Last night, the final public climate change 2020 target consultation wrapped up in Nelson. It was a lively crowd with 180 odd people packing the Rutheford Hotel. The mood was upbeat, and like all the consultations I’ve attended, the call was loud and clear for 40%. We kicked off the night with a giant projection of messages from Sign On supporters on to the side of Rutherford Hotel.
Granted he must be exhausted after this two week tour but I couldn’t help but notice that Minister Nick Smith's optimism or ambition over these consultations haven’t improved. He’s still framing the debate squarely around the economic costs, and downplaying the opportunities of an ambitious target. From soil carbon experts, to geologists, from community board representatives to high school students (and Trevor, who is recently back from a training session with Al Gore) the message in Nelson was that we need leadership and we need to focus on the enormous opportunities.
There was the obligatory climate skeptic – a former Federated Farmers regional chairman trotting out the old chestnuts, who was greeted by boos from the audience and a great response by the Minister “…there’s a difference between the weather and the climate, which is increasing on average across the planet.” I think this skepticism on the part of some Federated Farmers does them a disservice and makes them look extremely out of touch with reality.
Louis, from 350.org did another rousing haka as a challenge to the Minister.
So now the consultations have wrapped up and it’s time for Cabinet to make a decision. One local asked the very apt question:“what role will these consultations play in your decision making?” Smith, inferred not much, talking about how only 1,500 people had attended a public consultation (pretty bloody good I’d say for almost no promotion and only a week's notice) whereas he needs to make a decision based on the views of four million Kiwis. I yelled out “1,500 people at the consultations and the 70,000 Sign Ons!” to which he agreed. If he is wondering what to say around that Cabinet table I offered him a suggestion last night:
“40 by 2020 won’t be easy and it might not be convenient, but it’s what is necessary. Minister, be bold, be ambitious. Be a leader. Tell your Cabinet colleagues we’re a can-do country prepared to do our bit. Tell them as a father you’re worried about the science and as a Minister you’re excited about the economic opportunities. Tell them there is no Planet B and New Zealand needs to Sign On to a 40% target.”
Here’s what I said to the Minister:
Kia ora Minister. I’m Gareth Hughes, from the Sign On campaign. In the last six weeks, 70,000 Kiwis have joined Cliff Curtis and Lucy Lawless, Nobel prize-winning climate scientist Jim Sallinger and successful businessmen Stephen Tindall and Geoff Ross in all signing on to a 40% target. We’ve all signed on because there’s no Planet B.
Why should NZ Sign On to 40% by 2020?
The first reason is this is what the science says is necessary. This isn’t just a Greenpeace, or an Oxfam, or even surprisingly, a Gull Oil target – this is the scientists’ target. The IPCC in 2007 recommended an aggregate target range for developed countries like NZ in the range of 25 -40% by 2020. This range was considered to be sciences best guess at the time, for keeping the eventual rise in global average temperature below 2 degrees – giving us a chance to avoid dangerous climate change.
However recent scientific research indicates that we are exceeding the worst case scenarios, and that even with a temperatures rise less than 2 degrees, the impacts will be significant. Targets in the lower part of the range will just not be sufficient. As a result, a majority of countries are calling on developed nations like New Zealand to commit to an aggregate target of 40% or more. Any country proposing to do less that this needs to show what other country could do more. Even with the countries not in your presentation like Scotland with a 42% target, Germany with a 40% target or the UK with a 34% target, the sum of targets currently on the table from developed nations adds up to approximately 15%. This is nowhere near the level needed.
The Second reason is that this 'problem' more than any other humanity has faced demands that we take a precautionary approach, We will not get a second chance on this one – there is no Planet B. New Zealand under successive Governments has been abysmal at meeting its targets in the past and we have an enormous amount of catching up to do, but this isn’t an argument to stand aside and set insufficient targets. It’s like the All Blacks, based on their last performances, aiming low for tomorrow nights game against the Wallabies.
The third reason is economic. Tonight you’ve talked about the costs of taking action, and all across the country I’ve heard you reference without cite the Greenhouse Policy Coalition (our bigger polluters) funded Infometrics report. The costs cited in the report, assumes that Kiwis adopt little or none of the technologies available to reduce emissions or benefit from more efficient and profitable ways of doing things in all sectors. Like Geoff Ross says “climate change is a bloody big business opportunity.
Unfortunately the enthusiasm and optimism seen in these public consultations hasn’t been matched by you. Throughout the consultation process, you’ve concentrated only on the costs and the challenge, and ignored the huge opportunities.
Minister, with your glass half empty approach you are totally misunderstanding Kiwis – we’re a can do country that wants to do the right thing.
40 by 2020 won’t be easy and it might not be convenient, but it’s what is necessary. Minister, be bold, be ambitious. Be a leader. Tell your Cabinet colleagues we’re a can-do country prepared to do our bit. Tell them as a father you’re worried about the science and as a Minister you’re excited about the economic opportunities. Tell them there is no Planet B and New Zealand needs to Sign On to a 40% target."