(Image: Generation Zero)

The time to build a zero carbon future isn’t later – it’s now

Aotearoa finally heard the announcement about the Zero Carbon Bill earlier this week. Maulik Thakkar of climate action organisation Generation Zero explains how the time to begin reducing our emissions is now, rather than settling for a slow reduction in emissions over the coming decades.

We have repeated it again and again, like a mantra: “The next decade is crucial if we are to drive immediate, transformative change.” Without this change, people will continue to be let down by the government’s delayed or deferred action on addressing Aotearoa’s need for a just transition to a net-zero emissions nation. This is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to improve the lives of those currently struggling. It is an opportunity to prevent future hurt. We need to embrace this opportunity. Not because we are leaders, but because we are already falling behind and need to catch up to even be in the game. There are not unlimited resources nor time patiently waiting for us to get our act together.

We need to recognise climate change for the emergency that it is and direct all resources available to us to create real, domestic emissions reductions – starting now. Not planting our way out of reducing our emissions, leaving the problem for later, and certainly not by buying our way out of our obligations for the future. Planting trees might be an excellent starting point, but it is a small part of the solution. And buying international credits is no substitute to getting our own house in order. We need to address the root causes of the problem we are offsetting in the first place – problems that will not be addressed by balancing a ‘carbon budget’. We need to reexamine and critically think about how we move goods in New Zealand and overseas, we need to look at how people move within and between cities, and we need to look at the base assumptions about our ‘choice economy’ where the most vulnerable of us who have no choice go without. Planting trees provides no answers to these questions.

This means providing relief to those whose homes, workplaces, and farms become uninsurable. This means providing retraining opportunities and help for workers in affected sectors. This means making low carbon options accessible to all of us. And this means promoting solutions that are not individualistic, but instead lift our communities up so they can live thriving carbon-neutral lives.

Our current government’s decisions around what is contained in the fine print of the Zero Carbon Bill draft seems to indicate that the days of short-sighted policy-making are not yet over.  It tries to promise business-as-usual living, with the assumption that change is still decades away.

Unfortunately for these “decision-makers”, the new normal exists now. Unpredictable cyclones, forest fires and flooded homes that can no longer be insured are just a few of the new additions to “business as usual living” in Aotearoa. And it is the everyday people, in this beautiful land, that must now bear the brunt of an obsession with growth-fuelled economic thinking – one that is exploitative, dehumanising and callous in it’s application.

It is awesome that we have the foundation of a Zero Carbon Act in Aotearoa. We could be the first nation in the world to legislate a 1.5 degree target. At the same time, it would be prudent to remind ourselves that this is only the beginning. We must seek to build and strengthen this foundation to ensure that our politics are accountable and that our transition is just. The climate crisis is upon us and we have very little room for the lethargy proposed by the “business as usual” proponents. We will be advocating for ways to strengthen the draft law during the upcoming select committee process, and we hope you will join us.


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