Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior blocks the State Owned Enterprise Solid Energy’s coal ship the Hellenic Sea from leaving the Port of Lyttelton. (C) Greenpeace / Dimitri Sharomov
Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior blocks the State Owned Enterprise Solid Energy’s coal ship the Hellenic Sea from leaving the Port of Lyttelton. (C) Greenpeace / Dimitri Sharomov
Our action in Lyttelton was intended to highlight the double standards of a Government that happily boasts about its climate change policies while at the same time allowing the expansion of coal mining and coal exports from New Zealand.

Not only are they playing both sides of the game here, but the policies they do have in place are nothing to crow about either.

The National Party also talk a lot about climate change but don't actually have any real policies in place to deliver emission reductions.

So, with the election approaching, we thought we'd try and find out a bit more about what the different political parties are really committing themselves to do.

In January, we sent a survey to all NZ political parties with 20 questions covering a range of issues about climate change including emission reduction targets, domestic emission reductions, agriculture, transport, energy, the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, our international obligations, and social equity.

The questions are deliberately forward-looking and probe for commitments on what the parties will do, rather than what they've already achieved.

The results are interesting. Both Labour and National performed poorly. Although the Labour-led government is implementing a series of climate change policies, the party refuses to commit to the strong policies needed for real leadership on climate change, particularly when it comes to land use decisions and agricultural emissions.

The National Party is suffering a policy vacuum when it comes to climate. It needs to match its rhetoric on tackling climate change with actual policies. There appears to be no plan from National to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is the only real solution to climate change.

In this week's Sunday Star Times it's reported that the National Party is considering dropping the moratorium on new fossil fuel generation. National's energy spokesperson Gerry Brownlee is particularly fond of fossil fuels - he even put a video newsletter out entitled "sexy coal" at the end of last year. A surprise performer in the survey was the Progressive Party which was second only to the Greens in terms of its commitment to confronting climate change. The Green Party had the strongest policies of any political party in Parliament. However no party has yet developed sufficiently strong climate policies to deliver the necessary emissions cuts needed to prevent the worst climate impacts - 30% reductions by 2020.

We've released a report on the findings, but to make things more interesting we've also invited all political parties to a debate on the issue to be hosted on the Rainbow Warrior in Wellington on Wednesday night. Climate spokespeople from key parties will take part in the debate and we'll host a live webcast here

New Zealand is just months away from an election. We've timed this questionnaire and debate to make sure the public knows which parties are serious about tackling climate change, and to give all political parties time to reflect on and improve their policies prior to the election.

Some political parties may be disappointed with how they rate, but the fact remains there is a lot that needs to be done on climate, beyond what they've already committed to.

The most crucial thing for each party to do is set a domestic emissions reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020 and develop policies to tackle emissions from the agricultural sector, including as a first step bringing the sector into the emissions trading scheme within the next two years.

Only these commitments will achieve the level of emission cuts needed to help avoid dangerous levels of climate change.

The New Zealand Government is currently represented by a delegation of officials at the United Nations climate meeting taking place from 31 March to 4 April in Bangkok. Here, delegates will continue their discussions on the 25-40 per cent by 2020 cuts which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified are needed to prevent the worst climate impacts, and which developed countries committed to "in principle" at the last United Nations climate meeting in Bali.

The New Zealand delegation needs to show political leadership at this conference, but to have credibility in doing so, we need to be showing leadership at home.

So stay tuned on Wednesday night to see what the politicians have to say for themselves!