So Tonight, the Consultation Roadshow rolled into Dunedin. Famous for its Scottish heritage Dunedin was a fitting venue to mention Scotland’s recent ambitious target of 42% by 2020, adopted in its Parliament. Scotland, like New Zealand, is a small emitter but very high per capita, but unlike New Zealand, Scotland is providing leadership internationally and is signing on to do its fair share.

The mood in the meeting was electric. 200 people packed into the Dunedin Centre and with only 100 seats, people were jammed in and pouring out the doorways. Once again, the audience was invited to stand if they supported 40% and all bar six stood up and waved the ‘40% by 2020’ signs that Sign On community organisers were handing out outside the meeting. Local sustainability educator Maureen Howard called for a motion to be passed for this meeting to adopt 40% by 2020 to loud cheers and claps and when she asked “…are there any objections?…” you could have heard a pin drop.

The comments (except a rambling, though funny one by a former ACT MP) were in support of 40 by 2020 and a theme in the meeting was the dismay and hurt of the cutting of the lauded Enviroschools programme. There was a large youth turnout and student, George, issued a challenge to the Minister with a rousing haka.

It was fantastic to see such a strong and unified voice in Dunedin that focused on the available solutions – be it local wind energy start-up Thinair, Organic farming as advocated by Organic NZ magazine editor Phillipa Jamieson, or the farmers and foresters who turned up discussing wood products as an carbon-storing alternative to other carbon-intensive materials.

Tonight, I wanted to respond to the Minister's direct question, from the Christchurch meeting the night before, and in today’s article in The Press newspaper. He had challenged Greenpeace to outline how 40% could be achieved, especially in light of the growth in emissions since 1990. Keen to hear what you think about what I said:

Kia ora Minister

I think by now you know who I am, but for the benefit of others I’m Gareth Hughes, from the Sign On campaign.

I, along with National Party supporter and businessman Geoff Ross, The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall, Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger and more than 62,000 Kiwis who have Signed On in the last five weeks want you, the NZ Government, to Sign On to 40% targets.

Last night you challenged me to provide where the 40% is going to come from, especially since our national emissions have increased considerably on our 1990 levels. The Sign On campaign does want to support you in planning the necessary 40% target.

But first I want to make a couple of points clear. The 40% reduction target is not a “Greenpeace” target, as has been implied by you in several instances. Many other groups and countries are supporting it. But more importantly, it’s not a number pulled out of thin air - it’s what the climate scientists say we need if we’re going to have a chance of preventing runaway climate change. It is disingenuous to suggest this is the ‘Greenpeace target,’ It is the scientists’ target.

Secondly. Tonight you have only highlighted the costs of abatement but why aren’t you talking about the economic costs of climate impacts and benefits of action rather than just trying to scare the public using the figures and arguments of a small group of businesses who also happen to be the biggest polluters in NZ? It is worth mentioning the large volume of models and reports that already exist that demonstrate the economic advantage, job creation potential of investing in green technologies, clean renewable energy, and a low carbon economy - ranging from UK treasury economist Nicholas Stern, the recent Kinsey & Company report, through to CSIRO policy economist Dr Hatfield Dodds.

There has been much talk of how we reach the target, but first let me say this – the key thing is to set it first. We’re supposed to be a number 8 wire country, we’re “can doers”. We have done things in the past that no one ever dreamed possible. It’s a tough and ambitious target, but it IS possible. We have the nous, most of the technology and just…just, enough time. All that’s lacking is the political will.

So how might we get to 40% in New Zealand? There are many ways of reaching the target such as:

  • 100 per cent renewable electricity supply is easily achievable by 2020 – and I refer you to Greenpeace’s Energy Revolution document, produced in 2007, which demonstrates this. Though I’m sure you’ve read it Minister. (
  • Massive reductions in energy use through energy efficiency and building insulation can be achieved by 2020 – giving New Zealanders lower energy bills and warm, dry, healthy homes.
  • Integrated transport solutions can make our cities and towns safer and healthier places to live and work.
  • Low input ‘smart farming’ can reduce emissions and give us new profitable markets for climate conscious global consumers.( One third of all agricultural emissions in NZ come from nitrous oxide, which results from the overuse of chemical fertilizer. Let’s put a stop to intensive, industrial, commodity-driven dairy farming and return to tried and true branded products. Let’s move towards low input, smart farming practices that are better for the climate, our land and our economy. I also suggest you read Greenpeace material on this matter Minister, and perhaps speak with our Sign On ambassador Max Purnell, a former dairy farmer.

But to be frank with you Minister, figuring out how to achieve every emission reduction isn’t Greenpeace’s job. Greenpeace wasn’t elected last year – you were. Our job is to advocate for the future of the planet, for the future of our threatened species and vulnerable people. There are numerous ways we could achieve 40% by 2020, but which path is a political decision. Your job is to lead.

You have the Treasury economists, the officials and the advisors. I'd like to ask you why haven’t you instructed your officials to do the maths on what the scientists are saying is necessary – 40%, and brought that here tonight?

Why haven’t we looked at this very important issue of targets and had this discussion much earlier? We are now the only country in the developed world who doesn’t have a target – we are the ones slowing down the negotiations, and rightly so, getting the spoon: the Fossil Fool of the Day award at international climate negotiations.

This lack of leadership; lack of optimism and belief in our prided number eight wire mentality; and lack of joined-up economic thinking is putting at risk our international reputation and valuable clean and green brand. Minister, when you sit around that Cabinet table discussing targets and this consultation process with your colleagues, I ask you to take a moment to stop and think ‘how will this decision be remembered by history?’ and will you be remembered as the Minister for Climate Action or the Minister for Climate Excuses?