The Greens released their 2017 climate change action plan yesterday. It’s bold, and serious as, and makes no bones about the crisis we are in and that we have to act now. It’s visionary as well as being a fully fledged strategy that NZ can act on immediately.
I’ll link to some of the documentation and commentary below, but I’d like to pull out some of the impressions I got from the speeches by Jeanette Fitzsimons and James Shaw (both are worth watching, video below).
The first is that the Greens are shifting the narrative away from climate change as something happening in the future that we should try and do something about as a service to later generations but we don’t really have to worry about now. Instead they’re focussing NZ on the fact that climate change is here, now, and the catastrophes are already happening. Citing the disruptions from the thousands of deaths and millions of displacements happening as we speak from climate change weather events in Asia, the Caribbean and the United States, the point was made clearly that we are now firmly in the age of climate change and it’s going to get worse. Much worse if we don’t move to prevent that immediately. And not just far away places, but South Dunedin, Edgecumbe, the Port Hills, our coastal cities and towns.
So we need to stop thinking that climate change is a problem that other people are going to face sometime in the future… we need to start thinking about it as our problem, that we face, today. Because if we don’t, our lives are going to get worse.
– James Shaw
Shaw was as serious as I’ve ever seen him. He talks about how NZ’s first climate emissions reduction targets were first put in place in 1990.
27 years. Where the politicians did nothing but talk and it was 27 years that we couldn’t afford to waste. Well waste it they did, and now that future is here. We are living in the climate changed world, and politicians are still just talking. Climate change is the reason I’m in politics. I have spent my life working on it, and I am tired of all the talking. I want to change things.
This isn’t posturing to get votes, but the message from a group of people who are utterly committed to making this happening in NZ now.
Here’s the other aspect that stood out – the systemic nature of the plan. It includes previous Green initiatives around climate change, and it brings in new pieces that tie it all together in a vision and strategy for action that is basically saying that the whole of the NZ economy now needs to be sustainable and managed within the context of climate change. No more false dichotomy between the environment and the economy, because here is a plan that runs a fair economy out of the active practice of sustainability across everything. Naturally, it places the wellbeing of people firmly in the mix. Shaw is unequivocal, we have to end poverty as well, so again there is no artificial conflict between looking after people and the environment when they’re part of the same system.
So plant trees, love NZ? The beauty is in the breadth of the plan. One of the new pieces in the system is to plant 1.2 billion trees on erosion prone, marginal land throughout NZ. Instead of climate change being an add-on to the politic in NZ, the plan is to use the necessity of action to transform the other critical things we are concerned about. Need to plant trees to sequester carbon and prevent emissions? Then also use that need to regenerate land, clean up rivers, create jobs, provide building materials and other natural resources, and reduce poverty. That’s win, win, win (environment, economy, welfare).
Also standing out for me was Jeanette Fitzsimons’ reiteration that governments can’t take the necessary action on climate change without public support, and that true change is going to have to come from the people first.
To give governments the power to act civil society needs to be engaged, active and supportive. Naomi Klein put it so well when she said “to change everything you need everyone.”
I’m not working in community climate action, but whether we’re in cabinet, in caucus, in local government, in business, in community groups, Greens can make a difference in building that support, that is our mission.
I’m so pleased this is not just a climate policy launch, it’s a climate action launch.
While the Greens are very focussed on presenting a viable and politically acceptable strategy for NZ, we need to remember that they can only go as far as they are supported and to get real change we will need strong and dedicated movements from outside of parliament.
There’s a lot more to the plan and it is densely detailed including with costings. The Greens aren’t intending to develop a plan once in government, they’re well ahead of the ball with a plan ready to go. The main aspects are:
- Pass a Zero Carbon Act in their first 100 days in government
- Establish an independent Climate Commission to advise the government on climate targets, emissions prices, and report on progress.
- Replace the Emissions Trading Scheme with a new Kiwi Climate Fund that charges for pollution, pays people to plant trees, and gives all adults a $250/yr dividend payment.
- Plant 1.2 billion trees, and use this to create jobs across multiple sectors
- Establish a Green Infrastructure Fund to attract private investment into new, clean infrastructure and industries
- Create a Transformational Farming Partnership Fund to support farmers to transition to sustainable agriculture and adapt to climate
- No new coal mines, fracking, and deep-sea oil and gas drilling.
- Divest public investment funds away from fossil fuels (PDF)
- Commit to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2030
- Invest in clean, electric transport, including new rail lines in the major cities and regions, and supporting transition to electric car fleet.
- Invest in safe cycling networks
- Create a new humanitarian visa category for people displaced by climate change in the Pacific.
The plan is visionary and bold and a long way from what we have been used to thinking about because of the dinosaur of a government we’ve had in National. There is significant overlap between the Greens and Labour on policy here, with the Greens leading the way. This gives us a head start and in order to get real progress and momentum we need the Greens strongly in government.
Green Party press release: Greens announce Kiwi Climate Fund to tackle climate change
We’re the first generation that will feel the effects of climate change, and the last that can stop it. We have a responsibility to act.
Climate change is not just the biggest challenge of our time, it’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our economy and society for the better.
Tackling climate change means investing in better transport in our major cities. Fast, electric rail lines eliminate pollution and create healthier, congestion-free cities.
It means giving our farmers a head start in the race to supply the world with truly sustainable, high-value food, fibre, and other materials.
It means stabilising the climate to protect the fragile eco-systems that our native birds depend on and regenerating native forests to help cool the planet.
Climate Protection Plan summary (PDF)
Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn covers why the scrapping of the ETS is important.
Greenpeace looks at the difference between Labour having the bones of a good climate change policy and the Greens full commitment and concrete plans for NZ becoming a world leader in climate action.
Replay of livestream from the Greens’ Facebook page. Jim Salinger interview at 46 mins, speeches from Jeanette Fitzsimons, Phillip Mills and James Shaw starting at 26 mins 30: