I commend what the New Zealand Government is trying to achieve in relation to the impact of climate change, but we have to ensure we don’t go broke trying to realise the Government’s and other’s goals.

We must remain realistic and make sure that our response to climate change works hand in hand with our economy.

The Government has declared a climate change emergency and committed to achieving its emissions budgets, 2050 targets and its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The word emergency means, ‘a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action’.  

Labelling climate change as an emergency diminishes the meaning and future use of the word emergency, such as a Civil Defence emergency.

Climate change is a priority, but it is not an emergency and our response needs to be realistic and balanced.

It’s not that I don’t believe in climate change. It has been happening since the beginning of time and will continue to occur while there are human beings in the world.

When I was a young kid, I was concerned about global change and used to talk to my grandfather about the extremes he had been through, drought, severe rain events, frosts, snow, there was even talk of an imminent ice-age. To me we don’t seem to be looking back into history enough. Surely, we need to look backwards to look forward. 

We also have to make sure the tools we are measuring climate change with today are comparable with what was used when recording first began, we know technology has advanced tremendously and we have to be comparing apples with apples. 

I do not doubt that climate change is the biggest environmental challenge of our time, affecting our climate, agriculture, native ecosystems, health and biosecurity; and if left unchecked it will have broad social and economic impacts. 

Climate change is a double-edged sword. We need to stop the emissions caused by global population growth, but as we know New Zealand needs growth for a healthy economy. 

I read an article recently that claimed just 100 companies have been responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988.

The global community needs to take responsibility. New Zealand’s efforts are admirable but, for a country that is so small with such a fragile economy, are we setting the benchmark too high by trying so hard, and yet in the big picture making so little difference?

It seems ironic that we are looking to introduce an across-the-board plan to offset emissions where we should be focussing on eliminating emissions from those who are the perpetrators. 

It’s about weighing our response up sensibly rather than a knee jerk reaction.

The Climate Change Commission’s draft document includes more electric vehicles, accelerated renewable energy generation, climate-friendly farming practices, more forests and reducing livestock numbers by around 15% by 2030. 

The plan suggests no new natural gas connections to the network or bottled LPG after 2025 and by 2050, existing natural gas in buildings should be phased out.

It is ironic that not that many years ago people were being encouraged to swap their electricity powered heating and cooking for gas. Where is all this additional electricity going to come from?

Why aren’t we looking at initiatives where people are incentivised to install solar/alternative power and have the opportunity to sell power back to the national grid at a reasonable return?

I’m sure there are advantages of green technology like wind, solar and electric cars, but we also need to understand the damage some of these new concepts bring. We know we are already living in a disposable society. What happens to the electric car batteries and all the other components when they are no longer chargeable or usable? Will it be like the wind turbines in the United States which have a limited life and are then buried?

We have to keep it real. Wairoa has no public transport so that is not an option, and car-pooling is challenging for people in rural areas.

The Climate Change Commission reports on reducing livestock and planting more forests, but this is not good for our district. Why don’t we think more broadly and as an example ban synthetic carpet manufacturing? Synthetic is — nylon, polyester, acrylic — all of which are petroleum-based products and not sustainable. Wool carpet is natural, eco-friendly and 100% biodegradable.

Imagine how this would help our sheep farmers.

The Government’s commitment to increasing our forestry profile is represented by the Billion Trees Programme. But we need to be very careful that the right trees are being planted in the right places. Currently a lot of these plantations are in concentrated areas, like Wairoa, where we should be trying to distribute the planting of trees evenly across the whole country.

And don’t lambaste the farmers. We only need to look at what happened during the COVID lockdowns. There were clear skies even though farming continued, it was the manufacturing and factory-type businesses that stopped working that made the difference.

I am aware the Government has not yet accepted the draft advice received from the Climate Change Commission and I urge the Government to tread very carefully and look at both sides of the equation before committing to radical change.

