Will NZ step up to meet cli­mate chal­lenge?

Element - - Contents - OPIN­ION: ALEX SMITH Alex Smith is a se­nior cam­paigner at WWF-New Zealand.

This De­cem­ber, all eyes will be on Paris as coun­tries come to­gether to thrash out a deal to tackle cli­mate change and ac­cel­er­ate the shift to­wards a clean energy fu­ture. The world will be watch­ing to see if New Zealand will step up to be part of the so­lu­tion – or re­main part of the prob­lem – in the fight to pre­vent run­away cli­mate change.

And so far the signs aren’t good. New Zealand is part of what has re­cently been called in the Pa­cific ‘the coali­tion of the self­ish’. In­stead of push­ing for a strong global agree­ment that will help safe­guard the fu­ture of these is­land na­tions, we have tabled a weak pro­posal that could threaten their sur­vival by fail­ing to make the nec­es­sary re­duc­tions in emis­sions.

It is not only our neigh­bours in the Pa­cific who have crit­i­cised our gov­ern­ment’s stance. The Cli­mate Ac­tion Tracker, an in­ter­na­tional in­de­pen­dent anal­y­sis of emis­sions pledges, has con­demned New Zealand’s cli­mate tar­get as “in­ad­e­quate” and shown that if the rest of the world took the same ap­proach the re­sult would be cat­a­strophic cli­mate change.

New Zealand may be small but we do mat­ter. Ev­ery coun­try in the world has its role to play in bro­ker­ing a global agree­ment on how to cut emis­sions and avoid dan­ger­ous cli­mate change. That’s the task for lead­ers gath­er­ing in Paris this De­cem­ber and at the mo­ment New Zealand looks set to try to un­der­mine progress.

With the first in­ter­na­tional agree­ment on cli­mate change – the Ky­oto pro­to­col – run­ning out in 2020, set­ting up a more ef­fec­tive re­place­ment is a top global pri­or­ity.

As the talks on how to slow the warm­ing of our world gather pace, the New Zealand gov­ern­ment risks be­ing left be­hind. Around the world, more and more coun­tries, busi­nesses, com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple are tak­ing ac­tion on cli­mate.

Costa Rica, for ex­am­ple, is striv­ing to be the first car­bon neu­tral coun­try in the world and has re­cently run en­tirely on clean energy for three months. Hawaii is also mak­ing strides to be pow­ered by 100% re­new­able energy, with many homes al­ready run­ning off so­lar and the gov­ern­ment in­vest­ing in tech­nol­ogy to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity from waves.

Sup­port is build­ing here. Across the coun­try peo­ple, or­gan­i­sa­tions and busi­nesses are call­ing for New Zealand to be part of the so­lu­tion, and tak­ing ac­tion that moves us to­wards a clean energy fu­ture.

Just a few ex­am­ples are Otaki School and Kil­birnie Mosque go­ing so­lar, Ge­n­e­sis Energy clos­ing down our last coal-fired power sta­tion, and Auck­land City coun­cil fight­ing for fund­ing for a cen­tral rail loop.

Things are chang­ing but the New Zealand gov­ern­ment is lag­ging be­hind its peo­ple and the world.

Ac­tions that could be taken right now by our gov­ern­ment in­clude in­vest­ing in public trans­port and green­ing our trans­port sys­tem , sup­port­ing bio-fu­els, re­new­able energy, sus­tain­able forestry and agri­cul­ture, and putting a price on car­bon to drive down emis­sions.

And there are wider ben­e­fits to tak­ing cli­mate ac­tion. Nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic re­ports have shown the huge eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties from mov­ing to a low car­bon econ­omy and New Zealand with its nat­u­ral re­sources and green rep­u­ta­tion is well placed to take ad­van­tage of it.

New Zealan­ders from all walks of life recog­nise the op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist. They are de­mand­ing that we be part of the so­lu­tion, and are join­ing with peo­ple all over the world to let our gov­ern­ments know that we need cli­mate ac­tion.

This will vis­i­bly come to­gether in world­wide marches for the cli­mate on 28-29 Novem­ber, just be­fore the Paris con­fer­ence starts. The first march in Auck­land will see Ki­wis take to the streets to show that we stand with our Pa­cific neigh­bours in call­ing for real cli­mate ac­tion to se­cure a bet­ter fu­ture.

Find out more about cli­mate marches and events near you at www.peo­plescli­matemarch.org.nz.

New Zealand is part of what has re­cently been called in the Pa­cific ‘the coali­tion of the self­ish’.

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