Six months ago, the Prime Minister declared a climate emergency in New Zealand. She said climate change was “one of the greatest challenges of our time”. “Our nuclear-free moment”, as she called it earlier.
So what has happened since then? Has anyone heard anything more coming out of the government about climate change?
I’ve heard a few things and they are well wide of the mark.
Air New Zealand, a majority government-owned airline with a near monopoly on domestic air travel, is now advertising on the TV again. Air travel is one of the most emission-heavy forms of travel in New Zealand and world-wide. Does it make sense to be promoting it? It seems like the ‘climate change’ equivalent to advertisements promoting smoking.
And, then there is the seemingly pointless public service advert from EECA, the government’s Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority, under its “Gen Less” campaign. Here’s this chap, abandoning a climate protest to tell us, “Why give up the things we love to save the world, when we could have the exact same effect by giving up the things we don’t love?”. Who is he kidding?
We are all going to need to make sacrifices in adapting to a low-carbon lifestyle. That’s what happens when there is an emergency. People sacrificed in the Second World War and they sacrificed during the Covid pandemic. We are all going to need to make changes and not all of them will be to our liking.
And, who in this modern world doesn’t “give up the things we don’t love” as a matter of daily life? The whole point of ‘just say no to wasted energy’ is vague and silly. Who consciously wastes energy? What this advert appears to really promote is ‘business as usual’. And, in a subtle way, for the futility of climate protests!
If EECA were really serious about climate change, it would be telling people how to conserve electricity so that Genesis can stop burning coal at the Huntly power station.
The government has been very good in its messaging about the emergency measures needed to address the Covid pandemic. The adverts have been clear, consistent and based upon solid scientific advice. With the exception of a few grandstanding politicians, the “team of five million” largely followed those directives, sacrificing freedoms but leading to the successful elimination of the virus and a return normal everyday life.
We face a similar threat from climate change, if not necessarily to ourselves, certainly to our children and generations of Kiwis to come. We’ve listened to the science community as they’ve guided us through Covid. Likewise, we must listen to the scientists who are telling us that climate change is serious and emissions reductions should have started yesterday. We are running out of time to address this problem!
So, where are the government adverts reinforcing the simple things that we can do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?
So far, what we’ve heard is, “fly more”, with more travel being one of the reasons we are in this climate emergency in the first place. And then there is the guy telling us to stop wasting energy (and stop protesting about climate change).
To be charitable, perhaps it is a matter of the government’s left hand, represented by the various department mandarins and CEOs of the state owned enterprises, not knowing what the right hand –Parliament, is actually saying.
Still, after 6 months, we are stuck with the uncomfortable feeling that this government is not serious about its declared climate emergency. How are people to believe there is a climate emergency when the little messaging we hear from government so far has been so contradictory and muddled?
The Blog posts are a collection of opinion articles written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim.