Forest & Bird Youth at a school strike for climate action. Photo: Judi Lapsley

What do nature-loving youth think of the environmental policies of political parties? A scorecard released today suggests there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The youth arm of the conservation advocacy group Forest & Bird today released a scorecard on political party environmental policies.

The scores were based on answers to 18 questions related to the environment. Labour received an overall grade of a C. It’s coalition partner, the Greens, got an A-. National scored a D. 

All registered political parties were invited to participate. ACT and NZ First did not respond to the invitation. The Opportunities party scored a B. Social Credit and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party scored an F and D- respectively. 

The answers were scored by youth with experience in the topics, using available science felt to be relevant to the question. Scoring criteria, along with each party’s full answers have been released.

The campaign coordinator for Forest & Bird Youth, George Hobson, said the group wanted the public to have an at-a-glance summary of where political parties sat on different topics.

“We wanted to make it easy for the public to understand some of the policy jargon that gets thrown around by politicians. Particularly for young people, it can be difficult to understand what everything means, and having the time to do the research can be hard.” 

Hobson is too young to vote himself. 

“Even though I’m 17 and unable to vote in the general election, people my age still deserve a future that isn’t threatened by the biodiversity and climate crises. Therefore, I’m counting on all voters to cast their ballot in a way which ensures our future is one of birdsong and forests, not air pollution and endangered species.” 

He said positive trends were seen in answers around protecting marine and coastal environments, and Te Tiriti obligations, but overall there was a lack of well thought out policies for the questions related to nature and wellbeing, biodiversity and restoration, and fresh water. 

A lack of focus on climate change mitigation was also a disappointment to the group.

“The world is currently facing a climate crisis, and we urgently need our elected officials to take this threat to the futures of young people, and our planet, seriously.”

Hobson asked for all parties to step up their game to ensure nature was at the heart of all policy.

“… it will be young people paying the price for inadequate actions made today.”

Some of the questions were open-ended, inviting parties to share their policies. 

For climate change: “What plan/policies do you have to rapidly reduce NZ’s emissions in line with the IPCC’s 1.5 degree report now that we have committed to doing so under the Climate Change Response Amendment?”

Here Labour scored a C+, National a D+ and the Greens a B.

Other questions sought straight answers, such as a question around fresh water and the contentious limit for dissolved inorganic nitrogen which didn’t make it into freshwater reforms.

“Will your party implement the DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen) and DRP (dissolved reactive phosphorus) recommendations made in the STAG (Science and Technical Advisory Group) report to the Minister for the Environment in 2019, and will you do this in your first 100 days?”

The answers ranged from Labour’s stance to “reconsider” DIN, to an outright no from National: “These two bottom lines will be far the most expensive to implement. Some catchments in Canterbury would require 80 percent reductions in nutrient loads to meet the bottom lines.”

The Greens said yes.

Overall comments

Each of the parties received a scorecard with comments. The feedback from the youth markers was that all the parties need to try harder. 

The Green Party, which scored an A-: “A strong focus on a just transition to a sustainable economy. They also prioritise co-governance with tangata whenua. However, some policies still lacked depth, urgency, and  direct commitments.”

Labour, which scored a C: “We appreciated the depth of their Covid recovery plan, but there was much left to be desired given the urgency of our environmental crises. We recognise the development of a strategy for biodiversity and statement for fresh water. We would have liked more detail on their future implementation, and other new policies.”

National, which scored a D: “Many answers had discrepancies, with policies that lacked significantly positive outcomes for Aotearoa and its biodiversity. However, the commitment to work meaningfully with Māori was positive.”

The youth arm of Forest & Bird has around 500 members and 3000 followers on social media. These members range in age from 14 to 25 years old.

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