Climate activist Greta Thunberg called us out,
"In other words, the Government has just committed to reducing less than 1 percent of the country's emissions by 2025".
Text explaining New Zealand's so-called climate emergency declaration. This is of course nothing unique to any nation. #FightFor1Point5https://t.co/Yp8nuek9Pn
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 13, 2020
New Zealand Minister for Climate, Green Party’ James Shaw responded by saying,
“Greta Thunberg is essentially pointing out what we already know: that we have a long way to go to narrow the gap between what our emissions are right now, and what they need to be in the future.
“We are working on this as quickly as we can and the declaration of a climate emergency is actually helping – because now every part of government is clear that action to cut emissions is a priority.
“This is what climate emergency declaration should do. It is not an end in itself, rather it signals our intent to do everything we can to tackle the climate crisis and build a better, safer future for our kids and grandkids.
I bolded that because of the tendency to ignore or dismiss things that are helpful when they’re not in themselves sufficient. Thunberg is still right.
It’s worth pointing out there that Shaw is agreeing with Thunberg. They are on the same side.
New Zealand Prime Minister, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern,
“Globally, we have entered an age of action,” she said, before calling on MPs to get on the “right side of history”.
New Zealand is the 33rd country in the world to declare a climate change emergency – it joins the likes of the UK and Ireland.
“It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope,” Ardern said.
In contemporary parlance, I’d call that performative. Demonstrating a plan for action isn’t the same as acting, and while I appreciate Ardern’s skill at rhetoric in bringing the nation with her, I’m way too dark at this stage to give that appreciation more than a passing glance.
Point being, we don’t need Ardern to bring the nation with her, we need Ardern to catch up with Shaw and Thunberg, and open the door for the nation to get on board with the need to act now.
Because if there is one key message we need to understand right now, it’s that the actions we take today that matter. Yes, forward planning, but if we don’t act now to drop GHGs fast, then we are basically signing ourselves, future generations and all of life to a very grim future. It’s the fossil fuels we are burning today that are going to cause problems in the future.
I have no idea if Ardern gets this and is being pragmatic and strategic in a system that is unwieldy and resistant to acting with intetrity. Labour’s handling of covid, rising to the challenge of the emergency suggests it’s more likely that she and the Labour caucus have varying degrees of cognitive dissonance and denial that prevent getting ahead of the curve.
And not that they would be alone in that. For the first time, this year New Zealand had the chance to elect a government that would really step up on climate, one that would do what Labour did for us with the covid pandemic, and instead we chose to give a majority to a safe, BAU, steady as she goes government.
Again, not to diminish or ignore what is being done. Shifting the government fleet to EVs, and replacing school coal-fired boilers with renewables, are solid actions in and of themselves. We need such actions across all sectors. But this is not going to get us over the line. Ardern might be talking about a plan, but I don’t see it.
Here’s a short list from the green perspective,
Pressure is on @jacindaardern to match promises w/ strong #ClimateAction. To do list includes:
– Phase out synthetic fertiliser
– $1bn fund for #regenerativefarming
– Huge investment in public/active transport
– Bring agriculture into ETS
– Feebate for EVs / against gas guzzlers https://t.co/SNQXetC0xc
— Amanda Larsson (@ecomanda) December 13, 2020
For those despairing about lack of government action and leadership, take heart from the activist and regenerative movements who both understand the urgency and are acting. I’m hoping there will be a resurgence of both in 2021. Take to the streets, put in a garden, talk to our neighbours, partners, kids, colleagues about the timing and urgency. Whatever we do, we have to do it now.