Policies do nothing for the future
‘‘I have been thinking about my grandchildren a lot lately, and I don’t even have any.’’ So read the lead sentence of an essay in the book Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. It could have been me who said that.
It’s the future generations who will bear the brunt of a changing climate. Sure, we’ve had some droughts and floods and lost farm income already, but as the saying goes: We ain’t seen nothing yet.
Littlies. Their future is in our hands. Sadly, it’s not something that weighs heavily on National Party minds or their collective conscience.
National has been in power for nine years – a moment in time when the evidence on climate change is in and transformative change is needed. A time when all options must be considered and bold action is called for.
So what has National done? During their reign, they have virtually gutted the Emissions Trading Scheme established by the previous government.
No practical policies have been put in place to significantly reduce agriculture greenhouse gas emissions (our greatest source at nearly 50 percent of the total). Innovative solutions abound and an uncertain future awaits. Yet National prefers not to inconvenience its rural constituents (or, one can assume, risk its short-term popularity).
National’s local candidate, Tim van de Molen, batted away the hard question on climate change at the meet-the-candidates evening, simply saying: ’’We have signed the Paris Climate Accord’’.
Yes we have. But that’s all we have done. The emission reduction targets New Zealand has set have been called morally irresponsible. There are no effective plans to achieve even these paltry ambitions. Our total emissions only continue to rise.
National’s commitment to agricultural intensification – made possible with irrigation schemes subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of some $400 million – will only make matters worse. It’s a development that has been strongly criticised by the OECD in a recent environmental report.
In election talk, National touts all the motorways it will build – a policy for the 1970s. Labour and the Greens, for their part, dream of 21st century light rail and other pragmatic actions to address climate change.
Meanwhile, National remains committed to oil and gas exploration at a time when only one-fifth of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves can safely be burned. Brilliant.
Simon Bridges brags of the growth in electric vehicle numbers we’ll see under National – only to be swamped by the 800 new cars added to Auckland roads every week due to current immigration policies.
Every National MP who has served over the last nine years is complicit in this failure to act. In future decades when the impacts of climate change are dramatic and ever present, grandchildren and other young people of the time will have a right to ask: ‘‘When you knew there was such a problem, why didn’t you do what was necessary?’’
-Gord Stewart is an environmental sustainability consultant.