Poli­cies do noth­ing for the fu­ture

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Local News - GORD STE­WART

‘‘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.

Gord Ste­wart.

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