Fifty Shades Of Green: Home & Garden Books 2017

Katerina Seligman and Joanna Santa Barbara with a copy of Our Climate Declaration. Jill Seeney

Katerina Seligman and Joanna Santa Barbara with a copy of Our Climate Declaration.

OPINION: In the lobby of the YHA backpackers' hostel in Wellington, I read a sign saying that they were intent on "minimising YHA's impact on climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of all aspects of operations".

I was impressed. Looking up, I saw an energy readout on a screen, informing me how much solar electricity was flowing from the rooftop solar installations on the building, an old one in the central city.

The noticeboards featured, alongside the usual tourist attractions, a large display of what could be done to lower your carbon footprint.

Sarah Thomson is taking the Minister of the Environment to court over a failure to set and monitor targets on climate change. Monique Ford

Sarah Thomson is taking the Minister of the Environment to court over a failure to set and monitor targets on climate change.

In the bathrooms were low-flush toilets, low-flow shower-heads and movement sensors to turn out the lights. Guests could purchase native bushes and shrubs to be planted to offset their air flight emissions. And so on – a complete climate action plan.

Climate scientists see the current state of the atmosphere as an emergency. They say we have three years to act to stop greenhouse gas emissions rising as they currently are in New Zealand, and to start pulling the curve down to reach net zero in the next thirty years.  

Yet our government, unlike YHA, has no climate action plan. People's awareness of the problem is growing. Sarah Thomson, a Hamilton law student, was so shocked and frustrated that she has sued the government for imperilling the future of her generation. The case was heard in the High Court a few weeks ago; the judgment is pending.

A group of people, similarly frustrated by waiting for government action, got together by e-mail and began to plan how to take the issue into our own hands, to act on climate change ourselves.

These people had already modified their own lives to lower their carbon footprint in all the usual ways. They developed a climate action programme for New Zealand, involving citizens at all levels of social organisation – homes, businesses, churches, schools, universities, as well as local councils.

There are possibilities for action in our ordinary life spaces, they said, involving every person. 

The programme is called Our Climate Declaration. It commits its supporters to action on climate, set within the values of economic fairness, democracy, respect for human rights and the intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

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It has three parts. The first part, titled 'Stop the Bad Stuff', deals with the importance of preventing things from getting worse. Supporters are encouraged to resist new coal mines, deep sea oil exploration and fracking, as well as the expansion of industrialised intensive dairying.

The second part, 'Bring on the good', encourages supporters to adopt clean, renewable alternatives for electricity, transport, farming and industrial processes; to farm sustainably, managing soils and waterways better; to engage in reafforestation; to reduce consumption of energy and materials: to insulate homes, and more.

The declaration encourages us to work towards an economic system that respects nature's limits and serves all citizens, replacing the unsustainable drive for endless economic growth with an economics of 'enough'.

Finally, the declaration gets to the tardy government. It urges us to pressure government to facilitate the above transitions, by establishing an independent Climate Commission to set a binding carbon budget.

The government is urged to set a price on carbon which will do the job of cutting emissions, with the proceeds distributed to all citizens.

The endorsers of the declaration want to see New Zealand's targets in the Paris agreement set according to climate science, not political expediency. It also asks the government to prepare for resettlement of climate refugees, with guidance from tangata whenua.

The full text can be seen on www.ourclimatedeclaration.org.nz 

Our Climate Declaration was recently launched at simultaneous events in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, all sites linked electronically. Part of the reason for this was to minimise fossil fuel use for people attending the events.

Motueka activist Katerina Seligman said: "When I first saw the Climate Declaration I framed it and put it on my wall.  It's what is needed; to stop expecting others to take action.

"Ordinary people are rising up to face this very scary thing. There will be more and more huge losses for humanity and all living things if climate change is not put on top of everyone's list of what's important. Solutions do exist. Implementing them takes huge commitment and courage and it is starting to happen." 

Supporters of the declaration are eager to get large numbers of endorsements and also to encourage all citizens to be involved in curbing climate change. 

The idea is for every business, every school, every church, every local council to have a climate action plan. A high level of such activity will pull the government in its wake with a demand to act. Its mandate will be clear. 

Then we will have done our fair share in working for a climate-safe world.  We are all part of the problem and we all need to be part of the solution.

Joanna Santa Barbara is a retired physician and a climate activist from Motueka. Fifty Shades of Green is a column provided by the Nelson Environment Centre.

 

 - Stuff

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