This afternoon the House of Representatives voted all but unanimously to enact the bill designed to make New Zealand net carbon zero by 2050. Some think the bill imperfectly soft. Others – including the largest party in parliament, the opposition National Party – think it imperfectly harsh. But its cross-party passing is, whichever way you cut it, massive in terms of New Zealand’s efforts in confronting the climate crisis.
Below, an edited and abridged selection of some of the speeches in parliament today on the third reading of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.
JAMES SHAW, Green Party co-leader and minister for climate change
Some things are too big for politics, and the biggest of them all is climate change. The intent of the Zero Carbon Bill was, is, and always should be to elevate climate change policy beyond petty politics and partisanship, to transcend and transform a problem so wicked and so stuck that we have made virtually no progress on it in the 30 years we have been aware of it, in spite of the very best efforts of many, many good people. Climate change policy has been a political football kicked up and down the field, and frequently into touch, by changes of government and, in fact, changes within governments. This unstable policy environment has prevented progress and sent contradictory signals, which has stymied decisive action until this, the 11th hour and 55th minute before midnight.
The zero carbon bill was conceived not by me, I might add, nor even by the Green Party that Marama Davidson and I together lead, but by Generation Zero, a movement of young people committed to climate action, conceived as a way to depoliticise climate change policy so that we can, actually, start to make some progress.
I have fought the centrifugal forces of politics to try and create bipartisan consensus and support for this bill, because with all my soul, I firmly believe that that is the only way we will ever make progress. And that has demanded that we have all, every single one of us, had to let go of some things and to be more committed to doing the right thing. Everyone has had to let go and give a little away, even just a little. But this is bigger than all of us, and it is going to take all of us, and it is going to take everything that we’ve got.
If we are able to reach a parliamentary consensus today, it will only have been possible because the people of New Zealand have increasingly come to demand it. This bill has had many, many parents. The Green Party has always seen itself as a parliamentary wing of a much broader movement. This bill delivers on some of the most important work that that movement has done over many decades. In just a few years, climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to one at the centre of global, national, and local politics – where it belongs – and that is because of the work that dedicated people have done in their communities, in their whānau, in their organisations, in their unions, and in their businesses.
I want to acknowledge the people who sparked this movement, who built it, and who have empowered it with such momentum that it is now unstoppable; the lone scientists who raised the flag in the early 1980s and began building a global scientific consensus that human activities are changing the climate that sustains us; the storytellers and the journalists and the artists who saw that science alone would not achieve a solution but that communicating it to everybody else might; the individuals who stood up in board meetings and said, “Our company cannot keep doing business as usual; there is too much at stake”; the rangatahi who question which is more important: a missed day at school or a missed opportunity to change the world; and the people all over New Zealand who wrote to their politicians and who marched in the streets asking for action, and those who didn’t—those for whom private personal changes in their own lives is their expression of rising to this challenge.
This morning, I became an uncle to our family’s newest nephew. Luka,
I hope that when you are older, you look back on this day and you know we did our best for you. In this House today, your House, we see you all and we deliver this bill for you. Let us begin. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.
‘I’ve bent over backwards, and some people argue forwards too, to get them on board’: James Shaw tells The Spinoff the story of the Zero Carbon bill
SIMON BRIDGES, Leader of the National Party
The National Party takes climate change seriously, and we believe in practical, sensible solutions that don’t punish everyday New Zealanders in the process. We are bound by our principles in this area, and we know that if we are science based, if we utilise and invest in innovation and technology, if we are incentives based, if we are in line and in step, not out of step, with our international partners, if we are aware of and cognisant of the economic impacts of change, we can do it.
Today, I have written to the prime minister and James Shaw offering to work with them to establish an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission. I want to work with the government to make meaningful bipartisan progress on climate change. This will be challenging, it will require compromises on both sides, it will require us all to listen and engage respectfully, but the prize is too great not to try, and the consequences on our economy, jobs, and the environment are too serious if we don’t do so responsibly.
The talks have been on and off, but James Shaw listened and we compromised at significant points along the way. This bill is a product, and it’s not so much as I wanted, but it is a product of compromise, and compromise shouldn’t be a dirty word in politics. National will support this bill.
The reality is that there are parts of this bill I disagree with – that I strongly disagree with. We sought amendments in this House last night, and we weren’t successful. In summary, they’re around our principles and ensuring our economy, our food production, and everyday New Zealanders aren’t punished as we make change. New Zealand feeds the world. We produce more food per person than any other OECD nation bar none. That means emissions per capita, yes, they’re high in this country, but we are also the most efficient food producers in the world. The world needs to be fed, and we know how to do it better, more efficiently, more productively than anyone. National is proud of our farmers and the way that they keep improving. They have over the last 30 years, and I know they will over the next 30. We get it.
