The questions for the ‘Elect Who?’ candidate interviews have been carefully designed to cover a range of issues that are important to creating a positive future for today’s young people.
The big picture and intergenerational justice
While every other generation has inherited a world with promise for greater prosperity and a brighter future, our generation is facing an inheritance of ecological and economic debt, resource depletion, rising sea levels, poisoned ecosystems, water scarcity, famine and mass migration. The challenge of climate change stands at the very forefront of all of these issues. These issues won’t be addressed in the next election cycle, but instead require courageous policy for the long term.
Young and future generations are those who will feel the worst impacts of climate change, and will most likely end up paying for it – but they’re the ones who have contributed the least toward the problem.
1) As a prospective MP, what is the legacy you would like to see left for the next generation and those beyond?
2) What risks do you think climate change poses to the wellbeing of young people and future generations of New Zealanders?
New Zealand currently has no credible plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and kick the fossil fuel habit. According to official projections by the Ministry for the Environment, the total effect over the next ten years of all current Government policies will only be to halt the growth in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, with no real reductions taking place until after 2020. This is despite the Government’s own 2020 emissions target of 10-20% below 1990 levels (roughly 20-30% below today’s), and the scientific requirement that global emissions peak before 2020 to have any chance of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
3) Do you think that the action New Zealand’s Government is currently taking on climate change is sufficient, and does justice to today’s young people? If not, what goals and actions would you push for in the next term, if elected?
The Emissions Trading Scheme
According to analysis by the Sustainability Council of New Zealand, the current ETS locks in subsidies on the order of $100 billion dollars (well over 50% of current GDP) over the century for big emitters such as agriculture and large industry. During the first phase of the ETS (2008-2012), 90% of the costs will be borne by households and small businesses responsible for only 30% of our emissions. In return, the predicted emissions reduction for this period is less than 1% below business-as-usual.
Worst of all, once all free allocations and giveaways are accounted for, the ETS does not even bring in enough revenue to cover New Zealand’s Kyoto liability ~84% of the bill is being passed to the next generation of taxpayers. New Zealand’s gross emissions for the Kyoto period are about 20% above our target (1990 levels), and the Government is ‘spending’ emissions permits gained from commercial plantation forests to cover these excess emissions in the short-term. But this is like paying by credit card, since the permits will have to be repaid when these same forests come to be harvested, in around the year 2020. The ETS passes the buck to the future – and to the tune of several billion dollars.
4) In your opinion, is the ETS, in its current form, an equitable system that delivers sufficient economic signals to emitters? What changes would you advocate for to make it more effective, if any?
Energy and fossil fuel extraction
The current New Zealand Energy Strategy puts strong faith in the mining and use of fossil fuels being able to deliver advantages to our nation’s economic growth. There has been recent Government endorsement of greater exploration for, and exploitation of, oil, gas and (particularly lignite) coal reserves in New Zealand. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, however, has stated that the mining of lignite would “take New Zealand in the wrong direction” on climate change, and significantly increase the difficulty of reducing our country’s emissions. A single lignite-to-diesel plant as proposed by Solid Energy would increase our 2020 emissions overshoot by 20%.
5) What are your opinions on the expansion of fossil fuel industries (such as coal and lignite mining, and oil and gas exploration) in New Zealand? Do you personally support the call for a 10-year moratorium on new coal and lignite developments?
6) What do you see as the main future sources of energy (for electricity, transport and heating) in New Zealand? Do you support the call for the Government to create an action plan to attain 100% renewable energy before 2050?
Many countries are adopting policies to increase the amount of funding allocated towards green, or low-carbon development incentives and initiatives. South Korea, for instance, dedicated 80% of the funding from its 2009 economic stimulus package to green technology, and will dedicate 2% of GDP over the next five years in these areas. By comparison, in 2011 New Zealand’s total expenditure on all research and development was 1.3% of GDP, with 46% of that coming from from the Government. The OECD average in 2008 was 2.3%.
7) Do you think the Government should be doing more to promote research, development and deployment of low carbon and more sustainable technologies and practices in NZ? If so, what?
Transport is the fastest growing source of emissions in New Zealand; road transport has increased by 66% since 1990. The Government is planning to spend over $10 billion nationally on new highways: seven times as much as on public and active transport. Reports have indicated that some some of the proposed roading projects, such as the Puhoi-Wellsford Highway, have a benefit-cost ratio of less than one.
8) Do you perceive New Zealand’s dependence on oil as a risk to our economy in the age of high and rising oil prices? Do you support the realloacation of spending on new roads toward low-carbon and public transport initiatives?
The catchphrase goes, ‘think global, act local’.
9) What actions (if any) would you take in your electorate to to enable your community to to increase their understanding of climate change, and to reduce their emissions and dependence on oil?
10) What can we do as young New Zealanders to convince our Government to take more drastic action on climate change?
The Pledge Card
The pledge card asks candidates for yes or no answers to straightforward questions addressing the issues set out above, to make it easy to compare the candidates in your electorate.
- I support increased Government investment in transitioning to a zero carbon economy.
- I would advocate for strengthening the ETS to make it more equitable and effective.
- I believe lignite and currently undeveloped coal reserves should be left in the ground.
- I believe renewable energy is our future and Government should plan for 100% renewable energy by 2050.
- I support increased national spending on low-carbon and public transport initiatives.
- As an elected MP, I would actively engage with my electorate on climate change.
- I believe the Government should set a strategic direction for our country to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
 New Zealand’s Fifth National Communication, http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate/nz-fifth-national-communication/page6.html
 ETS – Bill To A Future Generation, Sustainability Council, November 2009.
 Lignite and Climate Change: The High Cost of Low Grade Coal, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, November 2010.
 New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2009, Ministry for the Environment, April 2011.