Christchurch had its consultation this evening and nearly 200 Cantabrians came out to have their say to Climate Change Minister Nick Smith and NZ Climate Ambassador Adrian Macey. There were 40 by 2020 stickers and signs galore and nearly every comment made from the floor was supporting a 40% target and from very interesting angles too. A Neptune Power rep talked about the lack of support for ocean based energy so far and the need to invest in this area; Gareth Renowden, of Hot Topic fame discussed the need for an updating of the 450 ppm two/degrees target and suggested at least 80 per cent by 2050; and Don Murray, from a group I haven’t heard of before, Grandparents for Action on Greenhouse Gases, suggested NZ should adopt a unilateral 20 per cent target, and a 40 per cent target if developing nations come on board in someway.

Don Elder, of Solid Energy fame (or infamy) was present though didn’t talk but I was surprised no-one asked him or Smith why a Government that takes climate action seriously would still be expanding coal exports.

I joined the twenty six-strong group who made comments. Here’s what I said:

Kia ora Minister

I’d like to start by acknowledging this consultation process and thank you for the opportunity for the public to have their say in person to you.

I’m Gareth Hughes from the Sign On campaign. Standing with me in spirit tonight are the 20 high profile ambassadors who have joined the Sign On campaign. Standing with me is National Party supporter and successful businessman Geoff Ross, Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall and Nobel Prize winning climate scientist Jim Salinger, who all support your Government doing the right thing and signing on to 40% targets. Also standing with me are the 62,000 Kiwis, who in the last 5 weeks, have also signed on and joined the call for 40% targets.

You heard last night from Dr Salinger, in Auckland, on the urgency of the climate threat. Climate change is happening faster than expected and we are nearing those dangerous tipping points. We stand on the precipice of catastrophic climate change but this isn’t a problem for future generations anymore, it is a problem now. Last month former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan published a report estimating that climate change is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year –predominately amongst those who have contributed the least. We still have a chance, the window is still slightly ajar, we can still avoid the worst.

Tonight I do not want to talk about the Cataret Islanders, or the Bangladeshi’s or the Tuvaluans who are on the frontlines of climate change. I do not want to talk about the Rockhopper penguins down south whose populations have declined 90% since 1950 as a result of climate impacts now, and our other threatened species. I’m also not going to talk about my motivation for standing here tonight– my two year old son, Arlo, who when he starts school in 2013, the latest science predicts there will be no summer sea ice in the Arctic, leading to a path-to-extinction for the polar bear.

What I do want to talk about however, is the economic opportunities of climate change. As 42 Below founder Geoff Ross says “climate change is a bloody big business opportunity.” Unfortunately Minister, you seem focused only on the costs of abatement without mentioning the costs of climate change on our economy. Sir Nicohlas Stern, who has crunched the numbers, paints a compelling picture that the costs of action are vastly outweighed by the costs of inaction. Dairy farmers in the Waikato have seen that recently, with the latest drought costing them lone $500 million, which your agriculture minister recognised climate change’s influence.

A tangible and very immediate economic cost could be to our valuable clean and green brand if we don’t Sign On and do our fair share and if we keep receiving Fossil Fool of the Day Awards at climate negotiations as we have this year.

Tackling climate change is about investing in and promoting clean energy, energy efficiency, public transport and smart farming. It is about making our economy more resilient and producing jobs. With 1000 Kiwis losing their jobs every week, some good news on the horizon are the home insulation companies taking on staff, and the inspiring investments in green collar jobs in Germany, South Korea and the U.S.

I acknowledge and support your investment in home insulation in the last budget but I can understand the disillusionment in this room, that still the whole gamut of your mitigation initiatives are small, compared to the billions being spent on motorways, the state-owned coal mine expansions, and the possible gas-fired power station in Auckland, all locking us into a fossil fuel future.

Minister, the science says developed nations like us must sign on to 40% targets and that’s our fair share. This isn’t a Greenpeace, or an Oxfam, or a 350.org.nz target plucked out of the air. It’s the scientists’ target.

Minister, if we won’t do it for the polar bears, for the Rockhopper penguins or that tragic 300,000. Do it for the economy, do it for jobs, do it for farmers.

Minister, be brave and ambitious. Be a leader. We are a nation famous for doing the right thing and doing it well. We can rise to this challenge. If you do join the 62,000 (and growing) number of Kiwis so-far calling for 40% we will support you loudly and actively, and the electorate will notice it.

To you Mr Smith, as a parent, as a Kiwi, and as a Minister I implore you to please Sign On for all of us.