To those in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, this isn’t all up to our farmers. They keep improving, as I said, the last 30 years, and I have absolutely no doubt they will keep up with that over the next 30 years to stay the best in the game. They get it. But, no – we all need to play our role: townies, city folk Gen Y, Gen X, and the boomers. I am proud of National’s pragmatic, sensible solutions-oriented approach to climate change. I’m proud of our record in office. I’m proud of our bipartisan approach on the framework and this bill, and I pledge to improve this law swiftly when we are in government.
JACINDA ARDERN, Prime minister and Labour leader
It is important, I think, when we stand in these moments in time, to remember the reason why we are here, today, debating this issue in the first place. We are here because our world is warming; undeniably, it is warming. And I am proud, at least, that 10 years on from when I first sat on the opposition benches, we’re no longer having the debate over whether or not that is the case. We are merely debating what it is we do about it, because, undeniably, our sea levels are rising. Undeniably, we are experiencing extreme weather events, increasingly so. Undeniably, the science tells us the impact that there will be on flora and fauna and, yes, also the spread of diseases in areas where we previously haven’t seen them. We know, as well, that some island nations will have their clean water sources impacted by rising sea levels and saltwater entering into them. On a daily basis they are already seeing those impacts. Our world is warming, and so, therefore, the question for all of us is: what side of history will we choose to sit on, in this moment in time?
I absolutely believe and continue to stand by the statement that climate change is the biggest challenge of our time, and for us here in Aotearoa New Zealand, that means that for this generation, this is our nuclear moment. And so today, if we are to truly reflect that that is what this means for us, we have to start moving beyond targets, we have to start moving beyond aspiration, we have to start moving beyond statements of hope, and deliver signs of action. That is what this government is doing, and proudly so.
We have committed ourselves to a 1.5 degrees Celsius target that we are embedding in legislation, not just because of the statements of the Paris Agreement but because that is what is required if we are to show our Pacific neighbours that we understand what the impacts above 1.5 degrees Celsius will have on them – it is real. Today, we embed in legislation a Climate Commission who will play a role in helping us to establish carbon budgets, who will help us establish the targets that we need across the spectrum, that will provide for us advice, particularly on how we deal with issues like methane.
New Zealand will not be a slow follower. We will not be a slow follower, because, quite frankly, we cannot afford to be, not for the environment but nor for our food producers. They trade on our brand and our name. They trade on New Zealand being environmentally responsible. We have the potential here to lead the way and to instil a higher value to our products in doing so. We have the ability to be the world’s most sustainable food producers and to sell the innovation and technology that comes with developing that much-needed research, development, and technology. This Government’s vision is that we develop the ideas required on behalf of our exporters so we trade on our name, on our brand, on our reputation, on the quality and respect that people have come to know for our products. I will not allow this country to be a fast follower, because we damage our country, our environment, and our exporters if we allow that to happen.
When we think about climate change versus the nuclear-free moment, there are some differences, but there are some similarities, and one similarity is that a nuclear-free moment in New Zealand was something that unified us. Thank you, National, for supporting this bill. We have to be unified in the fight against climate change. We have to move together. There will be areas where we don’t always agree, and in one area it will probably be pace of change, but we will keep pushing, doing everything we can to bring you with us. But today we have made a choice that I am proud of, that will leave a legacy, and that, I hope, means the next generation will see that we in New Zealand were on the right side of history.
JENNY MARCROFT, NZ First MP
As the kaitiaki of this big, beautiful planet – the jewel in the cosmos – it is our responsibility to absolutely avoid a climate calamity. Concern has seen a mobilisation of record-breaking protests around the nation. In our schools, with the strikes for climate justice, a tsunami of young people has marched in the streets.
The imminent threat of being nuked into oblivion heard a rallying cry in the 1970s. It was in the 1970s that the baby boomers knew that we needed to stop nuclear weapons, and so we ensured that we would have this nuclear-free fight – and we won that. So we know that young people of New Zealand know how to take a strong stand, and we saw that with our baby boomers back in the 1970s. I’m a baby boomer; only just, you may be surprised. I know, I look like I’m Gen X – at least Gen Y, maybe. So today’s youth, and the youth of the 1970s, of which I proudly claim myself, we are fighting for the survival of humanity. It’s not just about New Zealand; it is a global fight and a global battle, and we are playing our part.
Our Pacific islands, our nations in our Pacific, who are our neighbours, they are the frontline of this warming planet, and it is our duty to do our bit to ensure that our neighbours live in a space where they are able to keep living in their own homes. This legislation is ambitious and far reaching, and it is with great pleasure that New Zealand First commends this ground-breaking law to the House.
ERICA STANFORD, National MP (and Spinoff candidate diarist!)
