A NZ government representative yesterday blamed Federated Farmers for not educating farmers about Climate Change. I was blown away by this latest responsibility dodge from our leaders.
New Zealand it seems is the last country in the world to have a large portion of our population who disregard the globally accepted science credulous or remain ignorant about the issue and how it will affect our country socially, economically and obviously environmentally. And the government don’t seem to mind even going to the lengths of vocally encouraging ridiculous skepticism in our media. Please don’t be fooled… we are one of the last countries in the world to endure this lack of understanding the science – seemingly only beaten by indigenous people who live areas untouched by media and communication.

COP15 has brought the world to a conference centre in Denmark and we have no shortage of countries to talk to about the New Zealand position. They are incredulous about a number of things. Our governments emission targets and balanced lack of support for global funds, lack of emphasis on climate change education including removing environmental education such as enviroschools, use of unjustified and unbalanced cost scare-tactics, government subsidised legislation to support fossil fuel searches, lack of policy on dealing with pacific climate migrants, determination to keep a gass-guzzling government vehicle fleets, increased funds for roading and decreased money to public transport… the list is endless. And we can’t answer their questions!

As I’ve blogged about already, many countries throughout the world have successfully introduced mitigation practices to reduce emissions while New Zealand’s reductions only include restricting innovation to the private sector, to small groups of businesses who remain unsupported by the government. For example there our Agriculture Researchers who are continually frustrated at the lack of political will to follow through on research showing our ability to reduce our methane emissions by 15% without a large change from business as usual. Don’t our farmers and the public deserve to know about this to avoid paying for unnecessary emissions?

Thus businesses who can see the potential of a Green Economy are struggling to survive even though they increasingly seem to have answers that would help bail our government out. Experts have tried to advise the government that turning 10% of unproductive farmland into forestry while compensating our farmers would offset our entire countries emissions and provide cash resources to farmers who are currently balancing on the brink following the global economic crisis. Don’t our farmers deserve to know about this? Don’t our public?

The rest of the world accept the science… so do the many New Zealanders that have joined the movements to lobby the government. The extreme green environmental groups in NZ are the normal people by comparison in the rest of the world. In the UK parliament every party falls over itself to be the one with the best stance on climate change – no deniers there.

The New Zealand Government used to take responsibility for educating the public about areas of important knowledge. Surely a crisis which carries such immense threats on all levels is enough of an issue to bring this back. The public deserve the opportunity to understand the basic physics and geography of this issue. They deserve answers and they deserve decent political leadership. Our farmers deserve the access to solutions the government know is possible.

We all deserve a future – the New Zealand Government need to start fighting for it.

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December 8, 2009

1st Day at COP15

Despite the jet lag and exhaustion from travelling, our delegation has made it to the city fast becoming the focus of the world over. Copenhagen is brimming, seemingly with people from every global nation and organisation. I found myself crammed to the side of a Metro carriage with a delegate from Guyana – South America, who is representing thousands who happily live self-sustainably without jobs or money under the forest canopy with no comprehension of the monstrosity of the current talks that concern their lands. Then after hours in line in the 2degree celcius cold we stood beside a cheery Australian negotiator retaking his photo pass for the scrupulous UN security. Coffees and sandwiches are consumed alongside some of the world’s most incredible people and you realise the strange consciousness of sharing the same spaces as these creatures we call delegates – those with the power to save the world or to watch it disintegrate in front of us.

It’s not all doom and gloom. The chances seem higher with each announcement. World leaders are changing plans to make sure they are here for the deal of deals – the treaty to replace all treaties.

Today I attended an inspiring talk by the Scandinavian countries who seem to blitz our efforts back home. While we argue about the amount of research we might put in, and whimper about the costs that might befall our companies, Sweden has reduced it’s emissions by 18.7% and increased it’s GDP by 40%. The Nordic countries had differing targets but a similar message about the opportunities to be found within climate protection strategies. All had dirty washing to air… but also remarkable success stories, which are only growing in their number. Changes from carbon-heavy vehicle fleets to bio-diesel driven and eco-friendly transport systems. Overhauls from fossil fuel derived energy and heating to nearly complete reliance on renewable energy sources and legislation to support companies to use better energy sources. Building codes changed to support all future houses becoming passive – without the requirement for heating. Meanwhile, given that these countries have viewed their obligations as opportunities, their economies haven’t suffered.

And New Zealand. How do we compare. I found myself wondering about what our governments could present to show our journey from the post-ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s. What indeed. Perhaps a smattering of research that needs years more work. Possibly the legislation that will allow the 15 electric cars we can import over the next 10 years to pay less Road User Charges. John Key’s bicycle lane maybe. National’s weakened support for biofuels possibly. Fair enough – the 180,000 insulated houses are a start. But while it’s a start at home, it’s nothing to laud about here.

