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Will this be a climate election?
Where do our major parties stand on climate and environmental action?
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me this week.
When devastating floods and Cyclone Gabrielle hit parts of New Zealand in quick succession earlier this year, climate change was catapulted into the top five issues for New Zealanders. The stage was set for climate change to be a big election issue. But something so gnarly and spanning multi-generations has proved tricky for politics to pick up and run with.
“In New Zealand in the last 20 years, we’ve lost the ability to have genuine intergenerational dialogue in our politics,” Genesis Energy CEO Malcolm Johns said yesterday, during a panel discussion at the Climate Change & Business Conference. “It has become very immediate, very now, very reactive. And that is the speed limiter of our transition in New Zealand.”
While the science is clear on the impacts of climate change and what we need to do to tackle it, politics has our transition to net-zero lagging. For example, an analysis of this year’s Budget found that 80% of new initiatives had a negative impact on climate. What will it take to lift the brakes on a just climate transition?
Stuff’s Olivia Wannan has compiled a comprehensive stocktake of parties’ positions and policies across 15 climate-related issues, from ETS settings to public transport fare subsidies. But overarching these puzzle pieces is our target – where we’re hoping these policies and actions get us to. Under the Paris Agreement, New Zealand has committed to halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – that’s our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target.
All major parties except Act remain committed to achieving our NDC, but differ on their plans for how to reach the target. (National climate spokesperson Simon Watts was emphatic that the NDC wouldn’t be up for discussion, should the party end up negotiating with Act come 14 October.)
For an example of differing plans: Act and National would scrap the Clean Car Discount, while Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori would keep it. Climate change minister James Shaw said the policy was responsible for successfully driving a massive shift to electric vehicles, with the proportion of EVs making up new vehicle purchases skyrocketing from one in 100 to one in two over just three years. National climate change spokesperson Simon Watts said the market was already heading towards a swing to EVs without the discount, and that more charging infrastructure is needed to drive EV uptake.
If you’re after a quick and easy overview of the major parties’ climate creds, the non-partisan Vote for Climate Action campaign has assembled a climate scorecard.
For a broader canvassing of the environment policy offerings, the Environmental Defence Society hosted a comprehensive forum with environment spokespeople discussing oceans and fisheries, climate change and energy, freshwater, resource management reform, and conservation. During the discussion, Act candidate Simon Court asserted there was no climate emergency, eliciting gasps from the audience. Environmental NGOs were equally shocked at confirmation National would cut the Department of Conservation’s budget by 6.5%.
And finally, for an in-depth look at all policies and candidates, check out policy.nz.
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Thousands of climate campaigners hit the streets of New York
The UN General Assembly is meeting in New York City, including a one-day “climate ambition summit” alongside the main talks. In response, thousands of climate campaigners have gathered on the streets calling for government action on climate change. The talks come hot on the heels of an agreement between G20 leaders to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. However, the 20 biggest economies responsible for 80% of global emissions stopped short of a deal to phase out fossil fuels, suggesting the influence of oil-rich countries prevailed in talks. Attention will now shift to the upcoming COP28 conference in Dubai, with Al Gore blasting the fossil fuel industry’s “capture” of the climate talks.
‘It feels like we’ve gone from denialism to nihilism’
Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw reflects on the media’s climate storytelling in this Cosmos article, fearing we’ve veered into telling stories with the message that “we’re all screwed” instead of highlighting solutions. Berentson-Shaw also advocates for the “truth sandwich” approach to combating mis- and disinformation. On The Fold podcast this week, Duncan Grieve also tackles the challenge of communicating climate change effectively, consulting two experts on how we get people to pay attention to the most pressing issue of our time.
Winter sea ice in Antarctica reaches record low
"It's so far outside anything we've seen, it's almost mind-blowing," scientist Walter Meier told the BBC. This year’s record-breaking heat and marine heatwaves may have contributed to the extremely low sea ice extent, with new research suggesting Antarctic sea ice has “entered a state of diminished coverage”. Antarctica’s vast ice sheets regulate the planet’s temperature, and losing them could be catastrophic.
Long, thin cylinders of ice from Antarctica make up the majority of the 2,300 ice cores at the New Zealand National Ice Core Research Facility, offering a glimpse into past climates. Nature visits the Facility’s caretaker for their ‘Where I Work’ series.
Auckland could be $111 billion better off in 2050 if the city achieved its climate goals.
Fossil fuel consumption is set to peak before 2030, signalling “the beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era, according to the International Energy Agency.
What do climate scientists tell their kids about the future?
Companies are claiming “plastic neutrality” after purchasing “plastic credits” to offset their own plastic use – is this greenwashing?
The state of California has sued several fossil fuel giants for causing tens of billions of dollars in damage and deceiving the public by downplaying the risks posed by fossil fuels.
California lawmakers passed a climate disclosure bill this week, requiring large corporations to report on their emissions, including Scope 3 emissions from their supply chain.
Should we incinerate rubbish to generate electricity? A burning question on waste covered by The Detail podcast.
To finish this issue, a deep sea mystery, solved by NIWA scientists. Footage from a research dive in 2013 captured strange horseshoe-like markings on the seafloor. Who or what made them? Some good old fashioned scientific sleuthing found the culprit… A seacret no more!
Fishing you a good week,
Got some feedback about Future Proof or topics you’d like covered? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org