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The BulletinJuly 10, 2023

The Greens set out their stall


So far they’ve struggled to attract disaffected Labour voters. With less than 100 days to go, can they turn the ship around, asks Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

The Green Party unveils its manifesto

This weekend in Auckland the Green Party held their annual conference, the last of the four major parties to do so. Co-leader Marama Davidson introduced an election manifesto featuring hundreds of policies ranging from “delivering free lunches to every school to recognising Palestine as a state”, writes Stuff’s Glenn McConnell, with housing, climate resilience and wealth redistribution the main priorities for the campaign. Davidson’s speech was met with rapturous applause, reaching a crescendo when she quoted internal polling that found one in three voters are “considering the Greens as a real option this election”. However official polls tell a different story, of a party unable to capitalise on Labour’s precipitous drop in support since the last election. An average of the last five polls has the Greens on a fraction of a point over their 2020 vote share, as Act sees its support jump from 7.6% in 2020 to over 12% now.

The party falls back in love with James Shaw

One relief for the party is the drama-free reaffirmation of both Davidson and James Shaw as co-leaders. Last year the conference was the site of a quasi-mutiny by a left-wing bloc that denied Shaw the 75% support he needed for re-election, on the basis that he had failed to properly hold the government to account on climate issues. After an awkwardly public two-month campaign for his job – and a brief period when it seemed that then colleague Elizabeth Kerekere might throw her hat in the ring – he was re-elected in September by an overwhelming majority. As this is an election year, it was hardly surprising that there was no replay of last year’s protest. The frustration at the government’s approach to climate remains, however. The Green Party was the only party to “treat climate change as the crisis it truly is” and wanted to do more, said Shaw, but Labour “had other priorities” this term.

Pine forests no longer the only path to carbon success

While a number of election pledges had been announced early, Davidson and Shaw had some new policy on climate to share. Davidson said the Green Party would establish a standalone Ministry of Climate Change, Newsroom’s Marc Daalder reports, while also ensuring all government decisions were consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5C. Meanwhile Shaw, the climate change minister, revealed that cabinet had signed off on a change to the Emissions Trading Scheme to recognise more forms of carbon sequestration on farmland, such as wetlands, peatlands and native vegetation. New Zealand is currently one of only two signatories to the Paris Agreement that limit sequestration in their carbon accounting to forests, generally pine. “The issue had been a stumbling block in negotiations with farmers to introduce pricing for agricultural emissions,” says the NZ Herald’s Michael Neilson.

The recycling myth that won’t die

The Greens’ conference came on the heels of an annual Ipsos poll on climate change issues that reveals both falling support for strong action on climate and dwindling faith in the government’s ability to act. As Marc Daalder reports in Newsroom, the poll also shows that many New Zealanders have a poor understanding of the biggest drivers of climate change. When asked, most respondents named recycling as having the most impact. Recycling is good for the broader environment, and manufacturing plastic in the first place is horribly carbon-intensive but, as Daalder notes, recycling itself has “an almost negligible climate impact”. A 2020 study ranked recycling 60th in a list of consumption changes (page 14 here) that mitigate climate change. The top five? In decreasing order: Living car-free, changing to an EV, taking one less long return flight, using renewable energy, and shifting to public transport.

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