The passing of this bill today will see us begin a journey—a journey of decarbonising our economy and shifting towards a greener and more sustainable future for our country. It is the work that the National Party has done over the last year or so, in a collaborative and cross-party manner, that means we will take this journey in a more sensible and more balanced way that will see us play our part in terms of the global response, without compromising the ability of Kiwi families to thrive.
While there will be compromises along the way, there will also be opportunities. We must move at a pace that balances those compromises and those opportunities in a manner that will see us continue to prosper as a nation.
We will commit to making changes in our first 100 days. Our approach today, in voting for this bill, is entirely in keeping with the climate change-related actions we’ve taken under our last government. We insulated half a million homes. We introduced the emissions trading scheme in New Zealand. We exempted electric cars from road user charges. We signed up to the Paris Accord, and, most importantly, we took New Zealand from 65% renewable energy to 85%. I am proud that we have stuck to our principles and that we have worked constructively with James Shaw on this bill, and the changes that we will make when we are elected to Government next year will lead us to that sustainable future that we all want. I am very pleased to commend this bill to the House.
CHLÖE SWARBRICK, Green MP (and Spinoff candidate diarist!)
Today we say that enough is enough. Today we create a legal obligation to reduce our climate emissions in this country to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is a triumph for climate activists and advocates everywhere, but particularly here in Aotearoa New Zealand. We have reached the starting line, and now comes more action.
Talk of global warming was once dismissed as fringe, and today I would say it is, unfortunately, mainstream, because it’s not theoretical anymore. Its effects are felt in increasing temperatures, in rising sea levels, in ocean acidification, crop failures, resource shortages, mass migration, and so much more.
Countries cannot continue to point the finger at each other, playing this daft game of chicken, arguing that they will have to wait for others to act before they do, as we all watch the world burn. That’s why it is important that a small country of five million people with six times as many sheep, floating at the bottom of the Pacific, commits in law to stay below 1.5 degrees. Our action gives others permission. Our action sets precedent. It proves it is possible and shows other countries and the citizens of those countries what their governments can do.
While many have called for climate action to be apolitical, it is critical to realise that today is only happening because of politics. Decades of inaction have come courtesy of political decision-making, and climate action is happening now as a result of political decision-making. When the public watch parliament, when they watch politicians behave badly and decide to opt out of engaging, I want them to know the perverse impact that sees that very behaviour continue. When people who want change decide to sit down, the status quo has an excuse to keep on going. If people don’t like their politicians, they need to realise it is within their power to throw them in the bin. Find someone in your community who you do like and support them in running. That is what politics should be.
I am reminded frequently of the chant I chanted with the tens of thousands of school strikers as we marched down Queen Street only a few weeks ago: “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” Democracy needs all of us, or it will not work for all of us.
KIRITAPU ALLAN, Labour MP (And Spinoff candidate diarist!)
When I think about the monumental occasion for me of this bill, I can only but turn and thank the generation that is coming through that has gone and taken to the streets – that has taken to the classrooms, that has taken to the beaches – and that has been a constant and continuous loud speaker to us in this House, but also to those people in your own communities, to ensure that today we do the right thing. We do the right thing as people that stand in political leadership, but we do the right thing for those generations that follow after us and those many, many generations to come.
For me, it has been the young people that have led us in a cultural shift, but I will say that has been done on the back of many generations that have fought in turn for this day. I want to acknowledge those people that have fought for the long legacy to ensure the mana and restoration of our whaea Papatūānuku.
I am a proud product of rural New Zealand. I hail from the East Coast, born and raised. We grow food. We survive on the whenua. It is the backbone of our economy, but so too we are the most vulnerable and susceptible to the impacts of climate change. I go up my coast, the mighty East Coast, and I look at all of my roads, up in Te Kaha and around the coast. It’s our coastlines that are eroding.
In 2017, we suffered the most monumental flooding event in recent living history. Three hundred families’ homes were under water. Edgecumbe, if you took the bird’s eye view across our town, underwent an unprecedented amount of rainfall during a specific period in time. The trajectory, the predictions, the science tells us that the rainfall will increase in regional areas like ours in the East Coast if we do nothing to curb the tide and address climate change.
This is not the urban liberals fighting against the rural constituents and communities. This is a bill for our country and our people and our nation. We all have a part to play in ensuring that this country is not just a world leader, because, I mean, that’s great – it’s great to be a world leader, and we consistently are – but it’s actually to ensure the viability of our regional communities up and down this country, because I myself, and many people on this side of the House, actually live in the regions. We aren’t corporate executives at some of those big companies that are trying to do things and are based in the urban centres. No, we live and breathe and survive on the food that we get from our land and our places.
Today we leave a legacy for future generations, to ensure that we tackle climate change and set a real trajectory for future generations. Tēnā koutou.
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