Our Climate Declaration Aotearoa New Zealand owes its existence to Jeanette Fitzsimons (1945-2020), former New Zealand Green Party co-leader and MP.
Jeanette understood the causes and implications of the climate crisis at their most profound. Her deep scepticism of the political process – the result of 14 years in Parliament and the lack of action by the government after the 2015 Paris Agreement - led her to believe that actions to begin this transformation needed to come from society’s grass roots.
She foresaw a groundswell of actions from communities across the country forcing the government to respond and begin enacting the changes that lead away from fossil fuel dependence. She wrote “We need people to take action on climate change in their homes, workplaces, churches, learning institutions to finally push our government to take the necessary action.”
With no sign of a government plan, Jeanette brought together a cluster of activists who included people from NGOs and unions, in early 2016 to develop the kaupapa for this initiative. The group worked on early drafts over the next year. Significant influences on the content were:
- a focus on the intrinsic values of caring for people and the environment
- replacing economic growth with the no-growth Economy of Enough
- consultation with parallel efforts in other parts of the world, such as the LEAP Manifesto in Canada
- consultation with iwi climate change leaders.
By early 2017 the wording and the title, Our Climate Declaration, were agreed. It is not a petition to the government. It is a declaration of commitment to what needs to be done - a programme of action to which every individual can contribute. The initial impetus was to develop a set of Climate Action Plans which would provide a blueprint for people in their communities to work towards a climate-safe future. Workshops with local climate action groups were held in centres including Tauranga, Rotorua, Motueka, Thames and Wanaka. More than 3000 people signed the Declaration.
Over time, people’s energies and awareness have led to the widespread formation other groups in professions and communities and to the passing of the Zero Carbon Act in 2020. Thus the political environment in which we operate has changed. Our Climate Declaration’s key roles now are to disseminate up-to-date information on how our energy needs of the future will be met and to promote a no-growth system of economics that keeps us within planetary boundaries.
We also act as a watchdog on government policies, monitoring their effects on our carbon-free future and ensuring that the transition society is undergoing is based on “economic fairness, democracy, respect for human rights and the intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
Our website has links to the series of webinars we run on these issues.
Our Climate Declaration has established the annual Jeanette Fitzsimons Climate Action Grants which awards funding to young people for innovative projects which promote or implement the values which Jeanette believed in and which are reflected in the Declaration’s goals.
People who worked on the text of Our Climate Declaration: Pat Baskett, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Amanda Larsson, Catherine Murupaenga-Iken, Rosemary Penwarden, Joanna Santa Barbara, Dayle Takitimu and Kristin Gillies.
“Our Climate Declaration” is an incorporated society. Some of those initial participants have moved on while several more have joined and helped establish the society as the energetic, visionary force for change it was designed to be. The core group of eight, who take responsibility for the daily running of the organisation, comprise some of the above, along with a small team of other helpers. We come from a range of backgrounds – rural and urban – and the skills we bring to this immense task are multiple.
We believe that climate change poses a powerful challenge to all aspects of our lives: to our feeling of freedom, to how we feed ourselves, to how we move about, to how we keep ourselves and other creatures safe. We invite your participation in this critical endeavour.