Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment makes a last plea to the government to act on climate change

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), Dr. Jan Wright, is about to retire, and is concerned that the New Zealand government has no clear pathway for action on climate change. Her final report is one in which she recommends a structure to make and monitor decisions on NZ’s emissions.

The report is called Stepping stones to Paris and beyond: Climate change, progress, and predictability and was published in July 2017. It can be read here: http://www.pce.parliament.nz/media/1714/stepping-stones-final-web.pdf  It is 38 pages long, clearly written and accessible to non-experts.

Dr. Wright points out that the UK has passed a Climate Change Act, with overwhelming cross-party support. This incorporated emissions reduction targets in law and set up an effective process for meeting them. The UK has lowered emissions by 38% while NZ’s emissions have increased by 64% on 1990 levels. Dr. Wright believes we can learn from the UK’s success.

She leaves us with five recommendations:

  1. Target. Develop a Climate Change Transition Bill with a target for emissions reductions within a defined time.
  2. Carbon budgets set ahead for successive five year periods to reach the target.
  3. Policies. The Minister for Climate Change sets policies according to the carbon budgets, including carbon pricing.
  4. Climate Change Commission: an independent body of experts to advise government on target, carbon budgets and policies.
  5. Impacts and Adaptation. The Minister for Climate Change publishes five-yearly reports on the impacts and risks in NZ due to climate change, and directs an Adaptation Working Group on policies to reduce impacts and risks.

It is important that the Climate Change Commission, the target and the carbon budgets remain as much as possible outside a party political process, and achieve some degree of cross-party consensus, while policies to achieve budgets and target are within the political process. Businesses require a degree of certainty to plan ahead.

In this report the PCE has validated and strengthened the goals of at least three of NZ’s climate change NGOs.

  • Our Climate Declaration says, ‘Establish a Climate Commission to set a binding carbon budget and develop a plan to meet it’.
  • Wise Response has brought together twenty social and environmental organisations to endorse a Climate Consensus Coalition Aotearoa with essentially the same recommendations as in the PCE report. Further organizational support is welcomed.
  • Generation Zero had published a draft Zero Carbon Act, also with essentially the same recommendations. They need and deserve support. Sign their petition at https://zerocarbonact.nz/

 

Besides adding to the number signing the Zero Carbon Act petition, is there anything else we can do to push forward this positive agenda?

First, an unfortunate negative note: within hours of its release, Minister for Climate Change, Paula Bennett, had rejected the PCE’s report on a legislated structure for climate change in Aotearoa. This is not acceptable.

 

  • What can we do about this?  Let me insert a quick reminder of the particular niche occupied by Our Climate Declaration – we’re focussed on direct action to reduce emissions in the organisations in our own lifespaces , the places we work, learn, play and worship. We aim to thus change the social mandate of the government so it has to act. Only when govt sees large numbers of communities taking their own action on climate is it likely to take action itself, on the things only govts can do.

Other climate organisations are more directly focussed on changing the government’s handling of the issue now. We’re complementary. We want to help each other as much as possible. So, if you have time, write to the minister on this, but if you don’t have time for both, we hope you’ll focus on working with the people immediately around you on their climate action.

So what’s to be done on this issue? Write to Paula Bennett, the Minister for Climate Change, telling her you endorse the PCE’s five recommendations, and asking her what she is doing about these recommendations. Contact Paula Bennett at:

Postal address: Free Post, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, 6160.

Email: p.bennett@ministers.govt