18 Jan 2021

Climate change strikers back for more in 2021

1:56 pm on 18 January 2021

By Amber-Leigh Woolf, producer for RNZ's Morning Report

The Earth is heating up, and so are hopes for climate action in 2021.

Wellington Climate Strike 190524

A climate strike in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Climate change strikers say they'll be back this year, starting with a rally at Parliament on 26 January.

Last year, the climate strike movement was somewhat interrupted by the global pandemic - and young people all over the world held online strikes instead to share their concerns for the earth's future.

School Strike 4 Climate leader Ethan Reille says a New Zealand-only campaign, "100 days 4 action", has been developed to put pressure on the government.

This year's action starts with a "holiday wishlist" of demands, to be handed to Parliament on 26 January, Reille says.

"We definitely wanted to start off strong, given the year that we just had, and we wanted to give people some hope and drive to be able to keep going, no matter what had happened."

Students will meet outside parliament at 12pm on 26 January.

They invite the public to arrive at 12.30pm, and will present demands to Labour MP Ginny Anderson and other representatives of the government at 12.45pm. It will be followed by an open mic session.

In 2019, protesters worldwide went on strike for reduced global emissions.

What's in store for 2021?

Now, with much of the world in lockdown, Reille said New Zealand climate strikers felt the cause was more poignant.

"I actually think there's a bigger drive now, because we realise the opportunity that we're able to hold as a nation, and how privileged we are to be in this position.

"It gives people, and it gives students that drive to think 'okay let's take advantage of it, and not take anything for granted'.

"We've got the opportunity to get out there to strike and to demand action, where people like Australia our neighbours or any other nation across the world are actually struggling to leave their houses."

University of Canterbury professor Simon Kingham - also seconded as chief science advisor to the Ministry of Transport - said 2021 needed to be a year for climate change action.

"I absolutely hope it is raised on the political agenda, and it's seen by people as something that's incredibly important," Kingham said.

The year of 2020 was still notable when it came to climate change awareness.

"I think there were many good things last year that came out: The behaviour changes that happened, and climate change was something people talked about.

"But I absolutely hope we start thinking about it more, and we do more as well."

Kingham wanted to encourage more walking, cycling and public transport use within communities.

Inequity, obesity and mental well-being could all be improved by changing reliance on vehicles, he said.

And people should be positive about climate change, he said.

"I think some people are quite negative about it, [and] people who think we're not doing enough, and I think there's some people who think it's not important.

"To some extent, I think we have to be positive about it. We have to think that we can make changes that will make us ready for the things that are going to be happening in the next few years. So we have to be positive."

A new year's resolution to live lighter on the earth may be the goal of many this year.

'Nothing is too little'

Climate Change Commission chairman Rod Carr said everyone could take action which would fit their lifestyle and needs.

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Climate Change Commission chairman Rod Carr. Photo: Supplied

"Nothing is too little, and nothing is too late, but we need to do more and we need to start doing it now."

For an individual, a household, a small business, an industry or agriculture, or local or central government, no emission reduction was too small, or too soon.

Carr encouraged people to share their lifestyle changes to inspire others.

Students and young employees had a huge impact, he said.

"They work in businesses, or for businesses, and they can have an impact on how that business operates. They can impact on that businesses' supply chains and channels to the market.

"Being an active employee in your workplace doesn't mean you have to be a pain, it just means you have to be helpful in making your employer aware of the opportunities they have to reduce the emissions of that business."

Everyone's quality of life can be improved by reduced emissions and cleaner choices, he said.

"The reality is the co-benefits of walking and biking to work and school are quite substantial, even aside from reducing the emissions.

"You get the improved air quality, you get the health benefits, you get to actually smell the daisies and the roses as you head to school or work."

Active mobility, energy efficiency, and reducing and recycling all had a significant part to play, he said.

"I don't buy in to the argument that my little bit doesn't matter... I think we can all make a difference.

"In some cases it may be walking the kids to school rather than putting them in the big SUV.

"It may be working from home for a day a week, it may be taking the bus."

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