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Government’s Increase To Decarbonisation Fund A Disappointment

The Fossil Free State Sector Coalition, whose members represent tens of thousands of New Zealanders, is disappointed by the government’s announcement today of a limited increase in funding to the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund, which provides money for the state sector to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The coalition includes Parents for Climate Aotearoa, School Strike 4 Climate, NZEI Te Riu Roa, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council, and 350 Aotearoa. The coalition has been calling on the government to allocate funding in Budget 2021 to support all schools and state sector infrastructure to convert from fossil fuels to clean energy by 2025.

The government has announced $67.4 million to support the transition to a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025, with $41.8 for leasing low emissions vehicles and $19.5 million to the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund.

“The announcement from the government today reflects the Fossil Free State Sector coalition’s concern that the government hasn’t adequately assessed the scale of Aotearoa’s decarbonisation challenge and aligned this with budget commitments. The $19.5 million increase to the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund is entirely inadequate to decarbonise our communities at the pace and scale necessary to limit climate change impacts,” said Erica Finnie, Executive Director, 350 Aotearoa.

“If the $19.5 million funding increase is allocated entirely to decarbonising schools, in line with the government’s previous announcements this will fund the transition for approximately 35 schools from fossil fuel boilers. The Ministry of Education has estimated that 1150 schools are still burning fossil fuels, so the government needs to fund 288 schools per year over the next 4 years to achieve its own goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025,” said Finnie.

“Young people deserve a greater commitment from our government to take meaningful climate action, and removing the fossil fuel boilers from schools is a clear first step. It’s frustrating to see the government taking such small steps in its climate change response when we need transformative change to respond to the urgency of the climate crisis.” Alicia Hall, Co-Founder, Parents for Climate Aotearoa.

“In the past 2 years, school students have mobilised for climate action in their tens of thousands and included a demand of the government to phase out fossil fuels nationwide. The announcement from the government today is a missed opportunity to respond to our young people who are calling for climate justice,” said Hall.

The coalition has been pushing the government to prioritise full state sector decarbonisation since its election. It is collecting signatures on a letter directed to Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson calling for the government to prioritise decarbonising the state sector by allocating more money in the upcoming budget to transition all existing fossil fuel boilers in state sector buildings to renewably-sourced heating.

“We are pleased to see an initial $6 million directed towards boosting “capability” in decarbonisation. One of the issues our coalition has identified is that there is limited expertise in the transitioning from fossil fuel boilers to renewable energy in Aotearoa, and the government will need to invest further in growing this capability to make our 100% renewable energy future possible,” Tim Jones, spokesperson for Coal Action Network Aotearoa.

“Our coalition expects to see significant increases to the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund in the coming months. This is essential for the government to live up to its claim to prioritise climate change mitigation,” said Jones.

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