Building a cleaner, resilient and equitable Aotearoa NZ in response to the Covid-19 Coronavirus Crisis – A Green New Deal for New Zealand
We currently face three simultaneous crises in Aotearoa New Zealand: the Covid-19 pandemic and an associated economic downturn, rising inequality, and a worsening climate and ecological crisis. As the Government turns its attention towards the long-term project of economic recovery, we urge you to plan a response that protects us from the impacts of climate change and lifts up workers and vulnerable communities.
Right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, while making Aotearoa New Zealand more resilient to a world facing more extreme weather. We have the chance to transform our economy and society so that it regenerates critical ecosystems, improves wellbeing and drives changes in lifestyle that promote positive environmental and health outcomes. By thoughtfully targeting the stimulus, we can lift living standards for New Zealanders, create thousands of good green jobs, and accelerate a just transition away from fossil fuels, industrial farming and fishing, and other polluting industries.
In this paper, we outline a collection of solutions that fall under the banner of a “green stimulus”, providing jobs and boosting economic activity whilst fast-tracking much-needed projects to restore the natural world we depend on. These include:
Immediate shovel-ready projects to prioritise
- Providing finance and support for home insulation and heat pumps.
- Fast-tracking fencing and planting of on-farm waterways with Government finance.
- Attaching strict, science-aligned decarbonisation, biodiversity enhancement and workers’ rights conditions to corporate bailouts.
- Introducing a Universal Basic Income.
Priority investments for the long-term wellbeing of Aotearoa
- Unprecedented investment in public transport, cycling and rail infrastructure to accelerate our mobility into the 21st century.
- Billions in finance for distributed solar and wind, alongside upgrades to the power grid.
- A billion-dollar regenerative farming fund to support farmers to transition to regenerative agriculture.
- A sizable boost in finance for DOC to employ a “conservation corps” of people to eradicate pests, plant native trees and restore critical habitats.
- Constructing new, affordable homes that meet the highest energy-efficiency standards.
- Put millions into ocean restoration projects to restore critical marine ecosystems
Greenpeace welcomes the rapid deployment of Government funds to manage the Covid-19 public health crisis. We fully support the decision to provide an immediate boost to healthcare services and the prioritisation of support for society’s most vulnerable and those at risk of losing income and job security. We acknowledge the strong leadership that the Ardern Government is taking at this time.
As the Government begins to turn its attention towards the long-term project of smoothing the coming economic shock, we urge you to use fiscal stimulus tools as an opportunity to come out of this public health crisis better able to respond to the climate, biodiversity and inequality crises. Given that today’s young people will need to deal with the debt from our economic response to Covid-19, it is critical that these funds are deployed in ways that create a more secure and resilient future for our children.
Following the 2008 financial crash, we saw public funds flow disproportionately to polluting industries and to society’s most wealthy. This mistake must not be repeated in the response to Covid-19. Right now we have a chance to add value to, rather than undermine, the ecological and social support systems that we rely on to be safe and to thrive, particularly in times of crisis. While the private sector reaches out for support, the Government must actively seek out guidance from iwi, unions and advocates for Aotearoa’s most vulnerable (including people with disabilities, children, women and people of marginalised genders, and people in poverty).
We advocate that the fiscal stimulus should be channeled towards the following four areas:
- Improving how New Zealanders live
- Upgrading our public sector and infrastructure
- Leaping our major industries into the future
- Putting more money in the hands of ordinary people
These programmes should be delivered in ways that provide secure, well-paying jobs and lift up vulnerable and marginalised communities.
Furthermore, we call upon the Government to begin using broader metrics to assess economic, social and environmental wellbeing during this critical time. As the Government has itself noted, GDP growth is an insufficient tool for measuring whether this nation and its people are thriving. As we prepare for uncertain times, now is the moment to measure the metrics that really matter to the health and wellbeing of this country, its people and its natural systems.
IMPROVING HOW NEW ZEALANDERS LIVE
Providing immediate insulation and heating support
There are still around 600,000 under-insulated homes in New Zealand. These homes expose occupants – who are often already society’s most marginalised – to increased risk of respiratory illness. Given that Covid-19 is spreading as we enter into autumn and winter, fast-tracking finance and support for home insulation and heat pumps is common sense from both a health and energy efficiency perspective. This is a programme that can be rolled out relatively quickly, given the existing Warmer Kiwi Homes programme.