How embarrassing. Facing people from the nations that are enduring droughts and floods, increasing threat of refugee status or worse death, it’s hard to hold our heads up high here.

We do need to be positive and we do need to be supportive of our government to make a call that is fair and just and necessary. But it’s difficult to swallow the disgust, the embarrassment and the shame.

Wgtn KiwiAnd that folks is how you do it.

You get enough people on your list, at your event and receiving your feeds and they will come. The recent national day of the action for the 350 group throughout NZ saw a variety of politicians who showed up to talk to the people… or at least be seen talking to the people.

I had to smile to myself noticing an MP shifting his party’s flags to make sure they could be seen in a particular photo shoot of which he was in the background. Classic. More genuine smiling was saved for the youth that signed our Spinnaker so beautifully. No sooner than we had unfurled it than the hordes swarmed around waiting for their opportunity to write their message to go to Copenhagen.

Youth signing the spinnaker

Sending a youth voice to COP 15

Bill McKibben one of the 350 group’s main organisers in the United States told a great story when he visited NZ. He described how the local political identity in his home town absolutely refused to make a particular move that the group were calling for. However, when their march attracted many thousands of people she met them at it’s culmination and unsurprisingly had suffered an epiphany, that maybe she should support this motion after all. Whaddya know. Maybe it was a lesson for her… not writing off a determined group so fast. Maybe it was a lesson for them… you get the numbers to get the politicians.

And that is what it will take… we need the numbers. The question is how to bypass the scare tactics perpetuated by the media regarding the cost of cutting back emissions. How to push the amazing examples of individuals and businesses that have cut back and saved money – not spent money. There are many unsung heroes of this war trying to do this, who will never be awarded a gold star, a gold watch or a gold cross. They tirelessly work as volunteers or for little pay trying to educate and empower.

Such groups are constantly doing what they can to catch the eye and ear of the political movements. In my optimism I believe the tide is turning. It is a matter of time before NZ catches up with many all over the world but that time is getting closer. With the blue-greens gathering numbers and greenish policies being taken up there is hope. Admittedly there’s other policies being dumped… but with social pressure mounting I hope this foolishness may abate.

Photos; Pooria Koleyni

Emissions reductions will affect most parts of our lives – personal, work, travel, holidays and more. This is why it’s so difficult for our government to point to a line in the sand and say ‘that one!’ On one hand we need to change how we live, that much is clear. Things speed up so fast that before we knew it NZ had gone from being careful consumers who repaired, reused, and recooked that leftover spud up in a shepherds pie the next day, to a throw away and buy-it-new-cause-it’s-cheaper nation of consumers. On the other hand that all led to industry and some of us made a whole lotta money. And change might cost money. That’s the weigh-off.

Your mum’s fridge and tv that lasted 25 years from their wedding day now might last 5 years. Things aren’t built the way they used to be, parts aren’t available, repair costs more these days and often older appliances became less economic to run. Everything came with more bells and whistles and faster and more colourful… and pamphlet after pamphlet came in the letter box with more specials. Credit cards became pretty easy to come by so we just put our purchases on that and as we all got more technical we had more access to advertising and lay-bys and higher purchase, interest free, 50% off, 24-hour internet sales and free posting, boxing day sales, midnight madness, red light specials and red-dot rippers. Christmas started in October and easter eggs by Waitangi Day. Pretty much got so busy it was all we could do to find time to get a meal in box and stick it in the microwave for dinner. Followed by an Aunty Betties dessert. The world had swept us off our feet, and our fast cheap cars zoomed us there quicker n quicker.

And I’m no angel. I’m on my MacBook Pro (conscience abating as Apple make great environmental moves), and god help me if I see a pretty green scarf in a window. But there are things we can do… Op Shopping is the only way I let myself buy unnecessary clothing, there’s plans for my vege-garden and I make sure I think consciously about where I can bike and walk to save the fuel. The recession has started something at grassroots that the government never could. We’ve had to start thinking a bit more. And we’ve started thinking about making jam, dusting off the Avanti and staying at home instead of eating out.

But it’s not always as easy – I don’t have a baby or children to feed, wash and entertain. I don’t own a Used-Car salesroom, I don’t work in a mine and I don’t own a Mercedes guzzler or have shares in Air New Zealand. So the government have to think about how the public will take their emissions target, how the private sector will respond, the foreign investers, the Barack’s and Gordon’s and Susilo’s and Tuilaepa’s.

