Budget 2020 labelled as 'missed opportunity' to fight climate change

The 2020 Budget has been labelled as a missed opportunity to tackle climate change. 

Despite millions being poured into the environment, there are calls for more money to ensure our new normal is a sustainable one. 

Auckland climate strikers were out in small numbers on Friday due to gathering restrictions. 

But they made their message loud and clear - they want a cleaner, greener economy.  

One they don't believe the Government invested in when the Budget was released on Thursday.

"They had an opportunity to rebuild and reshape the economy into one that ensured my generation and my grandkids' generation a safe future and sadly they didn't pull through," said one protestor.  

But $1 billion is being spent on the environment -  including $430 million to create new jobs in regional environmental projects. There's also $300 million being spent on weed and pest control and $200 million for new biodiversity jobs with the Department of Conservation. 

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says the cash is not to be scoffed at.

"This is the largest amount of money being put into the Budget pretty much in modern history," Shaw told Newshub. 

But Janet Stephenson, associate professor at Otago University's Centre for Sustainability, says it's not enough.

"That's brilliant work but it's not taking us to a sustainable future, it's dealing with the problems we have created from a non-sustainable past," Dr Stephenson told Newshub.

Dr Stephenson wants jobs created that will help us transition to a low-carbon future. And she's hoping some of the remaining budget money will go towards that.

"We have not had an indication from the Government that that is the intention."

However there's still $20 billion in the Budget which is unallocated - so there's still time. 

Climate advocates are worried we've missed another opportunity - to continue the environmental benefits of lockdown.

Under level 4, air quality massively improved in our major cities - but the shift to level 3 saw it bounce back almost entirely.

With less traffic on the road under level 4, NIWA found air quality improved massively in some of our major cities.

While it’s too soon to tell how the air is fairing in level 2, NIWA said the shift to level 3 saw air pollution bounce back almost entirely.  

Activists are now hoping the Government will hear their calls and draw climate change into the COVID-19 rebuild.