Government climate crisis lags will be costly to NZers - deadly costly

13 May 2017


Funny the things that run through a mum's head on the day before Mother's Day.  I find my mind turning to my son, and what life in Aotearoa (New Zealand) might look like for him in the very near future.  Inevitably, my thoughts wander to humanity's climate crisis - more precisely, what the heck's being done to mitigate its worst effects.

As follow up to the Agreement reached at the 2015 Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP21), Paris – and as ongoing preparation for the 2017 Conference of Parties (COP23), Bonn, Germany - a series of technical sessions and working groups are taking place (also in Germany) from 8 to 18 May 2017. 


But how is Aotearoa faring with its greenhouse gas reduction commitments?

In its 2016 report on “Climate Change Implications for New Zealand”, the Royal Society of New Zealand comments that:


"Choosing not to make lifestyle changes until the risk of a heart attack is known precisely would not be considered a wise approach by most people, and is not encouraged by the health sector. In the same way, being aware of the changing risks from climate change enables governments, regions, businesses and individuals to take decisions now to manage them, even though the exact amount of climate change will remain uncertain.”


This was followed in November 2016 by a World Wildlife Fund open letter (now with signatories of over 70 community organizations, businesses and prominent New Zealanders) warning that “[w]ithout the government pulling its weight we will not be able to make the necessary changes at the pace and scale required” to respond meaningfully to the threat of climate change.


It is with much disturbance, therefore, that the Government has only recently created a group to advise it on climate change adaptation at a time when New Zealand’s backsliding climate crisis efforts have earned a Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) overall appraisal as “poor”. 


The CCPI evaluates and compares countries’ climate protection performance (most notably, with respect to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions).  As compared to the 58 countries monitored, the CCPI Report (released December 2015) ranked New Zealand:


  • 42nd in terms of overall results (a regression from its 2015 ranking of 35), with an overall score of 52.41 (20 points behind the leading ranked country, Denmark); and

  • In the lowest bottom five countries (along with the Ukraine and Turkey) in terms of our climate policy.


This scathing evaluation is wholly consistent with an earlier criticism by leading climate scientist James Renwick.  In professor Renwick’s expert view, a Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment discussion paper released July 2016 failed to communicate the “scope and urgency of the issues” concerning our climate crisis.  Rather, it "talks about a future with 'relatively intact' natural ecosystems and about the 'trade-offs' between environmental protection and economic growth…as if we have 20 years to work out what to do."


It’s also in line with accusations made at the 22nd UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech regarding government hypocrisy for action (notably its fossil fuel policy) which dangerously exacerbates our climate crisis.

Screen shot from a video simulation of a three-metre rise in Auckland, New Zealand, as reported on National Television news 25 July 2015.


What the New Zealand Government needs to do is urgently establish effective systems and procedures to develop and implement comprehensive and integrated climate crisis mitigation and adaptation action in Aotearoa.  In addition to a periodically reviewable national strategy, this also means including meaningful citizen participation in its design and implementation.


So, happy Mothers' Day - and make sure you make this a key election issue this year!




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