It’s the greatest challenge of our time and also a huge opportunity. Climate change is not merely an ‘environmental’ issue. It’s an existential threat to all aspects of our society and way of life. Acting now is a moral choice we must make as a nation, in order to be part of this global challenge. And we need an all-of-government and all-of-society approach to tackle it.
As the greatest threat to human health, responding to climate change should be the central pillar of any social and economic strategy. By closing the doors on dirty energy and polluting agriculture we can compel innovations that will herald an invigorated and more just economy, and a cleaner, better, more resilient way of living on this earth.
Here are 11 essential actions that all parties should commit to for a stable climate future:
1.) Keep it in the ground: The science tells us we can’t afford to burn most of the fossil fuel reserves we know about, let alone search for more, if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. Stop mining and exploring for new oil, gas, and coal. By doing this we will also avoid the risk of a disastrous deep sea oil spill, and the toxic and destructive legacy of fracking and coal mining.
2.) Stop burning coal: It’s the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet! We need to phase out Fonterra’s coal burning for milk dehydration. Instead of burning more coal for electricity, as Genesis Energy currently is, decommission Huntly power station by 2020, and implement a just transition plan for the township and workers.
3.) No new build fossil fuel plants: There are consented wind farms ready to go, yet we’re building new gas-fired power plants. Ban all new thermal build and instead invest in renewables.
4.) Embrace the solar revolution and liberate the grid! There is a solar revolution happening everywhere but New Zealand, and solar is fast becoming the cheapest form of energy on the market. Here, the big utilities and lines companies are stalling solar, but there are great projects in places like New York State that we could use as an example. Support investment in solar and facilitate transition to a modern, smart electricity grid that benefits everyone.
5.) 100% fossil free electricity: Stimulate world-leading innovation and make our already renewable-rich nation a global model by setting the goal of New Zealand having a 100% fossil free grid by 2025. This must become a specific mission of the Electricity Authority, and generators, retailers, and lines companies.
6.) Bring agriculture into the ETS: Agriculture is our single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and dairy makes up half of those emissions. Why should the rest of the country subsidise the massive pollution footprint of agriculture, and particularly the dairy industry? Any fair and credible carbon price scheme must include our biggest emitter.
7.) Reduce cow numbers: As well as bringing agriculture into the ETS, it’s a fact that we have too many cows. The quickest way to reduce emissions (and as a bonus, help clean up our rivers) is to substantially reduce the dairy herd. Put a per-hectare restriction on cow numbers and embrace the exciting opportunities in regenerative agriculture by supporting farmers transition to non-polluting forms of agriculture and agroforestry.
8.) Rail rail rail! It’s a no-brainer for any transport strategy to invest in electric rail for public transport and cargo, such as the Regional Rapid Rail proposal. It’s cleaner, more efficient, cheaper, and helps liberate our nation from the dirty automobile. Stop spending billions on roads – spend it on rail!
9.) Permanent biodiverse forests: Put a proper price on carbon and introduce further incentives to plant permanent indigenous forests rather than simply pinus radiata. This will have great climate and biodiversity impacts. Plant, plant, plant!
10.) Pro-Pacifica climate migration policy: Recognise the Pacific as ground-zero for climate change impacts and develop strategies for welcoming Pacifica migrants. Advocate for climate refugees from all nations to be recognised at the UN under the Refugee Convention.
11.) Climate Commission: Set up a Commission to formulate legally binding emissions targets and pass a Zero Carbon Act, such as that proposed by Generation Zero. However, this should not be an alternative to doing all the other things, and pronto!