After six years of defending the status quo, the Green Party now claims that it wants more than just 'small tinkering'. But this is nothing more than cynical posturing, designed to hoodwink potential voters that the Green Party is the 'progressive' option this election.
FOR SIX long and undistinguished years, the Green Party has been Labour's loyal servant. Even as the country's levels of poverty and inequality have increased the Green Party has had little to say, instead reserving its criticisms for the opposition National Party. The reward for the Green's unswerving loyalty came in 2020 when its two co-leaders, James Shaw and Marama Davidson, were appointed ministers outside of cabinet. It was that at this point that any criticism of the Government and its policies was extinguished.
It has also been the job of James Shaw, as Climate Change minister, to defend the Government's appalling record on tackling climate change. The lack of substantial action has been strongly criticised by environmental groups and activists. When, in September 2021, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the Government was 'working very hard' to address the climate emergency, the response of the young Swedish activist Great Thunberg was swift and direct: 'It's funny that people believe Jacinda Ardern and people like that are climate leaders. That just tells you how little people know about the climate crisis. It goes without saying that these people are not doing anything.'
While James Shaw has, on occasion, attempted to ingratiate himself with an environmental movement far more progressive than himself, he and the Labour Government have never been interested in doing more than just tinker with the status quo. While Shaw might have indicated to activists like Greta Thunberg that he was sympathetic to the demand for 'system change, not climate change', he has had an entirely different message for the business sector. He told the Climate Change and Business Conference in September last year that 'a heck of a lot has been achieved in the past five years' and then went on to outline some of the 'opportunities' for profit that 'adaptation' to climate change offered. There was no mention of system change here, rather a doubling-down on the failed ideology of 'green capitalism'.
As Branko Marcetic observed of Shaw's performance as Climate Change minister in Jacobin magazine:'Giving the biggest polluters a free pass, lagging behind on emissions cuts, accruing a reputation as a climate dilettante on the world stage — all of this would be pretty damning for anyone with the title of minister for climate change. The fact that the minister is the co-leader of the Green Party is an added indictment.'
But with an election campaign upon us and the Green Party free of its 'obligations' to Labour, the party has begun posturing as something other than the cautious and docile party that it has been under the co-leadership of James Shaw and Marama Davidson. Out of nowhere, the Green Party has declared that it is in favour of sweeping change. It has tweeted:
'One thing we've made clear: NZer's don't want small tinkering in the face of record inequality and a climate crisis. They want political courage.'
In 2019 some 180,000 people demonstrated in rallies throughout the country demanding real and urgent action to combat climate change. These demands went largely unmet by the Labour-led government - with the Green Party in tow.
But having played lapdog to Labour for six years, the Green Party now spies an opportunity to pick up votes from former supporters of Labour, disillusioned with its centrist politics and policies.
The Green Party is attempting to position itself as the progressive option this general election, but its track record betrays it. Even though it might now claim it wants something more than just 'small tinkering' its track record says otherwise. It remains committed to the failed ideology of so-called 'green capitalism' which seeks to protect the existing economic system and the arrangements of ownership, wealth, and power.
If the Green Party really did believe in something more than 'small tinkering', it would be campaigning for a Green New Deal (GND) during its election campaign. It isn't, even though it is one of the signatories to the Global Alliance for a Green New Deal. Indeed James Shaw, backed by Marama Davidson, has gone out of his way to ensure that the GND does not gain any traction within the Green Party. The Green Party has a long way to go before it can claim to be the party of 'political courage'.