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.

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