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Step up on climate change needed now

Media release
EMBARGOED TO : Monday 16 February 2015 at 5.30 pm

Step up on climate change needed now

The New Zealand Government and the world need to take much stronger action on climate change, a former prime minister and minister for the environment has urged.

Climate change is clearly occurring but it is not too late for people to turn the situation around, Sir Geoffrey Palmer told a public meeting at Victoria University of Wellington today. Determined action and an agreed long-term policy framework can make a difference.

The Government does not have a credible climate change policy, says Sir Geoffrey. “What we have now amounts to policy failure. New Zealand seems to have lost its mojo in looking after the environment generally. But to neglect climate change, the greatest issue of our age, is unacceptable. It is contrary to all our traditions as a progressive country.”

The scientific consensus on climate change is clear that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, snow and ice have diminished, sea levels have risen, and greenhouse gases have increased. It is easy to lose hope “but that is the wrong approach”, Sir Geoffrey told the meeting.

“We must not despair. We must hope and we must act. We must stop being threatened and rise to the challenge. Big changes to climate change policies everywhere are as necessary as they are inevitable.”


Such change would require much cooperation at all levels by Government , business, agriculture and individual behaviours, says Sir Geoffrey. A concerted effort around the world is required.

“We must offer something better than dystopian horrors to the next generations.”

International negotiations on climate change have been painfully slow and the lack of a legally binding commitment on emission targets is likely to lead to failure, he says.

Sir Geoffrey urged New Zealand to avoid political polarisation on the issue and for parties to work together to improve the law on climate change. Urgent attention was needed to reform the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Climate Change Response Act 2002.

“We know how to combat climate change: reduce the burning of fossil fuels, accelerate the development of alternative energy sources. If we are to keep the warming below 2 degrees we must leave two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. New Zealand must repair its defective law. The cure is straightforward.”

The need to transition to a low-carbon economy has been obvious for more than 20 years, he says, but “New Zealand decision-makers have not grasped the nettle”.

The weakness of the New Zealand emissions trading scheme is notorious, Sir Geoffrey says. Emissions have increased by 20 per cent since 1990 and are projected to continue to rise substantially.

“New Zealand needs a long-term consensus based policy agenda that produces a new legal pathway to deal effectively with those issues under New Zealand’s control.”

There are many ingredients to the transformative change that will be required- individual behaviours are important, leadership and “nudges” from government will matter. Most critical is an effective policy framework.

Economic growth and climate change action are not incompatible, he says. However, policy failures at both international and national levels are “a sad indictment on the incapacity of the peoples of the world to act in their own collective self-interest.”

The lack of leadership, and the limp global response so far is “lamentable”, says Sir Geoffrey. “A quantum leap forward in international governance is required.”

For more details, see the full speech attached here.
Climate_Change__Final_single_spaced.docx

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