James Shaw: Greens have to befriend enemies to save environment

The Green Party will have to make compromises and befriend its enemies in order to achieve its big goals around climate change and wiping out single-use plastics, James Shaw says.

The Green leader delivered the party's annual State of the Planet speech to a packed lecture theatre in Wellington today, where he identified a Zero Carbon Act and improvements to the Waste Minimisation Act as two of the party's goals for the end of the parliamentary term.

Mr Shaw says New Zealand could lead the world in the transition to a truly sustainable economy, but that would require the Greens to "focus unrelentingly on the big things that put this architecture in place".

"There are lots of very worthy but small issues that could easily distract us from the already Herculean task in front of us."

He says supporting New Zealand First's Waka Jumping Bill, a concept the party has opposed, is an example of one of the compromises the Green Party must make.

Shaw outlined plans to introduce the Zero Carbon Act, calling it "the most significant piece of legislation to protect our environment in the history of New Zealand".

The Zero Carbon Act would legally require all future governments to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 and set five-yearly carbon budgets.

A revised Waste Minimisation Act would phase out unnecessary plastic packaging and products, to stop Kiwis using 1.6 billion single-use plastic bags and 168 plastic water bottles every year.

He says the goals are particularly ambitious given the Greens have just eight MPs out of 120 in Parliament.

Mr Shaw issued a veiled reminder to New Zealand First and Labour of the importance of collaboration and the "give-and-take of coalition government".

"If we are going to do something other than just be in office and just merely govern, if we're actually going to be a reforming Government, as Jacinda calls it an 'active government', then we actually have to think about what are those key reforms we have to put in place."

He also says working with the National Party on big issues like the Zero Carbon Act will be necessary in order to achieve the ideas the Greens have championed for decades.

"We have to include everyone, including those who, at least for the moment, disagree with us."

Shaw says the transition to a sustainable economy is a generational shift and the Greens won't be in Government for the entire transition.

"We have to beat swords into plowshares and make friends of our enemies."