Always a topic for robust discussion here at The Standard – here’s part of a speech the Labour Leader gave to the Environmental Defence Society conference today.
Let’s start with climate change.
It’s happening, it will get worse before it gets better, and it demands a response in keeping with the scale of the problem we face. It is the biggest environmental and economic challenge facing the planet.
According to the latest IPCC report, without additional mitigation, we are now facing average global temperature rises of 3.7 to 4.9 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.
That’ll mean more extreme weather events, rising and warming seas, more crop failures, unknown impacts on biodiversity and more human hardship.
We face a carbon-constrained future, and we must try and reduce our emissions and accelerate our adaptation.
That’s not a matter of choice. That’s inevitable.
As President Obama put it recently, “we’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”
This isn’t just a technical challenge.
It’s a test of our most fundamental values because how we choose to respond to climate change will affect every facet of our ecosystem, our economy and our daily lives.
The stakes are huge.
If we get this wrong, our environment will be degraded, our economy will suffer, the costs of transition will be much higher and we will leave our children with fewer opportunities than we inherited.
This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to.
As you would expect I would have, given I led the EPMU – the union of miners, oil workers, and aviation for more than a decade.
I know that we need a just transition, that not only meets our responsibilities to the planet, but gives people opportunities to build good lives for themselves and their families.
We have to meet this challenge.
And we have to do it in a way that protects our way of life and the opportunities we want our people to enjoy.
And as a global citizen, we cannot shirk from our mutual responsibilities to the people of other nations.
Sadly, the current government has its head in the sand, which is especially worrying right now because the sea level is rising.
National says that we’re too small to address this problem.
Instead of a leader on the world stage, they say they want us to be a fast follower.
They tell us addressing climate change is someone else’s job.
I simply don’t accept that.
That isn’t who we are.
When we sit on the sidelines all we do is give comfort to the deniers of climate change.
We’re a better country than that.
Seven years into John Key’s government, its record on the environment and climate change is clear.
New Zealand’s emissions per capita were the 5th highest out of 40 developed nations in 2012.
A recent Global Action Network survey found we had slipped to 43rd out of 58 countries when it comes to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
National gutted the Emissions Trading Scheme by removing agriculture which accounts for half of our emissions, leaving it ineffectual.
They’ve put public money into subsidising big emitters by giving them a free ride while taking money out of environmental research programmes.
They’ve watered down our emissions targets to the point where international watchdogs now list New Zealand as a laggard.
Just ask our Pacific neighbours.
Even a modest change in the sea level can flood the supply of fresh water in nations like Tuvalu or Kiribati, making their islands uninhabitable.
Their very survival requires the world, including New Zealand, to take serious action on climate change.
This government’s ‘I’m alright, Jack’ attitude to addressing climate change helps seal the fate of some of our country’s closest friends.
That’s an awful legacy to leave.
That short-termism is something that defines this government. They govern day-to-day, without an eye on the horizon.