Who Started This?

How and why we wrote Our Climate Declaration

When the people lead, the leaders will follow. (Gandhi)

In December 2015, the nations of the world signed the Paris Agreement in response to the looming dangers of climate change. No, it wouldn’t keep us under the 1.5 degree or even the 2 degree boundary. But it was a start. The many New Zealanders deeply concerned about climate change had railed against  NZ’s inadequate targets, but acknowledged that we could at least move forward from there. We were troubled that no plan to accomplish the targets had appeared as we went into the Paris talks, and waited eagerly for it to appear…and waited…..and waited.

The climate change NGOs, Greenpeace, 350.org, CANA, Generation Zero, Forest and Bird plus others and local groups were working hard on the issue, but there was no sign of a government plan. Some activists throughout Aotearoa began to conclude that in the absence of leadership from the government, we needed to appeal to the people to lead. Indeed, governments dare not take action until they have a strong mandate from the people to counter the lobbying of industry. We needed people to take action on climate change in their homes, workplaces, churches, learning institutions to finally push our government to take the necessary action.

A cluster of these activists came together in early 2016 to develop the kaupapa for this initiative. This group comprised people from NGOs, unions and local climate change groups. They brought a great depth of experience to the endeavour. The group worked with early drafts of intent over the next year. Significant influences on the content were:

  • a focus on the intrinsic values of caring for people and the environment
  • 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 there was agreed wording and strategies of dissemination. It was very clear that this is not a petition to the government. This is a declaration of what needs to be done, a programme of action to which every individual can contribute. It was agreed that it was necessary to go well beyond individual action to collective action by the institutions of civil society. Climate Action Plans can be developed by people in their groups for work, play, learning and worship. Eventually, the momentum of the movement will demand a Climate Action Plan from the government that is fit for purpose. We believe that the achievement of a stable climate is a paramount task for the whole of society – individuals, families, people in their social groups, and government. Together we can do it.

People in the original consultation group: Pat Baskett, Gary Cranston, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Kristin Gillies, Amanda Larsson, Niamh O’Flynn, Rosemary Penwarden,  Joanna Santa Barbara, Conor Twyford.

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 now 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.

Those who signed the document of incorporation in April 2017 are:

Ralph Adler – Dunedin Pat Baskett – Auckland
Paul Bruce – Wellington Siana Fitzjohn – Dunedin
Jeanette Fitzsimons – Thames Charlie Montague - Dunedin
Niamh O’Flynn - Auckland Harry Parke – Thames
Rosemary Penwarden – Waitati Joanna Santa Barbara – Motueka
Denis Tegg – Thames Torfrida Wainwright – Christchurch
Jill Whitmore – Auckland  

 Joanna Santa Barbara is interim chair and spokesperson and Paul Bruce interim treasurer until we have an AGM and vote on these positions.

Our core group of nine, 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 warm or cool. Resolving these issues will entail changes to our behaviour, both as individuals and as members of a functioning society.

We hope this Declaration will provide reinforcement and stimulation for the steps you take towards a better future.