David Seymour rubbishes 'PR stunt' climate emergency as Chlöe Swarbrick credits 'grassroots activism'

ACT leader David Seymour is rubbishing plans to declare a "PR stunt" climate emergency while Chlöe Swarbrick credits "grassroots activism" for the Green Party victory. 

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that she will introduce a Government motion next Wednesday to declare a climate emergency in Parliament. 

Swarbrick sought through multiple avenues to get a declaration of climate emergency up, in recognition of the School Strikers and Ollie, the climate advocate who spent 100 days on Parliament's lawn.

"As a non-Executive member, your motion can be shot down with as little as one verbally dissenting Parliamentarian. National Party MPs murmured their opposition when I brought my motion," she told Newshub.

"Continued advocacy by grassroots climate activists got this on the agenda, and committed to, by most parties during the election campaign. The Greens very much look forward to the progression of this declaration, and the necessary commitment to substantial climate action to follow."

Seymour described the move to declare a climate emergency as nothing more than words. 

"This is a marketing stunt that won't stop one tonne of emissions. If you've got a policy, you don't need to declare an emergency. If you have to declare an emergency, maybe your policy isn't working," he told Newshub. 

"What we need is a simple, effective response. ACT would tie New Zealand's emissions price to the prices paid by our major trading partners so we can do our bit without pushing businesses overseas."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

A Government motion can be brought by a minister after having passed the usual Government and Cabinet processes. 

The plan to declare a climate emergency is mentioned in Parliament's business statement for next week, an informal indication of what the Government intends to place before the House.

"We've always considered climate change to be a huge threat to our region and something that we must take immediate action on," Ardern told reporters on Thursday. 

"Unfortunately, we were unable to progress a motion around a climate emergency in Parliament in the last term but now we're able to and so we are."

Ardern was asked if the idea was rejected by Labour's former coalition partner New Zealand First. 

"As I've said, we were unable to progress it," she said. "We can now and so we will."

Ardern acknowledged that a climate emergency declaration is just words. But she said it is the action that follows that matters. 

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Getty

"A statement around a climate emergency is just that. We've got to make sure that we're demonstrating in our actions that we're continuing to make progress. We've got a lot we're proud of but we know the work needs to continue."

During the Newshub Leaders Debate in September, Ardern was pressed on whether she would declare a climate change emergency, which Auckland Council voted unanimously to do last year.

Ardern said during the debate she'd have "no issue" with declaring a climate emergency after it was previously voted down in Parliament last year.

"It is an emergency and everything we've done demonstrates that," Ardern said. "An emergency in real terms means stopping future offshore oil and gas exploration." 

National leader Judith Collins said her plan to tackle climate change would be to support New Zealand farmers by "giving them the science" to help them cut carbon emissions.

New Zealand would join the UK, Canada, Ireland and France by declaring a climate emergency. So far only local councils have done, including regional bodies in Wellington, Auckland, Nelson, Canterbury, Waikato and Southland.

In Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy's Speech to the Throne on Thursday, said the climate crisis sits alongside affordable housing, homelessness and child poverty as the country's longest-standing and hardest issues.

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"Crises do not form an orderly line waiting to be addressed," she said.

"On each of these areas there is a need to do more and go further. Problems that are decades in the making are not easily or quickly solved. But this Government is committed to relentlessly pursuing progress."

Labour's climate change policies include phasing out coal-fired boilers and decarbonising public transport buses, preventing unnecessary waste by phasing out single use and hard to recycle plastics, and supporting agricultural climate change research. 

The Government has already banned new offshore oil and gas exploration, established the Climate Change Commission, which will advise governments on how to meet targets set in the Zero Carbon Act. 

The targets include zero net carbon emissions by 2050 and a reduction of between 24 and 47 percent of methane emissions by 2050. These targets are intended to keep global warming to within 1.5degC by 2050.