Paula Bennett scorns Jacinda Ardern over 'ridiculous' openness to 'climate emergency'

Paula Bennett is lashing out at the Prime Minister over her openness to declaring a "climate emergency", describing the prospect as "ridiculous". 

Bennett, the deputy leader of the National Party, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is trying to "juggle the Greens and New Zealand First" and is "trying to keep everybody happy". 

"It just seems like it's yet another case of this Government making a big statement with nothing behind it. It's rhetoric... and personally I think it's ridiculous," Bennett told Magic Talk. 

Ardern was asked last week if she would consider declaring a climate emergency, after more than 50 of New Zealand's top scientists called on Parliament to take action. 

She said there had been an attempt to move a motion in Parliament, and that it was declined in May, which she said was mainly due to process and procedure. 

"We're not opposed to the idea of declaring an emergency in Parliament because certainly, I'd like to think our policies and our approach demonstrate that we do see it as an emergency."

New Zealand would join the UK, Canada, Ireland and France if the Government declared a "climate emergency". So far, only local authorities have done so in New Zealand, the most significant being Auckland Council

Bennett said declarations of emergency should only be used for "very serious events" like the Christchurch earthquakes. 

National's deputy leader Paula Bennett.
National's deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"It's more talk, it's her not showing real leadership, not knowing what to do, trying to keep everyone happy and achieving nothing," she said of the Prime Minister. 

Bennett said the Government should be concentrating more on supporting scientists working towards solutions to climate change rather than considering "ridiculous" statements. 

"I think as technology keeps up and we see that level of research happening, that's where we can make the biggest difference."

Bennett, the former Minister for Climate Change Issues, pointed to a research programme led by New Zealand scientists who recently revealed a breakthrough in reducing agricultural greenhouse emissions. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is "not opposed" to declaring a "climate emergency".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is "not opposed" to declaring a "climate emergency". Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

The researchers from New Zealand's AgResearch and Otago University - along with researchers from around the world - have narrowed down which bacteria in a sheep's first stomach produce hydrogen during the digestion process. 

The research is a breakthrough for New Zealand, of which methane makes up about a third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. 

Bennett went on to slam the Greens, the Government's Confidence and Supply partner, over its anti-genetic modification stance, despite a strain of genetically-modified grass that could help to curb emissions

"I would support there being rules around it, we would have to have strict criteria, but surely it is time we have the grown up conversation about the advances that we've got in research and technology," Bennett said. 

Despite National supporting Climate Change Minister James Shaw's Zero Carbon Bill through its first reading, Bennett said she couldn't guarantee National would support it through its second. 

"This is a really big piece of legislation, one that a number of people want to make submissions on. It wouldn't surprise me if there's hundreds, if not thousands.

"I don't want us clamping down and putting costs on so much in New Zealand that we shut down good business so that we just purchase products from overseas which are actually causing more damage to our planet."

Bennett said Shaw is "dreaming" if he thinks the Bill would become law by the end of the year. 


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