Opinion: The NZ Government needs to pull its weight in the climate fight

OPINION: New Zealand is known for punching above its weight when it comes to sport - why, then, are we so complacent around combatting climate change we dismiss it as, 'we're a small country, nothing we do will change much anyway'?

A law student is currently suing the Government because she says New Zealand isn't doing enough to fight climate change.

Our targets under the Paris agreement are arguably woefully inadequate, but ex-Prime Minister John Key originally dismissed the legal action as a "joke", saying the US and Australia have even lower targets than ours.

But just because we're better than some, does that mean we can sit back and say we're doing all we can?

When it comes to sports, we battle against opponents bigger and richer than us all the time. We take pride in being called the 'underdog', because it makes winning feel all the more satisfying.

When I recently attended a conference about the climate and levels of pollution in the atmosphere, people much, much smarter than me told us all how we're at levels that haven't been seen in millennia.

In fact, our current spike is worse than anything seen in history.

Opinion: The NZ Government needs to pull its weight in the climate fight
Photo credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

What should our response be? Just to shrug and dismiss doing anything as being too hard?

If the New Zealand Government won't push itself to its limits because we're a small country, why should John on the street make changes to his life?

I was talking to a colleague the other day about all of this, about how rapidly and outrageously we've outpaced previous records.

His response was defeated: "What can I do to change it?"

We've gone too far, too fast, and we've probably passed the point of no return, he argued. Even if the whole world united, how do we go back?

Therein lies the problem. If governments are seeing this through the same eyes of apathy, we have no hope.

But there is hope. There's always hope.

The scientists aren't giving up on the chance that we crack it and find a solution. More than 150 of them from across the world are in Dunedin right now for the Antarctic Science Conference.

They all have hope that we can do it.

That we can have fully renewable energy.

That we can draw down the CO2 already clogging up our atmosphere.

That we can find a way to tame the agricultural industry to make it less catastrophic.

That we can do all of this without trashing our oceans and environment.

After all, it took just decades for us to accelerate our pollutant output so dramatically. If we can make that stop, we can start focusing on removing what we've already created.

And if riding my bike instead of driving makes one iota of difference, I'm going to do it.

And the Government should too.

Breanna Barraclough is a digital producer for Newshub, who often focuses on environment and climate change stories.