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Near-Unanimous Call For Strong Emission Targets

Near-Unanimous Call From Dunedin For Strong Emissions Reduction Targets

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Dunedin, Friday 10th July: It was standing room only last night in Dunedin’s Clifford Skeggs Gallery, with about 250 Dunedinites from all walks of life braving the cold to have their voice heard during the Government’s public consultation on 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets.

Government representatives, including Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Nick Smith, and Minister for Climate Change (International Negotiations) Tim Groser, are visiting nine centres over the next two weeks, to gauge public opinion about what Emissions Reduction Targets the Government should take to the United Nations International Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. The Government will be making their decision in early August.

Many scientists are suggesting that December’s Summit is the world’s last opportunity to come to an agreement that would secure a safe climate future. Says Minister Smith “We do not underestimate how significant [this decision] is”. “The reason we’re having these public consultations is because the Government thinks this is a very important decision for New Zealand, and frankly, for the world.”

Ministers Smith and Groser gave a presentation outlining the science and policy options from the Government’s perspective, before opening the floor to the public. About 20 individuals were able to give three-minute long addresses before Chair Stephen Cairns closed the meeting.

The vast majority of these were focused on the need for the Government to commit to strong emissions reduction targets, based on the most recent science, to give the world a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

The meeting passed a motion that the Government should adopt an emissions reduction target of 40% (relative to 1990 levels) by 2020 – a motion that had near-unanimous support from an up-standing audience.

Many speakers explained that they were completely aware of the immensity of the challenge, and the extent of changes that would be necessary for New Zealand to reach this 40% by 2020 target, but that the Government would have their total support to make it happen. Said Nick Holmes of 350 Dunedin, “I and many others, are personally willing to dedicate every waking minute and every sleeping second to support you on this journey to a safe climate future.”

Ella Lawton, speaking on behalf of the Otago Polytechnic’s Centre for Sustainable Practice, suggested that strong emissions reduction targets should be viewed as a huge opportunity. “I emplore the current Government to act as sustainable practitioners - giving Kiwis a chance to turn the firghtening reality of climate change into an opportunity for future successes.”

Representatives from NGOs, the farming and forestry sectors, as well as from local government and tertiary education circles took the opportunity to air their views on the topic. A member of the farming community expressed his concern at the lack of awareness about the climate change issue, amongst his peers. “I would suggest that we have a major, major problem of perception, of understanding, of denial and of misinformation.”

A significant proportion of the audience identified themselves as under 35, and many speakers talked about the need for the Government to adopt strong emissions targets to prevent today’s young people from suffering significantly in the future. “As a young person I know that in my lifetime, all of these problems will become acute unless we take bold action now”, said Guy Ryan (23).

Environment Minister Nick Smith

Jinty MacTavish of Enviroschools, spoke of young people’s desire to co-create a 40% by 2020 future. “If you ask them, 40% isn’t something to be scared of, or shy away from. It’s not something that’s going to be negative for our nation. What I’m hearing around the country almost without exception is that our young people WANT this future”.

Minister Smith encouraged members of the public who had not had a chance to express their views, to take part in the upcoming online forum on the topic, and to write him a letter expressing their views (nick.smith@parliament.govt.nz) before the end of July.


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