My submission to He Pou a Rangi Climate Change Commission's draft advice in Aotearoa New Zealand

in #climate3 years ago

He Pou a Rangi Climate Change Commission Aotearoa New Zealand is consulting with the public on their first package of advice to the government to help us transition to a thriving, climate-resilient and low emissions future. I feel very fortunate to live in a country where I can add my voice to the matters I deeply care about. As a climate activists, I naturally care about Papatūānuku Mother Earth.

Consultation is open until March 28. You can find the link here.

Please note throughout my post I'll use words in Te Reo Māori (the language of Aotearoa's indigenous people and one of New Zealand's official languages). This is my little bit of paying respect to tangata whenua the people of the land. I will add a glossary in the comments.

Part ONE
The one big thing I care about!

I recently watched HOT AIR, the 2013 New Zealand documentary telling ‘the story of twenty years of political struggle between politicians, scientists and activists wanting to reduce New Zealand's emissions, and corporate leaders and their lobbyists working to protect profits and commercial advantage.’ - (Beamafilm film synopsis). As a tauiwi, I felt I needed some extra preparation for my submission.

To summarise my catch-up on Aotearoa’s Climate Change history, I would like to quote Adam Currie when he says his opinion piece in the Spinoff: ‘The history of climate policy is a history of weak, missed or misleading targets.’

In the past 30 years, we’ve been here before countless times while our emissions continue to accelerate. I strongly believe we need to move the conversation of climate change beyond the What, namely the targets towards the How, the impact it has on our communities and whānau. By sharing solutions and telling local adoption stories, climate change can be made accessible to everyone living in our beautiful motu. I see a mandate here for government but also in particular for He Pou a Rangi to engage in new collaborative ways with every member of our society.

We can only anticipate how ‘the world’ will unfold, but one thing is for sure: the scale, scope and complexity of the economic and social transformation to come will be such that no one player – government, business, civil society or academia – will be able to manage alone. We are going to need collaboration that brings all players together if we are to overcome the challenges ahead of us. Under no circumstances can we afford that history repeats itself, therefore we need to be as bold and ambitious as we can get and dare to do things differently. More to that when I answer the questions in section II.

I am extremely excited about the advice for a Citizens’ Assembly for Climate Change. As recognised by the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #17, we need new forms of collaboration to combat the multiple crises we are facing. Beyond fighting the symptoms, there is an urgent need for approaches that address root causes. We can only solve a problem like climate change with deep-rooted and widespread public consent, and human-centered national, regional and local conversations about the unprecedented transition that needs to happen.

Done properly, Aotearoa has an incredible opportunity to enrich and enhance political decision making and improve our well being by deeply valuing whakarongo. Public dialogue needs to be through deliberation, attuned to nature and society needs, rather than forcing people into a binary decision.

As your draft advice shows our transition to a low carbon economy involves every member of society. While I tautoko the recommendation for a Citizens’ Assembly for Climate Change, I would like to go a step further and suggest a Society’s Assembly for Climate Change to facilitate true meaningful collaboration and the much needed transparency this crisis needs. Collectively, we need to change how we house, feed and provide for our families. This includes climate accountability and solution adoption on national, regional and local level from business, government and people alike. This conversation needs to be solution-driven, centered around the well-being of every member in our communities and Papatūānuku. It needs to go beyond a consultation asking for people’s views, the Society’s Assembly for Climate Change will need to produce concrete, structural measures to guide the transition.

Collectively, we need to recognise that a prosperous economy, a thriving society and a healthy environment are interconnected. A crucial focus here is the need for government to restore the mana of the land. This means including tangata whenua and Māori leadership in all climate and environmental strategies, and centering Mātauranga Maori at the heart of our response to climate, ecological and social crisis. Indigenous knowledge systems are of utmost value in our transition. These are nature-based and they honour the complex interdependence of all life forms.

This is why I ask you to integrate the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi throughout the policy recommendations instead of using the Treaty Principles.

Systemic oppression has made disabled people and disabled communities vulnerable to climate change. They are leaders and innovators who have valuable climate solutions that will help everyone through the climate crisis. Ask yourself what happens if you put the person with lived experience as the leader, you will change the power balance by changing the dynamics of a conversation towards their terms. When we create disability responsive solutions, all people benefit.

To fully understand the intergenerational impacts of this proposed climate plan, the Commission must undertake meaningful youth engagement programmes. Future generations will have to live with the policies proposed in this report and their consequences. They deserve a seat at the table.

