Opinion: Will this Green Party save us from climate cataclysm?

  • Opinion
  • 24/10/2019

By Steve Abel

Opinion: Jacinda Ardern stood up on Thursday and announced a cave-in on the coalition commitment to get agriculture into the emissions trading scheme (ETS) this electoral term. 

This, by the way, is what NZ First and Labour had agreed to at the formation of the coalition, not a Green demand. 

But wait, who’s that blue-suited guy standing beside Ardern? No way - it’s the silver-tongued frontman for Dairy NZ, Tim Mackle.

We sputtered into our oat-milk coffee at the Greenpeace office. 

Prime Minister Ardern wasn’t standing alongside the regenerative farmers pioneering sustainable agriculture throughout New Zealand. She was cosying up to the boss of the country's dirtiest industry. 

This is not a world-first win for the climate, it’s a business-first sell out of catastrophic proportions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's a historic consensus with the primary sector.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's a historic consensus with the primary sector. Photo credit: File

As the Government’s own environment stats revealed earlier this year, dairy is the number one polluter of our rivers, our land and our climate.

The Government had done a deal to delay agriculture paying it’s share of climate pollution until 2025. 

That’s not just a backdown on the Government’s commitment two years ago, it wastes seven years of the narrow 12-year window that climate scientists gave us last year to dramatically reduce climate emissions including the powerful dairy greenhouse gas methane.   

But the worst was yet to come. The Green Party co-leader James Shaw, was about to sell it as a victory for the climate and a world first. 

And worse still, as the Minister responsible for Climate Change, he was about to make a statement about the climate science that was plainly untrue. 

Shaw touted the sellout as keeping us on track to achieving only 1.5 degrees of warming by the turn of the century.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw. Photo credit: Newshub.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know which team he bats for. That’s a big problem for the Greens when the battle you’ve been fighting on for decades is finally the issue du jour. x

Shaw’s exposition of the shining example that New Zealand agriculture is to the world is indistinguishable from the dairy industry’s own spin. 

Shaw naively believes that you can cosy up to big business on their terms rather than stand up to them on environmental terms and regulate them out of their bad habits. 

Shaw’s twisting of Green principles such as consensus to justify cuddling up to big-dairy is frankly stomach-turning.  

Green supporters will be wondering deeply if this is the sort of leadership that can save us from climate cataclysm.

Not to mention a whole generation of climate school strikers who are hitting the voting age in 2020 who must be at a loss as to who represents them politically.

Agriculture has been exempt from ETS since it was established in 2008.
Agriculture has been exempt from ETS since it was established in 2008. Photo credit: Getty

If there was a moment when the Green co-leader betrayed his inadequacy to do so - it was today. 

Relevance in a political movement is not just useful for electoral success - it could be the difference between human survival and extinction.

And word, James Shaw, politicians selling out to big business is not a world first.

Steve Abel is a Senior Campaign & Political Advisor for Greenpeace Aotearoa