Opinion: More than hot air needed from climate change minister

Opinion: More than hot air needed from climate change minister

The Climate Change Issues Minister released a smart-looking pamphlet last week outlining New Zealand's action on the issue.

With a wind turbine and child running down a grassy hill, it could have almost come from the Green Party.

Opinion: More than hot air needed from climate change minister

The cover of the fancy pamphlet (Newshub.)

Inside, it was adorned with plenty of easy-to-understand graphics showing where our emissions are headed and a timeline of what we've done to combat climate change since 1988.

It featured good news stories: Some exciting research into manuka's potential to store carbon and reduce erosion. A landfill north of Auckland that captures methane and generates electricity to power 12,000 homes.

But all in all, it was mostly hot air.

There's no mention that while we research how to make agriculture more efficient, and encourage people to plant more trees, our country's actual emissions keep climbing.

While the Prime Minister is in New York, holding the president's gavel at the United Nations Security Council and leading the charge on ending the conflict in Syria, his climate change minister is sending out PR padding around another global crisis, which, if we do not take real steps to cut emissions, will have a devastating impact on our kids and their kids.

Minister Paula Bennett does acknowledge this: "The effect humans are having on our planet will touch every aspect of our lives, from where we live and potentially even how long".

She's not wrong. But we've heard this all before. What we need is action.

New Zealanders need to have confidence that our leaders are doing what needs to be done.

We need our leaders getting their hands dirty and, like John Key at the UN, taking the lead on the global stage.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry quoted JFK when she rolled out the Predator Free New Zealand plans - "We don't do these things because they are easy".

But that mindset doesn't seem to apply when it requires taking a hard line on our beloved agriculture industry, and being honest about the fact that we drive our petroleum-fuelled cars too much.

Bennett's office says the New Zealand Government plans to ratify the Paris Agreement "within weeks".

That is excellent news, but what are we doing to achieve the goals we're signing up to?

Will we also take some strong measures to reduce emissions?

Like toughening up the emissions trading scheme so it uses only New Zealand carbon units?

Or auctioning carbon units instead of generously doling them out to industry?

The Government plans to have 64,000 electric cars on the road by 2021, but when will they build the hundreds more charging stations needed to support them?

Then there is Environment Minister Nick Smith. He's in Paris chairing a huge meeting of his OECD counterparts.

It's the first time New Zealand's held the role and Dr Smith says that's because we're held in such high regard on environmental issues.

But to hold on to that reputation surely we need to be seen to be taking the lead on what Paula Bennett calls "the largest environmental challenge of our time".

We only contribute 0.16 percent to global emissions but that's not the point, we should lead by example.

Dr Smith says the challenge will be making sure we have practical policies in place to meet the 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 after we ratify the Paris Agreement.

What will those policies be? Will there be ambition? Will we lead the world?

Or will it just be more hot air from Paula Bennett's Beehive office?

I hope to see them in the Minister's next glossy pamphlet.