Ad­if­fi­cult and vi­tal jour­ney

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - LIND­SAY WOOD

Last Novem­ber I be­gan a pre­sen­ta­tion to Nel­son City Coun­cil by en­dors­ing An­gela Fitch­ett’s col­umn dis­cour­ag­ing coun­cil­lors from oc­cu­py­ing po­lit­i­cal ex­tremes.

Mayor Rachel Reese in­ter­rupted and, with a wry smile, ob­served how, in some places, ex­trem­ism seemed a suc­cess­ful for­mula. Don­ald Trump had just been elected.

To date, Trump has ful­filled many dire pre­dic­tions, not least be­ing leaps back­wards on cli­mate change.

Thank­fully there is a sil­ver lin­ing to that cloud: it has pro­pelled the rest of world to re­dou­ble its ef­forts to ad­dress the prob­lem, in­clud­ing 39 New Zealand may­ors who have taken a joint stance on cli­mate change (Rachel Reese is one; TDC’s Richard Kempthorne, re­port­edly in favour, wants to run it past his coun­cil).

The may­ors framed this as ‘‘the ul­ti­mate in­ter­gen­er­a­tional is­sue’’, promised greater com­mit­ment them­selves, and urged cen­tral gov­ern­ment to lift its game.

This huge step high­lights not only the im­por­tance of the is­sue, but also the need for us to take own­er­ship of it at all lev­els, and not see it as ac­tion needed some­where else by some­one else. It’s also no­table as tran­scend­ing po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and re­gional ri­val­ries, an at­ti­tude shift that we shouldn’t un­der­rate. Elon Musk, vi­sion­ary be­hind PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX, put this well. He sur­prised the busi­ness world by re­leas­ing patents for the stun­ning Tesla elec­tric cars. When chal­lenged why, he likened be­ing to­gether on a planet stricken with cli­mate change to be­ing to­gether on a sink­ing ship:

‘‘…if we de­velop a great de­sign for a bucket then, even if we’re bail­ing out way bet­ter than ev­ery­one else, we should prob­a­bly still share the de­sign of the bucket.’’

What a re­fresh­ing per­spec­tive. Of course that still leaves coun­cils with the same dilemma as the rest of us: if we want to safe­guard our planet and way of life, what might we do that will ac­tu­ally help?

Let’s look at some pub­li­ca­tions:

In ‘‘Draw­down: The Most Com­pre­hen­sive Plan Ever Pro­posed to Re­verse Global Warm­ing’’, editor Paul Hawken pulls to­gether an as­ton­ish­ing ar­ray of 80 strate­gies which, in com­bi­na­tion, could achieve the un­think­able, and ac­tu­ally re­verse cli­mate change.

Based on metic­u­lous re­search, this global pri­or­ity list is a real eye­opener: Num­ber 1 – wait for it – is tightly con­trol­ling re­frig­er­a­tion sys­tems (and, es­pe­cially, their dis­posal), in­clud­ing heat pumps, su­per­mar­ket chillers, and car air­cons!

Num­bers 3 and 4 iden­tify eating habits. 3: Re­duce food waste (big tick, Nel­son En­vi­ron­ment Cen­tre for your food res­cue op­er­a­tion); 4: eat a plant-rich diet (less meat, more veg­eta­bles).

‘‘Net Zero in New Zealand’’, by London’s Vivid Eco­nomics (for GLOBE-NZ, a cross-party group of MPs), ex­plores op­tions for achiev­ing New Zealand’s Paris emis­sions re­duc­tion tar­gets.

It analy­ses sce­nar­ios com­bin­ing ‘‘in­no­va­tive New Zealand’’ (tech­nol­ogy-based, like elec­tric ve­hi­cles, and low-flat­u­lence an­i­mal vac­cines) and ‘‘re­source­ful New Zea- re­cent land’’ (re­bal­anc­ing cur­rent re­source us­age, such as ex­pand­ing forestry).

Like Draw­down, it iden­ti­fies op­por­tu­ni­ties and strate­gies with real prospects of work­ing. But there’s an in­trigu­ing and im­por­tant caveat: no strat­egy will reach the tar­gets with­out af­foresta­tion ex­pand­ing greatly as a car­bon sink.

This should make us stop and think – about ur­ban ex­pan­sion as well as ru­ral prac­tices, and how our re­gion might tackle that. It’s also in­ter­est­ing to stand it be­side Draw­down’s ninth-most-promis­ing strat­egy ‘‘Sil­vopas­ture’’: the re­dis­cov­ery that graz­ing among trees can still main­tain pro­duc­tiv­ity.

See what I mean? It’s hard to get our head around just that bit, let alone it all. But it’s ex­cit­ing, too, be­cause we’re see­ing real ac­tions with truly promis­ing out­comes, in­clud­ing some we can read­ily take on board as in­di­vid­u­als.

So where does that leave coun­cils, and NCC and TDC in par­tic­u­lar? Like much of the world, they’ve strug­gled to trans­late main­stream think­ing into good pol­icy, and then pol­icy into work­able plans.

An im­por­tant start­ing point is in­vest­ing se­ri­ously in peo­ple and pro­cesses ded­i­cated to catch up, and keep up, with cur­rent cli­mate change think­ing.

Then pri­ori­tise in­ject­ing that in­for­ma­tion into our plan­ning pro­cesses. Two things stand out for our re­gion: find trans­port so­lu­tions that end Nel­son’s reign as global arch-vil­lains of pri­vate car us­age; and pur­sue the blend­ing of forestry and pas­ture.

We ratepay­ers also have a role: we must sup­port coun­cils’ fund­ing all of this, and then mak­ing the big calls. Oth­er­wise it’s as good as say­ing ‘‘party on, and don’t worry about our kids and grand­kids’’.

The may­ors’ joint stance is also a dou­ble-prod to the gov­ern­ment, for the may­ors not only urged the gov­ern­ment to do much bet­ter, but also en­dorsed the lat­est re­port of the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mis­sioner for the En­vi­ron­ment, Jan Wright.

The lat­ter is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the gov­ern­ment has a weak track record of heed­ing high-level en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vice.

But these is­sues are far too im­por­tant to be down­graded by po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing.

So thank you, may­ors, not only for your brave and im­por­tant stance on cli­mate change, but also for set­ting an ex­am­ple that oth­ers would do well to fol­low.

And please keep the rest of us posted how we can help on this great and dif­fi­cult jour­ney – we re­ally need you to suc­ceed.

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