Boosting clean energy, particularly for households and communities
The International Energy Agency has called for governments to use their economic stimulus packages to accelerate the clean energy transition. Transpower has forecast that New Zealand will need to double electricity supply, including 1.5 million solar homes, by 2050 in order to meet the growing demand for electricity as we shift our energy system away from polluting oil, gas and coal. Now is the time to boost homegrown clean electricity. The Government should introduce a zero-interest loan for household solar and batteries. Finance and support for community solar and wind projects should be fast-tracked. Regulatory barriers that prevent people from trading and gifting energy should be removed and a floor price introduced for household and community-generated electricity.
Supporting electric transport options
Providing finance for people to purchase e-bikes and e-scooters is logical for health, mobility and climate reasons. Now is also the time to fast-track and supercharge the “feebate” scheme to make it easier for New Zealanders to purchase electric cars. Electric cars are cheaper to run and maintain, but households face barriers due to the upfront cost of capital. Supporting families to purchase a car or bike that will cost them less to run and reduce dependence on imported oil, while at the same time cutting carbon emissions and air pollution, is common sense.
Supporting sustainable behaviours and self-sufficiency
Major events can lead to significant and lasting behavioural changes that have positive long-term outcomes for health and the environment. The Government can support positive lifestyle changes that improve resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic and recession, while also reducing environmental footprints for the long-term. This includes increasing funding for community organisations that help people with, for example:
- Backyard veggie gardens
- Home energy savings
- Food waste reduction
- Home composting
- Cycling and walking
UPGRADING OUR PUBLIC SECTOR AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Fast-tracking state-sector decarbonisation
The Government can create a stimulus by bringing forward important state-sector decarbonisation projects, including:
- Embarking on a nationwide social housing upgrade programme, providing insulation, heat pumps, solar and batteries to some of our most vulnerable families.
- Solarising public buildings and then gifting excess energy to community groups and those experiencing energy hardship.
- Replacing the Government’s light vehicle fleet with electric vehicles.
- Purchasing electric buses for cities and towns.
- Equipping schools with solar power and clean heating systems.
Investing in green infrastructure
The Government can create good green jobs and boost the economy by investing in important green infrastructure projects, including:
- Embarking on a significant house-building programme, constructing new, affordable homes that meet the highest energy efficiency standards and incorporate clean energy generation, rainwater collection and greywater recycling.
- Expanding cycleways and fast-tracking projects like Skypath.
- Fast-tracking public transport projects.
- Rolling out a nationwide electric vehicle charging network and a nationwide car-sharing scheme.
- Upgrading the electricity grid in preparation for more distributed, renewable energy and greater electricity demand.
- Establishing a nationwide container deposit scheme and funding community-led recycling centres to establish container return points and e-waste drop-offs.
- Electrifying key rail lines.
- Investing big in passenger rail links to reduce unnecessary air travel.
Restoring our critical natural ecosystems
The Government can create new jobs by investing heavily in the restoration and resilience of our natural “infrastructure”. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to catch up with the rapid decline of our conservation estate and critical ecosystems. Programmes could include:
- A significant cash injection for the Department of Conservation to employ a “conservation corps” of people to eradicate pests, plant native trees and restore critical habitats, such as wetlands.
- Fast-track fencing and planting of on-farm waterways by subidising or paying for fencing, planting crews and ongoing weed maintenance.
- Scale the restoration of mussel and shellfish beds in the Hauraki Gulf and other harbours, by investing in people, shellfish and boats to undertake the programme.
LEAPING OUR MAJOR INDUSTRIES INTO THE FUTURE
This is an opportunity to prepare our key industries for the shift to sustainable production and changes in global demand, while fostering new industries that address the needs of a carbon-neutral world. Analysts have already noted that environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments have been more resilient to Covid-19 than traditional investments. This is expected to endure. For example, “Morgan Stanley argues that the surge in sustainable investing over the past year or so has primarily been driven by consumer demand – and social pressure for ESG investing is ‘unlikely to change’.”
Business bailouts must come with strings attached
The Government should step in to protect people who are losing jobs and income security as a result of losses to New Zealand’s industries. However, sizable bailouts to big businesses must come with conditions attached, or we miss a major opportunity to combat climate change and unjust working conditions. Firstly, bailouts must include conditions to align business practice with biodiversity and climate goals, such as the Zero Carbon Act. Secondly, they must be conditional on companies not giving big payouts to shareholders and CEOs. Thirdly, bailouts should be in the form of a loan or equity rather than a gift.
