Green MP Golriz Ghahraman agrees with National MP Gerry Brownlee that using term 'climate crisis' is 'disempowering'

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has agreed with National MP Gerry Brownlee that using the term "climate crisis" is "disempowering" and deters climate action. 

Brownlee sat down with Ghahraman for his new podcast 'The Backroom of Politics', where the pair discussed how the Green Party and the National Party approach climate change politically. 

"The word crisis is interesting. I don't use that word because I think it frightens people too much. I think it is also somewhat disempowering - it implies that you can't do things," Brownlee says. 

"I think you're right, actually. I think you're right in that, that's what the evidence shows," Ghahraman responds. "You're absolutely right. The research now shows that is disempowering and if we want to motivate action, we need to start using a different word."

Ghahraman said it's about finding the "balance between treating it as a really, really serious thing, and also helping to motivate change and action". 

Despite Ghahraman agreeing the term 'climate crisis' is disempowering, the Greens lobbied the Government to declare a 'climate emergency', which it did in December last year

Ghahraman, who sits on Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee with Brownlee, said despite the combative nature of the debating chamber, MPs talk constructively behind the scenes. 

"We do have some constructive conversations and I find that especially in select committees, which is kind of where our conversations have always come from."

Brownlee said National accepts the need for climate action. 

"National signed the Paris Agreement. We support the Zero Carbon Act. We supported the establishment of the Climate Change Commission, although I think it's become more activist than advisory. And we support the 2050 zero carbon target and a split approach for methane."

But Brownlee touched on National's opposition to the Government's recently announced clean car incentive scheme, which will target imported high-emission vehicles with fees while newly imported electric and hybrid vehicles will get discounts. 

"The differences among parties here I don't think are that massively apart. But the effect of some of what's been proposed could be quite disparate and we've seen that discussion going on in the last few weeks," he said. 

"We have in recent days been somewhat critical of the idea that you can somehow make a massive difference to New Zealand's carbon output from transport by having a subsidy for electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles or low emission vehicles."

Brownlee said encouraging use of clean vehicles is a good thing, but questioned how effective the policy would be, considering only about 7000 electric vehicles were purchased in 2019 and a small portion of them make up the 150,000 cars imported each year. 

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"You then say, what's the potential cost of all that? What will be the overall effect? I think that's the thing that people find perplexing. People want practical things that they can do that might change an emissions profile.

"You've got your deniers out there. That's absolutely true. But no one can ignore the weather patterns that we're experiencing at the moment, the merging of seasons that we're seeing currently."

Ghahraman said it's about the Government setting standards. 

"I think the starting point for me on climate change as it is on any issue that we face as a community, is that we need governments to take a lead to present systemic solutions," she said. 

"That doesn't mean that we're going to suddenly see climate change addressed with a subsidy on electric cars. But we need the Government to start somewhere to help people to, across the board, make better decisions."

National MP Gerry Brownlee.
National MP Gerry Brownlee. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

A dumping of Government documents on Thursday revealed that the Greens lobbied against giving utes an exemption from the clean car incentive scheme fees, despite there being no electric or hybrid option available for at least the next few years. 

Opposition MPs piled on to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after she suggested there were "legitimate" uses for utes, amid the debate over whether they should have been exempt. 

Ghahraman said she prefers the Clean Car Standard to the incentive scheme. Next year car suppliers will have to report the amount of CO2 the vehicles they import to New Zealand emit and meet targets set by the Government to try and reduce transport emissions.    

"We have a lack of regulation around some of these things so where the Government is stepping in and saying we're not going to have high emissions vehicles, but in a reverse way will try and make lower emissions vehicles like EVs and hybrids more affordable."

But Ghahraman is concerned about whether Kiwis will be able to afford switching to clean cars. 

"They're not going to be affordable for that many people and that's where my concern starts to come in."