As an independent body, I see He Pou a Rangi in the role to facilitate this new form of collaborative engagement as well as to provide resources that are developed following a human-centered design approach to educate society and encourage discussion about climate change and our transition to an Aotearoa with climate justice at its heart. Climate education is core and centre here, so that each community and sector can confidently and knowledgeably transition to more sustainable practices, and so younger generations have the knowledge and are empowered to fight for climate justice.

The submission guide from the collective of youth organisations puts it well: “Climate justice must create and foster the solidarity and equity needed to stand up for a liveable planet and fairer society.”

Part TWO
Six questions to answer!

1. Do you agree that the emissions budgets we have proposed would put Aotearoa on course to meet the 2050 emissions targets?

I do not agree. The report is not delivering on climate minister James Shaw’s promise, who stated in a press release “the commission will provide recommendations on how best to align our international targets with the Paris temperature goal”. The IPCC urges us to approach emissions reductions with deep cuts starting immediately. The government’s response to the commission’s advice only being due in November, is just one of many examples of timelines that are too far in the future. While we spend a year arguing about targets, the climate crisis accelerates. Your proposed approach is not ambitious enough and it needs to adjust timelines dramatically to address the climate emergency that has been declared by the government.

We need to take into account the commitment to global equity and our obligations as a developed nation. The outlined approach isn’t ambitious enough to fulfill our commitment. The report needs to emphasize greater action towards the first two budgets for meaningful alignment with IPCC’s 2030 pathways for 1.5 degrees. The earlier we start implementing climate action the less disruption we can expect for nature and society alike.

This involves all members of our society, including Aotearoa’s farmers. As a collective, we need to aim for the most ambitious climate plan. Farmers are a vital part of our collective, and we need to enable farmers to reduce their agricultural climate pollution starting immediately. Agriculture corporations, lobby and government need to shift their resources towards enabling farmers to adopt solutions that respect our planetary boundaries and help nature to regenerate and heal. The knowledge and solutions are available in Aotearoa; they have to be amplified for a fast transition. We are in desperate need to move the conversation with farmers towards a pragmatic solution implementation, this can be done by looking at reward based mechanisms that could incentivize farmers who reduce emissions by transitioning. As mentioned in Part One we can no longer discuss the What, we need to focus on the How.

2. Do you agree we have struck a fair balance between requiring the current generation to take action, and leaving future generations to do more work to meet the 2050 target and beyond?

I disagree. Following on from my previous answer, by addressing the first two emissions budgets not adequately, we will inevitably put an unfair burden on future generations compared to greater cuts this decade. The burden our tamariki and rangatahi have to carry is already big.

Caroline Hickman, University of Bath climate psychologist says it as clearly as it is: “Broken promises and inaction coupled with the enormity of the climate crisis are all beginning to take their toll on children’s mental health.” Previous international studies have found that 45% of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. It is our collective responsibility to reduce the toll on future generation’s mental health now and in the future. We can do this by bringing more government direct investment in emissions reductions forward. In doing so the burden of reductions will be shared more equitably, while also contributing to our 1.5 degree pathway.

Our actions need to start now to ensure a safe and positive climate future that includes structurally oppressed communities. Again their voices and lived experiences are crucial for a Just Transition towards an accessible society.

“A wide-reaching report like this needs to activate people’s intrinsic values and focus on the kind of future we want to live in.” ~ Adam Currie

3. Do you agree with the changes we have suggested to make the NDC compatible with the 1.5°C goal?

We are indeed not doing enough to limit warming to 1.5C. Aotearoa is far away from making our NDC compatible and I am afraid the changes you are suggesting are not ambitious enough. The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) projects our emissions are “insufficient” to meet our 2030 target under pessimistic economic assumptions due to COVID-19. NDCs with a rating ‘insufficient’ are in the least stringent part of a country’s ‘fair share’ range and not consistent with holding warming below 2 degrees let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5 degree limit.” It goes on and states that “if all government NDCs were in this range, warming would reach over 2 degree and up to 3 degree.” We surely can do better than this and it starts with giving clear and ambitious advice to ensure a just transition for us and for our neighbours.

While I understand it is not your position to set targets, it is however your responsibility to advise the government on more ambitious targets along with a budget and clear policy advice on how we can achieve Aotearoa’s ‘faire share’ 2030 target in our NDC. A target that reflects our outsized carbon footprint and historic responsibility for causing climate change. A fair share target can only work with climate reparation in the form of climate finance to support communities on the frontlines of climate change across the motu and our pacific islands neighbours. Our response and actions to addressing the climate crisis must consider the impacts on the Pacific region, and provide adequate support for Pacific island countries.