We are such a small country and climate change is a huge global issue. If New Zealand is going to make change then we need to make sure our decisions are balanced and realistic and do not come at the cost of people who can’t afford these changes. 

Imagine a stock agent driving 116km from Napier to Wairoa and a further 70km on a predominantly unsealed road to the top of the Ruakituri and then return to Napier in an electric car? That is just not realistic.

I am all for doing what we can to meet the challenges of climate change, but not at the expense of our country’s social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeings.

This column has been put together from feedback I have been receiving from our community. It is important our community are taken on this journey. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is on climate change, as long as there is an awareness and discussion. I look forward to additional feedback.

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  1. “It’s not that I don’t believe in climate change. It has been happening since the beginning of time and will continue to occur while there are human beings in the world.”
    The author has not even bothered to justify that opinion. As a result of that one statement the rest of this commentary is worthless.

  2. I really think that climate change has been happening since the beginning of time – doesn’t need to be justified – it’s self evident – and it will continue to occur regardless – maybe though human beings are accelerating it in some areas (the science says that’s justified as well). Regardless there’s a few ideas that could make a difference – Hawke’s Bay has a lot of sunshine hours as do other areas of the country – for electricity generation why isn’t the Government looking at subsidies for solar power on homes – if every home in HB had solar power generators on the roof the amount of power would be huge – we had a subsidy for insulation of homes – why not the same for solar power – that could take up the slack for power generation without the need for large dams. I don’t profess to be an expert of any sort – it just seems to make some sense that something like that could stop some of the angst that seems to occur when large scale projects for power generation gets discussed – thousands of homes generating their own power with excess going to the grid – could work?

  3. Congratulations to Mayor Little – he raises some very thoughtful issues which we all need to be cognisant of and reflect upon as these issues are complex – much more so than many realise.

    One does not have to justify a statement that the climate has been ever changing – the IPPC recognised that in their 2013 report and has stated that temperatures today are similar to those of the medieval warm period following a period known as the little ice age ending in the mid 1800’s.

    We need think about who is really the polluter when labelling companies as such.

    Industries such as Aluminium refining produce both CO2 and dross as inevitable byproducts of refining – yet they only produce aluminium because as consumers we need their outputs for our drink cans and new electric cars where the weight savings are highly desirable.

    If we wish to stop their so called pollution – then we as consumers have to stop buying their products – are we prepared to do that ?

    Mayor Little’s comments are very valuable as an informed comment on the necessary debate of the true costs and trade-offs of the choices we make which will inevitably lead to better outcomes for us all.

  4. so many forms of denial in here i hardly know where to start. “always been happening”, “too small to make a difference”, and the constant subtext that, somehow, the economy matters more than a healthy planet that can support humans. as for the “clear blue skies” statement in relation to farmers, how about looking at the soils and the waterways for their effect? it’s like saying “the sea’s still blue” and, without looking, thinking there must still be plenty of fish in it – there aren’t, and more species go extinct by the day. so sorry, mayor Little, but it IS an emergency, and you DO have to react immediately and with full force. and if you value the economy so much, you would realise that not acting with immediacy now not only dooms the species but your precious economy with it.

    ps: one good idea – banning plastic synthetics. now extend that thinking….

  5. Mayor Little. Did you know that crew and passengers were still straightening deck chairs when the Titanic was tilted at a 45 degree angle with people sliding off the deck? They could not believe that such a super ship would sink. We live on spaceship Mother Earth. which ‘ain’t the gift that was bequeathed to our care and stewardship.” Climate change is an emergency.
    Did you know that money agreements are given value through storied belief agreements? Change your money story for a life enhancing story about what we really value.
    “We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected and meaningful. By choice that is where we will direct our energy.”
    “When I speak of meeting our spiritual needs it is to treat relationship, circulation and material life as sacred. Because they are.” from ‘Sacred Economics’ by Charles Eisenstein
    “Be ye transformed by the renewal of your mind.” is a required stepping stone if we humans are to wake up before we die.

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