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Photo: Sylvie Whinray
Photo: Sylvie Whinray

The BulletinDecember 3, 2020

The Bulletin: What comes next after climate emergency declaration

Photo: Sylvie Whinray
Photo: Sylvie Whinray

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: What comes next after climate emergency declaration, petition against parole for cop-killers delivered, and well-known fashion company under fire.

The climate emergency has been declared, and has come with a set of new targets to boot. Yesterday after Question Time, parliament voted in favour of passing a motion declaring the climate emergency, which you can read in full here. The first sections of it are essentially about formally recognising the science of climate change, and the emissions reductions needed to limit warming. It also notes the public support for more climate action, highlights the effects if global action isn’t taken, and makes mentions of what the government has done so far.

But the key new detail of it is that the government is now committed to running carbon neutral operations by 2025. As opposed to other targets, this is concrete and in the relatively near future, and will be easier said than done. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder has looked at what will be necessary to get there, and significant actions in the programme include phasing out coal boilers, electrifying the vehicle fleet, and increasing the emission efficiency of buildings. As this grilling of climate change minister James Shaw by Heather du-Plessis Allen on Newstalk ZB showed, completion of that won’t be possible within the window of time, and that some emissions will be offset – this is a slightly concerning point, because offsetting is only a medium term solution compared to cuts.

What are interested groups saying? Academic Bronwyn Hayward wrote that it could provide a “badly needed reset moment” – to quote:

“New Zealand has lost momentum across all parties on climate action since the prime minister memorably declared it was her generation’s “nuclear-free moment” and launched a bold ban on new oil permits. Since then much of our action has lagged behind our rhetoric. So much so that last week it was revealed New Zealand had not yet been invited to a high ambition virtual summit to mark five years since the Paris Climate Agreement.”

If the declaration is backed up by urgency, what considerations should be taken into account? Three young climate activists have written about any such declaration needs to bring people with it, and not contribute to further marginalisation.

And what about whether it really is an emergency? Some judgements have been made about the wording, given emergency is also a term to describe – for example – a flood sweeping through a town. But with climate change already contributing to natural disasters like fires and extreme weather events, and that being projected to get worse, it’s something of a moot point. A story that highlights that – Stuff’s Eloise Gibson has covered a new report that shows that thousands of houses in New Zealand’s major coastal cities will become effectively uninsurable through sea level rise within decades, and perhaps sooner. If I lived in one of those houses I’m pretty sure I’d consider inevitable inundation as a pretty urgent problem.

A 39,000 strong petition calling for harsher sentences for people who kill police officers has been presented at parliament. It was handed over by Diane Hunt, the mother of constable Matthew Hunt, who was killed during a traffic stop in Auckland earlier this year. She spoke to Newstalk ZB yesterday morning about what the pain she had endured since, and the specific changes that she wants to see made to sentences. In terms of the ongoing case, a man charged with murder and a woman charged with being an accessory to murder are currently awaiting trial, after pleading not guilty.

A well-known local fashion company is under fire for the way the Covid-conspiracy views of the founders have become part of their brand. David Farrier and Ensemble have looked into the increasingly odd pronouncements from those in charge of Lonely, a company that has long been highlighted for the way they made causes and campaigning part of their identity. However, as both public posts and internal emails show, those at the top of the company have increasingly taken to Covid-denial, even despite protest from staff. There are also allegations of those staff not being treated well in other ways.

Struggling to work out how to spread the Christmas cheer this holiday season? Have you checked out The Spinoff’s merch store? It’s the perfect Christmas destination.

An interesting story about the mood of parliament towards the relationship with China: Stuff reports two MPs from opposite sides of the house have come out in support of Australia, amid an escalating trade war between them and the superpower. The exact flashpoint in this case isn’t much to write about – a Chinese official published an inflammatory and doctored image relating to recent findings on Australian war crimes. However, since then things have spiralled, and it is set against a relationship that has deteriorated dramatically in recent years, between two of New Zealand’s most important trading partners.

It’s not quite a valedictory speech, but former acting-PM Winston Peters has been farewelled at a ceremony at parliament. The NZ Herald’s Audrey Young wrote about it, saying PM Jacinda Ardern paid particular tribute to his work as foreign minister in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks. She also spoke about his leadership of the diplomatic ‘Pacific Reset’. In turn, Peters gave extensive compliments to the diplomatic corps at MFAT.

It’s hard to know what to make of this story, but it has certainly rubbed some people up the wrong way. Stuff’s Andre Chumko reports that a bitter argument has broken out in the Wellington pottery community, over a controversial ceramic dildo-making workshop that has since been cancelled. Senior members of the community were particularly split, with letters of support and opposition being written.

Best Journalism of 2020: Here’s one more of my own shouts before I start getting into reader submissions. Over the course of the pandemic, the government assumed massive new powers, and correspondingly had enormous responsibilities to make sure their response was sound. That sort of power cannot ever stand without scrutiny, and many journalists actively strengthened the country’s response by holding those in charge to account.

There’s a few names that could be mentioned here, but the one that comes to mind most of all is Newshub’s Michael Morrah. It’s fair to say he wasn’t always popular with government supporters as a result, but this was incredibly important work that revealed gaps and flaws to be fixed. Here’s an opinion piece from June that tied some of the threads of his work together, which has continued ever since.

As always, send me your picks at

A correction: On yesterday’s Bulletin bit about drug testing being legalised, I wrongly referred to Andrew Little as the justice minister. He used to be, but my mushy post-election brain hasn’t retained the info that he’s since been reshuffled into health, and was speaking in that capacity.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at

The Auckland housing market (Artist: Hayden Donnell)

Right now on The Spinoff: Jo Malcolm speaks to Haamid Ben Fayed, a Muslim person who is unconvinced that the Royal Commission into the mosque attacks will change the reality of being Muslim in NZ. Art writer and former gallerist Sarah Hopkinson goes very deep on the recent furore around the Mercy Pictures show. Leonie Hayden speaks to Stuff’s Pou Tiaki editor Carmen Parahi, about a project that is unprecedented in the New Zealand media scene. Sam Brooks watches far too many Christmas movies in a row, and writes about what he learned from it. Hayden Donnell solves the housing crisis. And Catherine Woulfe reviews a new book by Tom Sainsbury that does something that I personally find extremely distasteful – taking individual human beings and boiling them down into stereotypes.

For a feature today, a cool piece about the craft of short story writing, and how it differs from other forms. The Sunday Star Times is currently running their annual competition, and Tracy Watkins has spoken to those who know how to get it right, to get their advice for aspiring scribblers. Here’s an excerpt from previous writing prize winner Amy McDaid.

“Every word counts; every sentence counts, it’s all got to build towards creating that voice and those characters and carrying the story along; you can’t have superfluous paragraphs really.”

If the devil is in the detail, the art of short story writing is in choosing the right details to leave in, rather than take out: “details that say the most about that character, that are the most powerful”

But you also have to trust the reader, says McDaid.

“Imagine the reader as someone who is intelligent and insightful; there’s so much power in what isn’t said; it’s about not being too obvious.”

The Women’s Rugby World Cup is set to get bigger this decade. Reuters reports the 2025 edition will be expanded to 16 teams, up from the 12 set to participate in 2021. It’s part of a long term plan from World Rugby to speed up the development of the women’s game, which is seen as one of the best potential opportunities for future growth.

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