I agree with Oxfam that you “should publish and recommend to the government a ‘fair share’ NDC using appropriate historical responsibility / capability / need calculators, that applies New Zealand’s differentiated obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement to safe 1.5 degree pathways.”.

I wish your advice to government also includes a stringent framework along with strong policy recommendations that the NDC should be met primarily through domestic emissions reductions, with offshore mitigation only being a last resort. We should leave no rooms for loop holes to pass on the burden to future generations in the last minute. Key is holding government accountable to achieve emissions reductions and removals primarily through strengthened emissions budgets, greatly enhanced climate finance to help communities adapt to impacts from climate change and enable all members of society to just transition by co-designing strong and clear policies. A crucial part of holding government accountable is public’s voice. Climate education is needed, so every New Zealander understands the opportunity costs of relying on offshore mitigation vs domestic reductions.

4. Do you agree with our approach to meet the 2050 target that prioritises growing new native forests to provide a long-term store of carbon?

Yes, I support the significant increase in new native forests and the assumption that no further native deforestation occurs from 2025. I would like to go a step further to also acknowledge that caring for old native forests and saving it from further damage and degradation is at least as crucial, if not more to halting climate change than planting trees. Simply because new trees will take hundreds of years to achieve the same level of carbon storage. Typically, Aotearoa's mature indigenous forests hold twice as much carbon per hectare as tree plantations, and even more, than younger regenerating native forests. Forest and Bird's Kevin Hackwell says: "A small difference in how we manage those natural systems can have a huge impact. [...] Excluding them leaves too little incentive to care for the carbon stocks that we have.” Private and public carbon caretakers need to be recognised in their role as kaitiaki of our native forests. We need to look at carbon forestry more holistically and ensure the whole system is counted and can thrive, which includes greater funding towards old native forest care management.

I wish for a stronger approach to restore and manage existing native habitats to allow for a reduction in the proposed exotic afforestation. This is deeply intertwined with how sovereignty will be returned to mana whenua to manage land, to uphold article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Please incorporate all native habitats into this approach; e.g. wetlands and tussock needs to be recognised as carbon storage, and therefore their protection from destruction needs to also be prioritised.

5. What are the most urgent policy interventions needed to help meet our emissions budgets?

The need for strong policy interventions is two-fold: 1. across the board to not only meet the emissions budgets, but to enable even stronger targets under the Paris Agreement, and to accelerate Aotearoa’s transition to a low-carbon emission. 2. to mitigate the effects on communities in vulnerable situations. I would like to ask you to strengthen your recommendations for policy interventions. Following I have outlined some areas where I think this could lead to larger emissions reductions while putting us on a pathway towards a thriving society in a healthy environment and with a prosperous economy.

We’ve got to build more resilience and choice back into our transportation network. The current advice for active and public transport is not ambitious enough.

I support vehicle electrification, as a supporting measure, but I am afraid we’ve totally lost sight of the necessity of enabling basic freedom of movement for every member of our society.

The role of local and regional councils is absolutely central to design livable, accessible and equitable cities and regions. They need to be enabled to co-design and -develop active transport systems that offer all modes of low carbon transportation accessible to every member of our society.

Government needs to immediately divest from expanding road capacity towards modes of transport that are compatible with addressing climate change, where possible.

We also have to be able to hold local, regional and central government accountable.

I support the strong focus on reducing emissions from heating, industry and power generation in the next 15 years, in particular the end use of coal in our motu and a managed phase out of oil and gas. While I welcome your call for regulation banning new coal boilers, your recommendations need to go further to ensure that we accelerate phasing out all fossil fuel use and transform our energy sector.

In general, we need much larger direct investment in energy efficiency. Homes that are energy efficient must be financially affordable and physically accessible. I agree with the call from the submission guide that we need more ambitious targets and bans on coal. In order to reduce the burden on future generations Aotearoa needs to be fossil free. Our transition to 100% renewable energy resources needs to be sped up. We can do this by bringing forward the phase out date for fossil fuel heating in new buildings to 2022; and by ending subsidies via free carbon credits to our biggest polluters immediately.

