2022 Budget Policy Statement – Submission.
We have become aware of the critical urgency to step back from our privileged status and self-entitlement and for our generation and our children’s generation to curb our greed for comfort, control and power in favour of respecting and responding to the urgent need for wellbeing of our planet and its biodiversity, of which we are a part, but just a part.
We humans can be smart, inventive and adaptive, but that counts for little if we simply take for granted that we can exploit the abundance provided for us by the natural world without making any return. The world has its limits and we are there.
From now on, we expect the current government to work within those limits, acknowledging them in detail and, with clear explanation, dedicating adequate finance to enabling us to stop and, if possible, reverse our human contributions in Aotearoa to climate disruption and environmental pollution.
Although I would like to see this coming out of due reverence for our planet and its biodiversity, it certainly would be in our own self-interest, as our wellbeing depends entirely on the Earth’s wellbeing, whatever may be our technological smarts!
A good starting-place would be for the government to deliver with urgency on its commitments in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 2021 COP26.
2. Budget Frameworks.
We support the government’s wellbeing priorities, including taking an intergenerational approach and looking beyond simple economic measures of success and so-called ‘progress’.
We support the use of the Living Standards Framework, including improving on it.
We support the development of He Ara Waiora.
We support consideration given to distributional impacts of policies on different populations and the environment.
We support the explanation of moral values, not just economic values, underlying such considerations.
This government has not shied off moral considerations in furthering its policies, for instance with regard to terrorism and response to the Coronavirus pandemic. By ‘moral’ we allude to values or principles that matter most to people, not just to their pocket or their comfort.
3. A Just Transition.
Here is where moral values, not just economic, must be explicated. Doing justice requires the practice of equality, not just the pursuit of equity.
Climate change, the pandemic and the housing crisis are 3 of our most pressing immediate and long-term challenges and all of them have impacted unequally racially, intergenerationally, on women, on indigenous peoples and on non-industrialised countries, with increasing impoverishment amongst those most affected.
We submit that the Budget Policy Statement requires an additional priority: Reducing economic inequality.
This would align with the other priorities but would highlight a theme common to them all. It would also align with the Living Standards Framework, He Ara Waiora and Fonofale.
Further, Equality and Justice would align with moral values, such as Kindness and Teamwork, already espoused by the current government in dealing with our challenges.
In that regard, We submit that the Budget Policy Statement should allocate ongoing funding specifically to Equality for Women: this would have direct impact on Physical and Mental Wellbeing, Child (and Family) Wellbeing and the Wellbeing of Māori and Pacific peoples.
4. Implementation Funding:
A Just Transition requires that implementation funding be specified, otherwise processes will be set up unjustly to fail. Funding needs to be allocated to support a genuine and ongoing process of engagement with workers in their unions, with volunteer groups in their communities, and with Māori iwi and hapū and Pacifika communities in the time needed to fulfil such processes. For a Just Transition to occur, these engagements must happen first.
In allocating funding and resources, particularly in vulnerable communities, it is important that the government does not simply take a deficit – ‘we’re helping you/lifting you up’ - approach, but adopts an approach that is prepared to listen and respond appropriately – ‘help us understand what it is you need from us to promote your strengths and skills/lift us up’.
We expect funding will honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi through equal and equitable partnership with Māori in all decision-making, be grounded in Kaupapa Māori and uphold indigenous rights, as stated through He Ara Waiora.
5. Other Submissions:
We are in full support of the submissions, each made from their own areas of focus, by 350 Aotearoa; Greenpeace; Fossil Free State Sector Coalition; Coal Action Network Aotearoa; NZEI Te Riu Roa – Teachers’ Union.
6. State Sector Decarbonisation:
We feel strongly that the government should increase funding for the Clean Powered State Sector Fund, to help decarbonise schools, hospitals and other state facilities. This is an easy way for the government to reduce emissions and show leadership in decarbonising infrastructure.
Within this same theme, we strongly encourage the new budget to increase funding for the GIDI scheme to help decarbonise industry and to increase funding to community and household energy generation and conservation projects.
7. Regenerative Farming:
Similarly, we strongly endorse the suggestion by other submitters that the government fund a scheme to facilitate the transition to regenerative farming practices. Regenerative farming has the potential to reduce herd sizes, to accommodate the government’s methane emissions reduction goals, as well as reduce nitrogen pollution to our rivers, all without reducing farmer income. The government should support farmers who decide to switch to regenerative and organic farming practices.
8. Environmental Education:
In particular, we would like to add to the submission from NZEI Te Riu Roa about the importance of holistic education about the environmental crisis.
It is important that the government explicitly recognises and funds its own responsibility and leadership role in informing and educating both the public generally and specific population groups, not just about the thinking behind its policies but about how these policies may play out in terms of such issues as justice and equality.
For instance, one issue that is not addressed, except indirectly, in any of the submissions named above is the central importance for us all to consume less energy overall, not just in order to reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants but also because alternative energy sources are not adequate to make up the difference arising from reduced fossil fuel extraction and because it will demand energy to build the infrastructure for alternative energy sources.
So, if we are all to consume less, how just can that be for groups, both within NZ and in those parts of the Pacific where NZ has influence, who have had little or no access to sources of energy to help reduce the effects of poverty and to bring equality with those who have?
Another issue concerns the Wellbeing priority of the Future of Work, “enabling all New Zealanders and NZ businesses to benefit from new technologies and lift productivity and wages through innovation”. The allure of “new technologies” may encourage people to carry on denying the immediacy of the problem of climate change with the illusion that we will fix all such problems with ingenuity, e.g. alternative fuels such as hydrogen and biofuels. Without diminishing the value of innovation in either mitigating or adapting to climate change and whilst encouraging innovative initiatives, the government needs to encourage wide debate at all ages and in all situations about the pros and cons of different proposed solutions or contributions. This is not just for the public’s understanding, but for its own understanding.
One of the clear messages of scientific research, of increasingly violent weather vagaries and of our continuing failure to adequately reduce global warming, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation is that we can’t afford to keep on going as we have done without drastic consequences for the planet and planetary life, including ourselves. We do need to think or do things differently.
We have to say that we have seen little evidence of new thinking in any government initiatives so far, including in what we have read in the Budget Policy Statement.
Come on! Buck up! We’re in a Climate Emergency – you’ve said it yourselves. You’ve done a good job overall in response to Covid. But Covid is really only a symptom of the underlying disorder: planetary life under stress.
You’ve done plenty homework – it’s time for decisive action. The consequences will not be worse than those of continuing inaction.
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