The Air New Zealand bailout is an example of where such commitments should be required. Air travel accounts for two percent of global emissions but could swallow up as much as a quarter of the global carbon budget by 2050. As such, airline bailouts must come with commitments, including but not limited to:
- Retiring older, inefficient aircraft
- Investing significantly in clean fuels and electric aircraft
- Publishing a Corporate Low-Carbon Transition Plan in line with IPCC 1.5 scenarios
Another example would be any bailouts to primary industries should come under conditions that these companies are, at a minimum, not causing environmental destruction, and with guaranteed investment in their operations to improve sustainability into the future.
For example, if commercial fishing companies were to receive a bailout, this must come with commitments, including but not limited to:
- Voluntarily installing cameras on all fishing vessels
- Using all available protections for seabirds – tori streamers, hook pods etc. – across their fleet
- Investing in transitioning their fleets and fishers to dolphin safe fishing methods
- Guaranteeing they are not bottom trawling vulnerable marine ecosystems
Investing in sustainable start-ups and private sector innovation
According to figures from Statistics New Zealand, our global clean, green brand has been valued at over NZ$13 billion and almost half of New Zealand’s jobs and more than 70% of our goods and services exports rely on our clean green reputation. We have a lot to lose if we drop this reputation – and a lot to gain by building on it.
A recent report has found that New Zealand needs to ramp up its response to changes in consumer demand for alternative plant-based protein. As the Government prepares to invest heavily in stimulating the economy, now is the time to support farmers to transition to more plant-based regenerative farming, through a billion dollar regenerative agriculture fund. We’re working on being able to provide more specific details of this in the coming weeks.
Investing in clean energy innovation, for example through the National New Energy Development Centre (NNEDC) also makes sense. As an island nation surrounded by high energy oceans, our natural resources provide us with an enormous advantage when it comes to developing marine energy. New Zealand could become the Southern Hemisphere centre of ocean energy research, project demonstration, certification and commercialisation.
Supporting retraining for jobs in clean energy
Thousands of clean energy workers will be needed to install solar panels and batteries, to build wind turbines and transmission lines, to plan new electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and to retrofit homes to make them warmer and more efficient. With many people facing employment insecurity, a nationwide clean energy training programme makes a lot of sense.
PUTTING MORE MONEY IN THE HANDS OF PEOPLE
Globally, the 2008 financial crash led to a redistribution of wealth from society’s poorest to its wealthiest. This must not be allowed to happen again.
The strongest and most immediate fiscal stimulus the Government can provide is to increase benefits and to remove stand down times for those who lose their jobs. The Government should also introduce a tax-free income threshold, which benefits the poorest and gives the best stimulus effect.
The case for introducing a Universal Basic Income (UBI), so that everyone has enough money to buy food and other essentials, is very strong during this time of uncertainty. Greenpeace supports the organisations and experts who are advocating for a UBI.
By thoughtfully targeting the Government’s fiscal stimulus packages, we have an opportunity to put our economy and society on a path that regenerates critical ecosystems, protects us from climate impacts, improves wellbeing and drives changes in lifestyle that promote positive environmental and health outcomes. With the right programmes, we can lift living standards for New Zealanders, create thousands of good green jobs, and accelerate a just transition away from fossil fuels, industrial farming and fishing, and other polluting industries.
We acknowledge that the list above is not exhaustive. We don’t have all the solutions and we will continue to engage with supporters and allies to expand and develop this policy advice further, as well as amplify the recommendations brought forward by other groups. As mentioned in the introduction, the Government must actively seek out and prioritise guidance from iwi, unions and advocates for Aotearoa’s most vulnerable. In the interest of getting as many good ideas on the table as possible, we encourage you to review the comprehensive Green Stimulus package proposed for the United States Congress.
We urge you not to discount the ongoing climate, biodiversity and inequality crises while you rightly mobilise Government resources to resolve the Covid-19 crisis. As the Lancet and World Health Organisation note, climate change is likely to have major consequences on infectious disease transmission. Thinking ahead to prevent the next public health crisis means acting now to address climate change, biodiversity loss and inequality.
Read more about our proposal for a 1 billion dollar regenerative agriculture transition fund.