The market-friendly recommendations of the Climate Change Commission will do little to counter the threat of climate change. We deserve a lot better than merely tinkering with a failed economic model.

SOME THREE years after Jacinda Ardern announced to her 2017 election campaign opening meeting that climate change was 'the nuclear free moment of her generation' and tackling the crisis was a priority for her government, the first report from the Climate Change Commission has basically said that Ardern's government hasn't done nearly enough to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The report comments : 'Current government polices do not put Aotearoa on track to meet our recommended emission budgets and the 2050 targets'.

The Green Party should hang its head in shame that its complicit in this failure but its hardly a revelation that the government, ably assisted by the Green's, has been fiddling while the planet burns. Some us have been saying that for years. In 2017, for example, former NZ Herald columnist Rachel Stewart was ringing the alarm bells. She wrote that as a country, we had to 'realise that climate change is a mission that must be attacked on a World War Two scale'.

During the first term of the Labour Government people were demanding more decisive action on climate change. That culminated in some 180,000 demonstrating throughout the country in September 2019, demanding a more urgent response from the government.  Despite assurances from the Climate Change Minister James Shaw that the government was listening, the Government did exactly...nothing.

So, still exhibiting an appalling lack of urgency, the Labour Government has meandered its way to this new report which will now go out for public consultation. James Shaw, who comprehensively failed to do his job during his first stint as Climate Change Minster, claims the recommendations 'will allow New Zealand to set an example to the rest of the world in terms of how to make a transition to a net zero carbon economy.'  This is just spin, but its what we've come to expect from Shaw.

The recommendations are designed to meet our obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement that aims to keep the planet's temperatures from rising more than two degrees celsius. But that agreement has been widely criticised as being sorely inadequate to meet the threat posed by climate change.

That was the conclusion reached in a 2018 report published by Universal Ecological Fund which said that of the 184 national  pledges made by the Paris agreement, 136 were deemed insufficient to meet the threat posed by climate change.

Said Professor Robert Watson, a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: 'The current pledges made under the Paris agreement are totally inadequate  to put us on a pathway to meet with the 1.5c or 2c goal. With just 1c warming so far, we are already seeing some very significant effects. The effects at 3-4c will be very profound for people all around the world.'

Harvard University's  James McCarthy, a co-author of the report, said 'Failing to reduce emissions drastically and rapidly  will result in an environmental and economic disaster from human induced climate change.'

While Climate Change Commission chair Dr Rod Carr says that 'we need transformational and lasting change to meet our targets and ensure a thriving Aotearoa for future generations' this report offers the kind of transformational change you have when you are not having transformational change. Its the kind of non-transformation that appeals to a neoliberal  and centrist Labour Government - or a Green Party still drinking from the poisoned chalice of 'green capitalism'.

Once again we're expected to believe that 'the market' can fix climate change when its responsible for the crisis in the first place. Its worth recalling the words of New Zealand climate change scientist James Renwick who pointed out in a 2019 speech that protecting the economic status quo and saving the planet were contradictory goals:

'Capitalist enterprises are designed to make a profit and not much else, and if we're going to change that, then people  are going to have to stand up and make that happen. If we can't get change fast enough through processes that exist now, do we need to take some kind of action. I'm not advocating that and I don't know what that would look like, but I do wonder..I still feel as if our elected representatives don't quite grasp the gravity of all this.'

The alternative to the market-friendly proposals of the Climate Change Commission remains a Green New Deal. It would embrace the kind of comprehensive changes that Rachel Stewart referred to in that it would require the kind of concerted effort to change a system that isn't meeting the needs of the planet or humanity. Its the kind of Green New Deal promoted in the Democratic Party by politicians like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and which was adopted by Jeremy Corbyn's UK Labour Party. Its the kind of Green New Deal that our own market friendly  Green Party refuses to adopt as policy.

But our current economic model is threatening to drive the planet over the cliff and gradual incremental reforms are no longer an option. As author and activist Naomi Klein observes:

'If we don't change course, if we don't change our political and economic system, then  climate change is going to change everything about our physical world. That's the road we're on. We can get off that road, but now we're so far along it, we've put off the crucial policies for so long, that now we cant do it gradually. We have to swerve, right? And swerving requires such a radical departure from the kind of political and economic system we have right now that we pretty much have to change everything.'

But our present crop of 'representative' politicians have neither the political will or appetite to implement the fundamental charges that are required. The centrist politics of this Labour Government - and its Green Party ally -  are no solution to the mess that we find ourselves in. Perhaps James Renwick is right. Perhaps we have to stand up ourselves to make real change happen, creating the kind of mass movement that makes real change possible.


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