Voices from across New Zealand’s political spectrum are posing a question: will the new Government now step up on environmental issues?
Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger has challenged Jacinda Ardern to step up on the promises she made three years ago: to deliver rapid progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Bolger, who is a contributor to Newsroom’s election analysis this weekend, said many people were disappointed at the Government’s “timid response on Green issues” over the past three years.
And this was despite having the Green Party in Cabinet for the first time.
“We’ll eventually, soon, get a vaccine for the virus. But there’s no vaccine for climate change. That requires hard, difficult and often unpopular policy decisions. We have to see whether the new government will want to face up to that.” – Jim Bolger
Newsroom has reported that NZ First acted as a handbrake on the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary, cameras on fishing boats, and ending mining on conservation land.
“Essentially we’ve done nothing apart from passing a Zero Carbon Act, and that had the support of the whole of Parliament. Moving to green vehicles and all that, none of that’s happened,” says Bolger. “And I’m sure that the green-leaning world will be very disappointed.”
Three years ago, Jacinda Ardern described addressing climate change as “our generation’s nuclear free moment.”
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Former Labour Prime Minister David Lange made an emphatic statement on the international stage with his nuclear-free policy. And Bolger challenges his successor, Ardern: it is now time to stand up and be counted.
“I think she should move on the policies she laid out three years ago. I’m looking particularly at reducing the pollution that our very large vehicle fleet is emitting; the government has control of a large number of those vehicles and they could make a difference starting tomorrow.
“I hope we do make faster progress on environmental issues. We’ll eventually, soon, get a vaccine for the virus. But there’s no vaccine for climate change. That requires hard, difficult and often unpopular policy decisions. We have to see whether the new government will want to face up to that.”
That view is backed by Greenpeace New Zealand boss Russel Norman, who is also a former Green Party leader. Norman worried that Labour might spend the next three years “watching their polling and taking no risks” because they don’t want to fall below 45-50 percent.
They would have a big cohort of Labour electorate MPs in National-leaning seats who would put conservative pressure on them. “Then, mini-scandal by mini-scandal, their polling is eaten away anyway and they go into the next election with, once again, little to show for it.
“This is a moment for transformation – we need action on climate change and biodiversity – a price on agricultural emissions, phasing out nitrogen fertiliser, transition to regenerative agriculture, cameras on boats, and end to bottom trawling and so much more. The numbers are there to take action and there are no more excuses for failing to take action.”
BERL research director Ganesh Nana questioned whether Labour would provide a role in government for the Greens, when it has a majority on its own. “The Greens will probably want to be inside the tent; but it will remain to be seen how much the Ardern/Robertson leadership will view this as a mandate for change. Change with regard to climate policy and inequality will be on the table. This is the Covid opportunity – the question for now will be how much of this mandate will be used.”