Climate campaigner urges voters to push Government, companies to act following grim IPCC report

By Kirsty Frame of RNZ

A loud message is coming through the new UN climate change report - it is time for us all to radically change our lifestyles.

The significant report has painted a bleak picture of what is ahead without swift action, and the window for avoiding the worst is closing further every day.

Within two years, greenhouse gas emissions need to start declining.

The coal industry needs to almost entirely shut down and methane emissions need to be cut by a third - all within the next eight years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that people need to pull their weight and change their ways to help meet those requirements.

New Zealand is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters per-head of population.

Massey University Emeritus Professor Ralph Sims, who was a review editor of the IPCC report, said it was already unlikely that the country can could its methane emissions by a third, when agriculture made up half of greenhouse gas emissions.

"We need people to look at their lifestyles, look at their carbon footprints and consider how they may reduce them," he said.

Shoppers at a Wellington supermarket, many with reusable bags in tote, told RNZ how they feel about changing their lifestyles.

"People do need to change their behaviours, but it's so hard to do when it takes 10 times more work," one said.

"I think I do my bit, but I probably don't do enough," another shopper said.

"I think it's absolutely do-able, why not? It needs to happen," someone else said.

"I'm prepared to do my bit."

So what can people do?

Their best.

Things like walking, cycling, public transport, eating less meat, flying less, working from home are all actions the IPCC says will make a difference if enough people try.

Transport changes include ultimately a shift from gas-guzzling transport to electric vehicles, which will be significant for New Zealand, because transport is still the country's highest growing sector.

Just last month, record sales of utes were recorded as people rushed to beat the government's Clean Car Discount.

Many shoppers told RNZ electric vehicles were not on their agenda.

"One of the reasons I went with a hybrid rather than an electric vehicle is because I couldn't afford an electric," was one response.

"What, $30k for a second-hand [Nissan] Leaf? It's still crazy expensive compared to $3 or $4k for a diesel," another said.

"We bought our cargo e-bike about two years ago, and the climate was one of the factors," someone else said.

Coal Action Network campaigner and climate researcher Cindy Baxter urged people to use their power as voters and customers to force the government and industry to act.

"The biggest thing you can do it push your government and push the companies - like Fonterra, like the company you buy milk from, like Countdown, all those companies. You're the customer, push them to make the change as well because it's bigger than the both of us."

The report stated governments would need to front up and make changes in transport, industry, buildings and agriculture to let people live low-carbon lifestyles.

Baxter believed more support was needed for those who could not afford to make some of the IPCC lifestyle changes.

"It does cost the poorest people the most amount of money, we need to look at that and use the income from something like the Emissions Trading Scheme to support the people who can't afford it and are being hit the hardest."

Greater Wellington Regional councillor Thomas Nash agreed every bit counted, but balance needed to be skewed more onto decision-makers.

"I see that as our job as people in councils, and government, to make it easier for people and that's why we're trying to do things like reducing public transport fares and making it easier to not have to rely on a car," Nash said.

"This isn't going to be easy, this is going to be hard and we're going to have to work together."

The IPCC reports take about seven years to compile, meaning that the next warning report will be coinciding with those critical timeframes.