In 1992 the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed ‘policies and measures to deal with climate change should… ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost. The International Emissions Trading scheme was drafted as a flexible mechanism to assist industrialised and non-industrialised countries to develop cleaner lifestyles. As forestry blocks are felled NZ will with little doubt fall well over Kyoto targets at the future markers. Unless there is the immediate facilitation of necessary changes they will need to purchase credits to do so and there is uncertainty around the price of these credits.

What’s not uncertain is that we need to think about the way we do things as a country. Which industries we should be supporting into the future, those that we need to shift sideways and perhaps those that need to be phased out or cut back drastically. Each globally economy has it’s challenges and ours is the agriculture sector. As one of biggest earners alongside tourism we need to protect and nurture this area carefully while we find the best way to proceed. As a country girl born and bred I’m well aware that there are deep divides between ‘suits’ and ‘cockies’. Methane from our farm animals makes up around half of NZ’s emissions and we need extensive research that needs to be started yesterday.

Bias as I may be, I highly recommend a read of the Green Party’s ‘Getting there’ document which details possible gains in several sectors including Electricity, Agriculture, Industrial Fuels, Transport and Forestry to name a few. It’s a modest report but one that importantly projects a saving of 36.2 million tonnes of reductions before 2020 at little to no cost – achieving 3/4 of our target. The Green’s are frustrated that the government have provided a perception that reducing emissions is hard and costly and doesn’t believe this approach stands up to scrutiny. It’s further frustrating that the government are wasting time and resources nitpicking this document to look for holes instead of adding there own information and careful consideration to best benefit the country. To be fair, I’ll provide a link on National’s stance on Climate Change and costs, and also reports from the Labour Party.

But let’s see what you want…? Feel free to send this far reaching through your social networks to see what will happen.

Please only vote once (the poll is designed that it will only allow you to do this anyway) but also please pass on to as many people as possible. This is a question that our government is very concerned with however it is hard to gauge the feeling of youth, especially those too young to vote!

Aren’t blogs funny things… we’re all in these categories of whether we’ve got enough time to read them or not… or write them or not. It’s hard to remember that some people don’t even have the internet when many of us are checking to see whether we’ve got the most up to date networks! It’s like trying to remember what it was like not being able to ride a bicycle!

Which is pretty relevant to Climate Change. Never have we been more connected and powerful as individuals. Connectivity is power… and historically the little man never had access. The loud and funny, the rich and ruthless, the musically talented and the politicians once held the sacred power – and people listened. Now it’s reasonably simple to amass hundreds of friends on any social networking site – hell even strangers will connect and accept ‘friendship’ or that kid from school who you’re pretty sure you didn’t hang out with. A simple political statement can reach thousands through social networking. WE need to save the world…  and guess what… WE have the tools. We have the technology – we are the last defense line that humanity has right now. The youth have the power to life their determinism, there optimism and commitment to turn this around.

The politicians have stopped listening.

They are busy. Money has become too important, lobbyists too loud, constituents too concerned. In July the New Zealand Government held talks in every major centre in New Zealand and asked the public what level of emission targets should we as country aim for. At every meeting the overwhelming majority stood for 30-40%. There was haka… there were questions… there were challenges and there was support. There were shining examples…  there were emotional pleas from every generation. However, it seemed that minds had been made up. They didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t listen to the public in their ‘democratic’ consultation meetings. Internationally New Zealand disclosed a plan to fall below a 10% emission target, well below the 40% minimum cuts advised by scientists. It shocked New Zealanders but it also shocked many nations, all the while reporting that it was well received overseas.

Our government, perhaps well-meaning, made their calls based on the cost to the individual Kiwi. They divided it into the thousands of dollars we each would end up paying, the effect of which painted the ‘Greenies’ and others as groups who wanted to ruin the economy and bankrupt everyone. This despite many offers from companies to show the government it could be done… despite the proof created by the Green Party that simple measures could achieve a 40% cut without much cost and presumably with a saving… despite a Green New Deal helping achieve this and creating thousands of jobs.

Is it turning their backs on democracy, is it that they know better than all the scientists in the world, or at the extreme was their heart ripped out in their 20s along with a quarter of their brain? This scenario would certainly account for a decision that will almost without a doubt sentence their children and grandchildren… and their unborn children to a miserable and unpredictable future.

But this is where we come in… enough New Zealanders understanding, staying positive, and supporting the government is the only way to send a worthy and just statement with them to COP 15. If every New Zealander emailed and advocated for their right to a future, blogged, facebooked, bebo’d and twittered their way to a National MP – we could help save the world. And it’s possible… If I didn’t believe so I wouldn’t spend my life dedicated to being a cog… that hopefully turns a couple of other cogs… which adds to the movement.

Don’t hate the government… help them to help themselves… show them the power of youth – the last line of defense.