Climate change should be the lens through which we look at all policy.
As always, it’s good to listen to the Greens speaking on their own turf to get a better understanding of what they value and where their priorities are.
Last night James Shaw announced the Wellington Transport Policy, from his position as Co-leader and Climate Spokesperson for the Greens. But instead of going straight into talking about trolley buses and light rail, his speech established the Greens as leaders in integrated policy. Most of the speech is about climate change, the Greens’ commitment to doing what is right, and then how transport ties into that.
Shaw started by talking about how he shifted from being a general purpose environmentalist to a climate change specialist during his corporate career in the late 90s. For the people who think that the Greens’ working with the business community is a sell out, this is worth a listen to get a better understanding of where Shaw’s devotion is.
It’s not to the corporate world, it’s to greening the economy in the face of CC. He talks about looking at spreadsheets the insurance industry was producing at the time on CC impact, and where they were seeing financial implications he was seeing an “incalculable human cost” in the impending crisis if we didn’t act to stop it.
[The Greens are] the only political party that is 100% committed to doing the things that are necessary to stop catastrophic climate change before it happens.
One of the Greens’ core messages in the election campaign is that we have the opportunity to lead the world in how to transition to a low carbon economy. Where other parties juxtapose the economy and the environment, Shaw says “the economy happens in the environment. Jobs happen on the planet”. And that we can’t be prosperous without climate security.
He’s also making no bones about the fact that time is running out, but we still have time if we act urgently.
The Greens’ carbon neutral by 2050 goal is backed up by a range of policy. Gareth Hughes has been working with the electricity industry, and developing a plan on how to get NZ to 100% renewable generation by 2030, in part by replacing existing fossil fuel generation with renewables as the old plants come to the end of their lives.
Shaw has previously announced the Green Infrastructure Fund as a key aspect of the 2050 goal. While National think business as usual is fine and they can just plant a few trees, Shaw points out that BAU will see NZ emissions rise 95% above 1990 levels by the year 2030. The Greens are committed to stopping fossil fuel extraction (deep sea and mining) – we can’t afford to burn 80% of what we already have access to so there is no point exploring for new reserves.
Every new piece of legislation should be tested against our climate change commitments, in the same way it’s tested against the Bill of Rights.
Then on to the Wellington Transport Plan which was developed squarely in the context of the need to reduce carbon emissions. You can see the full policy here, but the gist is light rail, saving the trolley buses, replacing buses over time with electric, investing in safer cycling and walking in Wellington city, tying this into the wider Transport Policies and seeking to make Wellington one of the most liveable cities in the world. Shaw emphasises working with community and council, and that this has been a long time coming (Shaw stood for the WCC as a Green candidate in 1992).
One aspect of the integrated policy that I especially like is the plan to make buses and trains free for everyone under 19 all the time, and free off peak for students and beneficiaries with disabilities as well as continuing the Gold Card for pensioners. As well as being great for health, family finances, and lessening congestion and pollution, placing children and teens at the centre of the design in one go changes the relationship to climate change of a whole generation.
These are the emerging adults who will understand intuitively that cars don’t need to be the centre of society, and that we can find solutions that reduce emissions and create good lives. Brilliant.
Shaw ends with stating that the Green Party and himself are rearing to go. I appreciated this statement, because while the power mongers are playing their macho politics games with the electoral process in NZ, and some of the commentariat are either freaking out or picking at their natural allies, the Greens are focussed on the tidal wave of change bearing down on us as we speak and standing strong in their willingness to act. Contrary to what some are saying, to me they look ready to do the mahi we all need.
Time is too short for pessimism. Now is the time for action.
Full video is here (17 mins),