Photos: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images and Anders Hellberg

I stand with Greta, and with the strikers: James Shaw’s letter to NZ school students

Today marks the start of Covering Climate Now. To launch the week, the New Zealand climate change minister, James Shaw, writes an open letter to participants in the School Strike 4 Climate ahead of their day of action later this month.


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Tēnā koutou,

In the lead up to your intergenerational strike action on September 27 I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge your advocacy and tireless work to ensure a habitable planet for you and future generations.

I know many of you are anxious and distressed. I talk to many students and New Zealanders of all ages who feel we are in an unstoppable descent into a climate change disaster that spells the end of humanity. Some feel helpless, like there’s nothing we can do, there’s this heavy sense of inevitability.

I remember feeling a similar sense of existential dread in the 1980s when I was a student at Wellington High School. The threat of nuclear war between the US and Russia at times came perilously close to world-wide disaster. I remember the fear of annihilation being a central part of my time at high school.

In saying this, despite this dread, it’s clear to me that you understand deeply when it comes to climate change that we have the answers to the threat that is facing us.

As Greta Thunberg said, “the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change.”

And she’s right.

I am working to ensure we use the solutions available to cut our greenhouse gas emissions so that we keep our planet safe. This comes in the form of the Zero Carbon Bill, the Cross-Government Climate Action Plan, fixing the Emissions Trading Scheme and reducing emissions from agriculture.

Many of you would know of Ollie Langridge, a business owner and father of five who sat out the front of the parliament for 100 days straight because he is so worried about the planet burning and what that means for his kids.

Ollie kept climate change on the agenda, and in doing so has helped me on the path to delivering the strongest climate action possible.

I ask you to keep holding us to account. Keep demanding more of us. You might not have been old enough to vote us in, but it is our duty to be your representatives. In calling for strong action, and talking to your family and friends about how it important it is, you make it possible for political change to happen.

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Good on you for standing up for what you believe in. It must be very challenging whilst also juggling school work and part time jobs. When I was your age I was playing Dungeons and Dragons and not much else.

Kind regards,

James Shaw

Green Party Co-leader and Minister for Climate Change  


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