, about as far from COP26 as you can be. However we are excited by COP26 and look forward to real commitment to action from the world’s leaders.

"Extreme weather events are becoming all too common. Our communities increasingly suffer from drought, flood and wildfires. We, and our Pacific Island neighbours, face the real threat of rising sea levels. We need COP26 to give a voice for all our communities and cultures.

"Our government has committed to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is writing new climate change legislation to enable adaptation, including managed retreat. While governments should take a lead, we all have a role to play. A May 2021 report by the Aotearoa Climate Change Commission set out the roles that business, industry and the community have to play.

"Our economy is reliant on our export and import market. We look to COP26 for a robust approach to reducing the impact of global trade.

"Our environment is incredibly special with many endemic taonga (treasured species), the kiwi possibly being the most famous. We need to understand how we can protect our ecosystems under the changing climate.

"In the Māori world view the term Kaitiakitanga describes our role as guardians and protectors of the environment. The value of bringing so many countries together in one place is the opportunity to hear how others are reducing their emissions and managing and adapting to climate change. This is a global issue, so it is vital that we all work together, pool resources and share knowledge.

"Finally, while COVID19 has rightly dominated the headlines recently, it would be great to get COP26 and how the world is working together on the front pages."

More from Tom and CIWEM Aotearoa (New Zealand):

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Tom Porter is Gisborne District Council's environmental monitoring and science manager and branch chair of CIWEM Aotearoa (New Zealand).

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