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Cr Robert Guyton said a meeting with councillors last week was ''disappointing'' and believed they would dismiss emails sent in by members of the public who were in favour of declaring a climate emergency.
''As the time for voting to declare a climate emergency nears, the councillors of Environment Southland are getting cold feet.''
Chairman Nicol Horrell said he believed ''actually doing stuff is better than declaring an emergency'', but the debate and discussion was healthy.
Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley said it had not formally considered that, but was involved in ongoing work concerning the issue at local, regional and national levels.
She said the council would consider a remit to the Local Government NZ annual general meeting in July regarding climate change.
Southland District Council resource management team leader Marcus Roy said the council had not asked for any papers or reports on climate emergency and said ''it sort of says let's have a look at what we can do around climate change, but you can do that without declaring a climate emergency''.
He said decisions could still be made with the environment in mind - ''effectively I don't think it means that much, to be honest''.
Gore District Council regulatory and community service general manager Dr Ian Davidson-Watts said the council did not intend to declare a climate change emergency but recognised action was urgently needed to address many of the issues, and this was being developed into an action plan.
He said the council had already undertaken, and was planning, initiatives to address climate change issues relevant to the district and wider Southland region.
In Queenstown Lakes, a newly fledged environmental group is calling on the district council to declare a climate and ecological emergency.
Extinction Rebellion Queenstown Lakes will make the request at the council's full meeting next Thursday.
In a statement, it said it wanted the council to formally declare it agreed with the scientific evidence about climate change and ''ecological crises'', and to incorporate the evidence into its decision-making.
''We are also asking the council to use its role as a community leader to clearly communicate the reality of what we are facing and what needs to happen to our local community.''
The planet was on track to reach 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere by 2030, 20 years earlier than predicted a few years ago.
''We only have 10 years left to avoid runaway climate breakdown. This is an emergency.''
The group staged its first action - erecting a banner in front of a landmark tree in Lake Wanaka - in April.
It is part of the international Extinction Rebellion movement, founded last year in the United Kingdom, which made headlines about large protests in London.