Climate action promise no longer a joke
‘‘The world is on the edge of a precipice - is my hope that our politicians will ensure a prosperous future for my grandchildren, a futile one?’’
Will my grandchild have a future that includes the things we take for granted?
Things like access to clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing and supportive neighbourhoods. Pessimistic about that I am. The drivers of the greatest single issue facing humankind - climate change - have advanced to the point of there now being but a small 5 per cent chance of avoiding the worst effects.
This past month however, has seen four developments that give me hope for my grandy’s future.
First was the eventual outcome of the September election.
New Climate Change Minister James Shaw will take the hard actions that the previous government avoided.
Shaw has committed to enacting a Zero Carbon Act which will create the Climate Commission and enshrine in law, the target of New Zealand becoming a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
Time will tell whether achieving that target will be subsumed to the economics focus of the Labour Party.
They will want to avoid ignominious defeat at the 2020 elections when voter prosperity and GDP figures inevitably decline.
Second was the release in October of the Our Atmosphere and Climate 2017 report by Stats New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment.
It was encouraging for its unadorned acceptance that climate change is real, is caused by mankind and represents a significant threat to our communities.
And then, this month, the High Court at Wellington released its jjudgement on a case for judicial review of the government’s climate actions.
This is the same legal proceedings that ex-Prime Minister John Key dismissed as ‘‘a joke’’ when first filed in the court.
The suit challenged two climate inaction decisions by government.
Importantly, the judgement accepted that the court had the jurisdiction to make a finding on each challenge. Which is good for democracy. As the judge noted, an application for judicial review is a constitutional check on the public power exercised by the Executive Branch of government. Nothing jokey about that! The judge however, declined to enforce the decision in favour of the applicant and make the government do what the suit sought - the change in government meant that the actions sought were likely to happen anyway.
The World Meteorological Organisation last week noted that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels surged in 2016, to an 800,000 year record high, and well above the target set by the Paris (COP21) climate change agreement. And finally there is COP23. This year’s United Nations Conference of the Parties started on Monday in Germany. Fiji is chairing the gathering. With Fiji residents already affected by climate change, perhaps this year, we will see international politicians agree to meaningful climate actions.
The world is on the edge of a precipice - is my hope that our politicians will ensure a prosperous future for my grandchildren, a futile one?
* John Allen is the director of Rural Connect, www.ruralconnect.org.nz www.smallWind.co.nz www.smallblock.org.nz
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