Addressing climate change

Taking the Long View
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Gord Stewart
Will the Government do what’s necessary?

Submissions to the Government’s climate change consultation closed Wednesday 3 June. Here is what I wrote …

To: the Prime Minister, Minister of Climate Change Issues, Minister of Energy and Resources/Associate Minister of Climate Change Issues, National Party Caucus, and coalition partners

It’s late in the game and the science is clear: there is no future in fossil fuels. If today’s young people and generations to come are to have any chance of a decent future, we must limit the planet to no more than 2°C of warming. This is known and accepted.

But given that our collective C02 “budget” to stay within the limit will be all gone by 2035 at the current burn rate and known fossil fuel reserves are five times what we can safely use, it will be no easy thing to achieve. It will require decisive – even transformative – action. Are your prepared to do this?

The Church of England calls climate change the most pressing moral issue of our time. Will you respond to this moral obligation?

New Zealand’s current emission reduction targets are pitifully below anything scientists say are necessary. Emissions have risen continually during National’s time in office and there is currently no realistic plan to turn this around. Will you change all of this?

It makes no sense to explore for more fossil fuels. Which portion of our known reserves will we not consume in order to burn that which we haven’t yet discovered? It makes no sense to subsidise the planet’s most profitable and destructive industry. And it especially makes no sense to pursue an extreme energy policy like offshore drilling in deep and treacherous waters.

Agriculture is a sticky issue, no doubt, what with its GHG emissions making up nearly half New Zealand’s total and you obviously not wanting to disturb this constituent block. But it’s time to say enough is enough. Time to put more into to clean technology/”green” economy initiatives to capitalise on their job creation and innovative export opportunities. And time to explore other initiatives that will provide a more resilient economy and a fair and equitable society.

If New Zealand is to play its part in tackling climate change, we’ll need a dramatic overhaul of our climate change policies. Do you have the courage to do it? Why not follow Yvon Chouinard’s advice: “Turn around and take a forward step. Don’t just keep trying to make a flawed system work.”

So will you do it together? Will you turn the ship around? If not, is there anyone – anyone – in the National Caucus (or a sitting coalition partner) who will take a stand? Anyone who will vote for principles over power? Anyone who will value children and grandchildren over a current or possible cabinet post? If so, it’s as easy as taking a walk. Cross the floor. Sit as an independent. Join other MPs with principles who have innovative and workable ideas for a brighter future just waiting to be put into action.

So how to get on the right track? To make a start, we need look no further than the ‘Fix Our Future’ submission of Generation Zero, a group of intelligent, committed and caring young people. The submission details six steps Government needs to take. They are:
• Act on climate change as an investment (emphasis mine) in our future
• Call for a global zero carbon target and commit to a pathway towards zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 or earlier (alongside reductions in other greenhouse gases)
• Develop a credible action plan to meet New Zealand’s targets
• Establish a climate law that holds the government accountable for reducing emissions, and an independent Climate Commission
• Establish a cross-party climate working group and an ongoing programme to engage with New Zealanders on climate change solutions‎
• Make meaningful policy changes that will start cutting New Zealand’s emissions during this term of government.

Climate scientist James Hansen first warned the U.S. Congress of the impending problem of climate change back in 1988. Recently he said, “We are now past the point of simply doing what’s politically possible. Now we have to do what’s necessary.”

Will you do what’s necessary?

Gord Stewart is an environmental sustainability consultant. He does project work for government, industry, and non-profit organisations.

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