It is devastating to see how much this industry has destroyed and is still destroying Papatūānuku. It is puzzling to me how an industry dependent on a healthy environment cares relatively little about the needs of nature, especially when there are farming alternatives at hand that respect our planetary boundaries. We are in urgent need for direct regulations on the sources of climate pollution: a sinking cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser as well as imported feed, which sees them eliminated by 2024. A low enough stocking rate limit as maximum needs to be set to drive a significant reduction in our national herd. There should be no new dairy conversations. Agri-business needs to be able to choose other types of farming. Agriculture needs to enter the Emissions Trading Scheme immediately at 100% with no free allocation or other subsidies.

Both energy and agriculture need to be supported in their transition to make sure that no one gets left behind. Government and industry bodies must play a greater role as enablers. Solutions and training need to be made accessible now. Transitioning farmers need to be rewarded for their efforts as part of our team of five million.

Aotearoa’s disconnected relationship to waste is oneI might never quite understand. I always wondered why a small country like New Zealand has such a complicated waste system. We can make a just transition from a throwaway culture to a low waste, low carbon circular economy by strengthening and resourcing local communities. Achieving this requires comprehensive education programmes and a balance of multiple, urgent policy interventions, which could be guided by the waste hierarchy to ensure a climate lens when designing policies.

Government needs to set binding waste reduction targets in the Waste Strategy and the Waste Minimisation Act for all waste streams, organic and inorganic, and not only focus on methane generated by organics in landfill. This includes single use plastics and packaging, e-waste, textile, and construction and demolition waste.

We urgently need to speed up our transition to a circular economy. A sustainable, viable and low carbon alternative that will help repair our relationship to waste. Research from the Sustainable Business Network shows that Auckland could be $8.8 billion better off in 2030 if they transition in time. Supporting local government and businesses in their transition needs to be priority.

I am always shocked how little my fellow New Zealanders know about the impacts of climate change on our health. I was disappointed to see that you have given health only minimum attention in your advice draft. We need to start treating climate change as the life threatening health crisis as it is which needs transparency and clear communications. The public has a right to understand the health implications that come with climate change, the associated costs and the co-benefits of taking action immediately. Government, He Pou a Rangi and the media need to play a more pivotal role.

Our collective transition to a low-carbon future needs to recognise both the experiences and situations of whānau and communities, especially those already overburdened and marginalised, to restore equity. Therefore, our policy approaches to equity must ensure that the cost of transitioning falls on industries and companies.

To ensure our response to climate change is equitable, a disability-responsive position statement and work group recommendations are needed. We also need to take into account that climate change disproportionately impacts women and people of diverse genders.

6. Do you think our proposed emissions budgets and path to 2035 are both ambitious and achievable considering the potential for future behaviour and technology changes in the next 15 years?

I strongly believe that we can aim for more ambitious emissions budgets. The next 10-15 years are of utmost importance to reduce our emissions. This can be achieved by a holistic and community-centered approach with existing technology and strong policy recommendations. We need to set closer targets and opportunities to transition for our worst polluters.

As mentioned above the proposed pathway for agriculture lacks ambition and the sense of urgency that is needed to address the climate crisis. Land-use change is crucial; away from ruminant livestock farming and into native forest, horticulture and other plant-based and non-ruminant land-uses. Several farmers across the motu have undergone this transition; others need to be enabled to ensure the agriculture sector can continue to contribute to our economy. Lobby groups, media and government are vital to help farmers transitioning. This is the kind of achievable yet transformational change that is required, and the level of ambition we should be striving for to reduce agricultural emissions. We cannot lower our bars.

While I think it is important to communicate the cost of meeting the proposed emissions budgets, it is crucial to relate the ‘cost of action’ to the ‘cost of inaction’. The scenarios and associated costs of an Aotearoa New Zealand when global warming is at 2 or 3 degree look very different to the potential savings of taking bold, ambitious action to reduce emissions early.

I hope that my blog posts resonates with others, opens a safe space for discussion and maybe even inspires others to do their own wholehearted submission. It is not important that you include as many facts as you can find, which is extremely difficult in a highly complex crisis like climate change. Rather speak from your wairua soul and demand social and environmental justice.


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Hello @kathplanethive. Congratulations for your first post! i's beautiful. Hive can be a little bit frustrating at the beginning because you do not have followers. So your post will stay for few seconds in the new post section then will disappear because nobody is reading your blog. This post could have been post in the ecotrain comunity for a larger audience.

If you have an activist mentality, you can start a "deep adaptation" group. I met many climate deniers among Hivers.