Chloe Swarbrick has been given the job of Green Party spokesperson on adapting to climate change. But just a few months ago, in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, she was calling for 'radical transformation'. 

THIS WEEK the Green Party announced its portfolio spokespeople for the upcoming parliamentary term. Of note, and of some concern, is that the Green's most popular MP has been given the new portfolio of Associate Climate Change (Adaptation).

It does seem, on the face of it, that Chloe Swarbrick has agreed to promote the misleading idea that we can 'adapt' to the increasingly hostile climatic conditions that are already impacting on communities and threatening lives. Indeed, at COP27, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell noted:

'Adaptation alone cannot keep up with the impacts of climate change, which are already worse than predicted.... the potential to adapt to climate change is not limitless. And they will not prevent all losses and damage that we’ve seen.'

That the Green Party has succumbed to the myth of adaptation is not entirely surprising. Under the conservative co-leadership of Marama Davidson and James Shaw (especially) the parliamentary Green Party has long refused to acknowledge that it is our present economic system that is driving climate change. So, when it is reported that just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, James Shaw still stands up in Parliament and falsely claims that its 'people' who are responsible for climate change. Rather than place the blame fairly and squarely at the feet of his corporate mates, Shaw prefers to blame you and me. 

To suggest that we can 'adapt' to climate change is to suggest that market-based 'solutions' are the best and most pragmatic path to, if not overcoming the climate crisis, then minimising its impact. But the idea that this economic system can be reformed or adapted to make it compatible with our environment is probably the greatest barrier to fighting climate change. As writer and activist Naomi Klein noted several years ago:

'... climate scientists are telling us when they say business as usual leads to three to four degrees Celsius of warming. That’s the road we are on. We can get off that road, but we’re now so far along it, we’ve put off the crucial policies for so long, that now we can’t 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.'

In other words, 'adaptation' is not an option. There is a growing recognition that we have reached the point of no return, and the call is for 'system change not climate change'. We might have expected Swarbrick to have come to that conclusion as well. Indeed, after Cyclone Gabrielle in February, Swarbrick was calling for 'radical transformation' and seemed to share the view of Greta Thunberg that no non-radical solutions are left before us.

Now, just a few months later, she has accepted the job of promoting climate change 'adaptability'.  This might be the fantasy of James Shaw, but it's difficult to know why Swarbrick feels she must share it too. However, as I observed earlier this year, some on the left of the Green Party, have longstanding doubts about the genuineness of Swarbrick's left-wing radicalism:

'They point out that she has done little to oppose the market environmentalism imposed on the Green Party by the present leadership. A Green Party activist has suggested she declined to take up the case for a Green New Deal.'

Her new role provides further ammunition for her critics. Adapting to climate change is a non-solution and it will be Swarbrick's job to promote such non-solutions under the umbrella of 'green capitalism'. But this is the same Chloe Swarbrick who wrote in 2022: 'Do we want to keep tinkering, or do we want a brand new deal? Are we willing to reset the rules?... It's not going to happen overnight and it's not going to be easily handed over, but history tells us we can, and the demands of the future require we must.'

Right now, it doesn't look like Chloe Swarbrick's up for the fight.


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