Cyclone Gabrielle: Where to get help and how to give help (Stuff)

Cyclone Gabrielle has been really tough for so many people. I’ve been lucky, but for the second time in two weeks my community in rural West Auckland has been underwater from these disastrous floods. This is what climate chaos looks like, and it’s really scary. 

Just in my neighbourhood, Kumeū – Waimauku – Muriwai there are landslides, and houses destroyed. We’ve been without power for the last five days and it may not be restored for another week. The heart of our community has been flooded. My partner and I have been helping our neighbours to cope without power. Our local vets have lost their colleague, who lost his life helping others as a volunteer firefighter. Another firefighter has also since died, and it’s really tragic, and traumatic.

I’m sure you have your own story, or know friends and whānau affected across the North Island. We can see first-hand that the social and environmental costs of climate change are huge. More extreme weather events are disrupting all our lives and livelihoods.

The climate crisis is making cyclones like Gabrielle more powerful and unpredictable. And these destructive storms are happening more often. What really makes me upset is that the New Zealand Government has so far failed to reduce emissions that are making the climate crisis worse. 

A road underwater, two people in red jackets and hard hats hold a banner that says This is the climate crisis
West Auckland, 14 February 2023

Turning around the climate crisis

I’ve really tried – solar panels, biking everywhere, eating a plant-based diet. I don’t say this to be sanctimonious, but to say – our best efforts at lifestyle changes alone can’t stop climate change. Our individual actions are important but the only way to cool the climate is to make sure the biggest polluters simply stop polluting.

There are many causes of climate instability, but here in Aotearoa, emissions from industrial dairy are contributing most to more severe disasters. About half our climate-polluting greenhouse gasses are caused by the agriculture sector. A quarter of all our emissions are just from dairy cattle. 

Fonterra has been named New Zealand’s biggest polluter two years running. The dairy giant produced 16% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions, almost double that of the next biggest polluter Z Energy.

Over the next few weeks the Government will be making big decisions on the agri-industry’s climate emissions, drinking water policies, and their own party’s election manifesto. This is a difficult time for many. But it’s also a chance to influence our elected representatives so they make the right decisions to prevent the worst effects of climate change in the future. 

What’s the big deal with methane?

The industrial dairy sector is New Zealand’s single biggest source of climate pollution. In particular, dairy cows produce a lot of methane. What’s the big deal with methane? Methane and nitrous oxide emissions are 80 and 200 times worse at heating the climate than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period. 

Sadly, to date the Government has let Big Dairy off the hook for its climate emissions. The Government has left this sector outside the Emissions Trading Scheme (the ETS, which other industries are part of), so it doesn’t pay for its emissions and climate pollution.

This is at the same time other sectors pay through the ETS, and the public pay for the costs of Government inaction, sometimes with their lives. 

Government action

I’m sure you agree, New Zealand has an important role to play right now to take strong climate action. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions per person in the OECD. All emissions add up, and our combined countries’ emissions are causing the climate crisis. Especially as a wealthy, high-emitting nation we must not free ride on those countries who are doing more to avert the climate crisis. 

These devastating, disastrous storms must be the wake up call that prompts Government action. By reducing emissions from industrial dairy we can reverse the present trajectory which is leading to more intense floods, heatwaves and storms we see in New Zealand and across the world. 

To avert worse climate disasters, we need Government regulation of New Zealand’s worst climate polluters, Big Dairy. We need them to support a better farming model – more plant-based regenerative organic agriculture – ‘ecological’ farming. New Zealand can produce food in a way that keeps our water, land, and climate safe and healthy, working with, instead of against nature. No child should fear for their future disrupted by climate chaos. 

At Greenpeace we keep hope alive with action. You’re part of creating change – thousands have signed our call to the Government to massively reduce the climate harms of Big Dairy. When you’re talking about the climate crisis, and what we can do, will you also invite people to press the Government to take action?

PETITION: Cut climate emissions from Big Dairy

Join our call on the Government to go further than the Climate Commission’s inadequate recommendations and cut climate pollution from NZ’s biggest polluter: industrial dairying.

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