Rating the government's progress on environmental issues: School Strike 4 Climate

5:34 pm on 2 January 2020

As we enter the new year, the prospect of the coming election looms. The government's performance will be under more scrutiny than usual, and its performance will be weighed.

Wellington Climate Strike 190524

Climate strike in Wellington last year. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

With that in mind, how has a government whose leader made statements like that about climate change being a generation's nuclear-free moment done by the environment?

RNZ asked a range of experts what they thought. This is part two of a six-part series, concluding with the minister:

Lennox Crowe, School Strike 4 Climate member

Being a member of School Strike 4 Climate, Lennox has a focus on climate change and the Zero Carbon Act. He's part of a growing youth movement advocating for action on climate change, and he's pretty critical.

  • What's your short assessment on environmental action?

"I was really expecting more with the Labour/Green parties being in parliament, and while some first steps have been made, there could have been much more progress. The Zero Carbon Act has been passed which is a great first step, but it is very weak, and could have been much better. As a small, developed country, New Zealand should be leading the world in the fight for climate justice, but unfortunately with the weak Zero Carbon Act, we are far from this desirable position.

"The government has also made progress on the biodiversity strategy which is good to see.

"After ending all new offshore drilling permits, OMV have been allowed to continue to drill in New Zealand waters, and this contract could continue on for years. It would be great to see this contract ended soon, but it is good to see that the government has begun the process of phasing these offshore drilling contracts out."

  • What's something you think the government has done well?

"It is really good to see the Zero Carbon Bill getting passed with cross party support, and it is a really good starting point. However, it is only a start, and could be much stronger. This is a great first step to getting New Zealand to reduce emissions, but the act needs to be much stronger."

  • What's something you think the government has dropped the ball on?

"It was frustrating not seeing a climate emergency declaration, and this would have been a really simple declaration that the government could have made to demonstrate that we are living in a climate emergency, and the government is going to treat it like one."

  • What's one thing you'd like to see the government achieve before the election?

"The best thing that could happen before the election is the government ending OMV's permit for offshore drilling. OMV have been granted permission to drill off the coast of Taranaki, which needs to be stopped. I would love to see this permit terminated before the next election."

  • How does the government's progress on environmental issues stack up?

"I was expecting a much stronger Zero Carbon Bill, and it is a shame that there hasn't been more progress made while Labour and the Greens are in government. It is good to see the Zero Carbon Bill pass with cross party support, but it does need to be much stronger.

"As a small and agile developed country, New Zealand should be leading the world in the fight for climate justice, so hopefully the Zero Carbon Bill can be amended to put New Zealand where we should be - leading the world.

  • Is there anything the government is doing (or failing to do) that the public should be more aware of?

"There are multiple shortcomings with the Zero Carbon Bill that need to be fixed, and people need to know that it must be made a lot stronger. To align with what the IPCC said needs to be accomplished, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

"While the pathway for reducing emissions is still being developed by the ICCC, it would have been great to see this ambitious target included in the Zero Carbon Act. This coupled with a final target of carbon neutrality by 2040 would have made the Zero Carbon Act hold a lot more weight.

"The public need to know that New Zealand should be leading the world in the fight for climate justice, but at the moment we are far from it. New Zealand is a small and agile developed country with a can-do attitude, and we are perfectly poised to be at the front of the global stage when it comes to greenhouse gas reduction."

  • Do you think the government pays enough attention to environmental issues?

"While it is good to see the government making some first steps, more ambitious action could be taken."

  • What would you score the coalition out of 10 for its action on environmental issues?

"I wouldn't score the coalition government any higher than four, and while I think that it is good to see the first steps being made … really there should have been much more progress."

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