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A Landmark Day In NZ’s Climate Change Commitment

Sunday, January 31, must be seen as a red-letter day in New Zealand’s climate change history. Much is being speculated and anticipated about the work of the new Climate Change Commission.

At 2pm on Sunday, He Pou A Rangi Climate Change Commission will release its draft advice to government, on how to dramatically and substantially improve our nation’s approach to becoming more sustainable.

The chair of the commission, Dr Rod Carr, was the vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury before, during and after the Christchurch earthquakes from 2009 to 2019.

He is a director on the ASB Bank board, has been a chairman of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and the National Infrastructure Advisory Board, a director of the Lyttelton Port Company, Taranaki Investment Management Ltd and Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce.

Dr Carr, let’s call him Rod, has been legally blind since he was born. He has one tenth sight of most people. He has run 23 marathons, including in the Arctic and the Antarctic and has five university degrees.

On Sunday, the commission he chairs will release climate change emissions budgets to support New Zealand meeting its domestic emissions targets aimed at achieving 10 per cent reduction in biogenic methane emissions by 2030 and a 24 to 47 per cent reduction in biogenic methane by 2050 and net-zero all other emissions by 2050.

Rod wants greater action on climate by New Zealand.

His family has a bach at Waihi beach in the Coromandel; built in the 1960s. By all accounts it’s a modest affair. One row back from the beach. In forward planning for the impact of climate change some years ago the local council prohibited the building of new permanent structures on the back of his and all the neighbours sections, the site of a future road if beach front erosion takes its toll. Climate adaptation is real. Rocks placed on the foreshore are the last line of defence, then its retreat by all accounts.

He walked up and down the beach there over the last four weeks, about 230km in total: no doubt pondering our climate future.

In the middle of the summer holiday his aunt died and he flew down to the funeral in Christchurch.The carbon footprint was not good; but it was love miles; which is okay for special family occasions.

Rod and his wife Jenny currently share their Christchurch home with their kids and three grandkids. Just before Christmas they installed 32 solar panels with the potential of generating 12kw of power. The monthly power bill in a big house with four adults and three kids was $700 a month; with solar panels it has come down to $170 a month. There’s enough power to run the house, charge the second-hand Nissan Leaf and feed some power to the grid. For those who can afford to, it may now pay to do their bit to build renewable energy at home. It’s not for everyone.

Rod has said that New Zealand needs to move fast; no emissions reduction is too soon. No emissions reduction is too small.

Kiwis need to consider what they buy and how it impacts the planet. Reduce, reuse, recycle - we can go to the opp shop for clothes and presents. It’s worth remembering that every time we buy something we are voting for that product or service to be produced again. Walk, bike or take a bus sometimes, work from home, share a ride. What each of us can do can make a difference. But we also need there to be safe cycleways, frequent buses, flexible employers, appropriate product labelling and much more.

Each of us has a responsibility to understand what is going on with the climate and to advocate for changes that will lead to a low emissions future.

Rod encourages Kiwis to elect and support local and central government leaders who are prepared to make the tough choices with us and for our children and grandchildren.

It’s not about rural or urban emissions. It’s not about being better or worse than others. It’s not about justifying our emissions because we are small, or because of what we choose to produce. The world needs to find low or no emissions ways of feeding ourselves, keeping ourselves dry and warm or cool, keeping healthy and getting around. New Zealand needs to decide what we want to be known for. Where on the spectrum do we want to stand between doing ‘as little as we think we can get away with’ and doing ‘as much as we should do’ to make the world a cleaner, greener, healthier and more sustainable place? This year we will take a stand. Rod hopes it’s one his grandchildren will be proud of. 

– Kip Brook, Make Lemonade

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