The Green Party wants to see a major shake-up to the institutional arrangements for fighting climate change, if they’re in a position to call the shots after October 14.
At the party’s AGM on Sunday, co-leader Marama Davidson released the Green manifesto for the election. It contains more than 200 policies, mostly reiterating long-held Green Party beliefs like expanding pathways to residency for migrants and banning mining on conservation land.
“These are long-standing values and solutions that we have fought for over decades. It speaks to our reputation, it speaks to our consistency,” Davidson told reporters.
“We’re also showing where we’ve been able to deliver across a lot of those areas, but we want to go faster. We’ve been clear that the priorities for us are in climate action and in protecting nature and making sure people have enough income.”
The policies in the manifesto build on the foundation of the party’s “headline” policies. Two of those have been released so far – on renters and on a wealth tax and guaranteed income. More are expected.
On climate, co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw said he had now had the benefit of seeing the Zero Carbon Act in operation for a full term of Parliament.
At the last election, the legislation had only been passed the year before and was still bedding in. Now, however, Shaw says he understands what’s working – and what’s not.
The Greens want to see a new Ministry of Climate Change created, removing climate functions from the Ministry for the Environment.
“Over the course of the last six years, the role of the climate change directorate within the Ministry for the Environment has become more like a central agency like Treasury or the Public Service Commission,” Shaw said.
“We feel that in order to continue to prioritise that and expand that, we should make it a standalone central ministry.”
The ministry would handle both emissions reduction work and the growing load of adaptation policy.
Another idea is one the Greens previously tried to work into the Zero Carbon Act, but where they were stymied by New Zealand First. The party wants to see price controls and other settings in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) decided by the Climate Change Commission, rather than Cabinet.
This is the so-called ‘Reserve Bank model’, which empowers the independent commission to directly set the operating parameters of the country’s most important climate policy.
Shaw said this was needed after Cabinet last year rejected the commission’s advice on ETS settings, sparking a collapse in the price of carbon and a $500 million loss on the Government’s books.
“It was an idea that was around when we first wrote the legislation. I think subsequent events and its actual execution have demonstrated the need.”
Finally, the legislation would be amended to make clear that government decisions must be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
While this was always the intent behind the law, Shaw’s lawyers argued in a recent court case that the mention of 1.5C was merely aspirational. The High Court subsequently agreed, saying the Zero Carbon Act doesn’t place an obligation on the Government to act in line with 1.5C, though that is now being appealed.
Other reforms proposed by the Greens include lowering the voting age to 16, entrenching the Māori seats, requiring all new buildings to be accessible for people with disabilities, increasing the power of the Māori Health Authority, boosting funding for early childhood education, banning new fossil fuel extraction, increasing paid parental leave to 15 months, creating a Ministry for Rainbow Communities and phasing in an extra week of annual leave for workers.
Davidson said in her speech to Green members on Sunday that the manifesto shows what a government with more Green ministers would do.
“Green voices around the decision-making table means bolder action to end poverty and ensure everyone has what they need to live a decent life, including a warm, dry, affordable, accessible home,” she said.
“Our manifesto speaks to who we are, what we stand for, and the values we will take with us into every decision we will make over the next three years.”