by Kennedy Graham
Minister Timothy Groser, fresh from electoral triumph back home, has alighted upon Durban this week.
Yesterday he delivered our country’s main speech to the UN climate change conference – the 17th meeting of the parties to the UN Framework Convention.
“I would like to acknowledge”, he begins, “and thank our gracious hosts, South Africa, and assure the Parties present that New Zealand is, as always, committed to playing a constructive role in these negotiations”.
The Parties stare back, unblinking.
Mr Groser, engaged in so many critical global issues elsewhere, has reached Durban in the final days of the conference. The Parties, for the previous week, had been struggling to find a global solution to humanity’s biggest challenge.
In the land of our gracious hosts, New Zealand has won another Fossil of the Day award. We have one-upped ourselves since last week’s 2nd place, taking 1st place for trying to gain from the Kyoto 2nd period without the need to be bound by it.
Global carbon emissions are at their highest, and temperature trends continue upwards.
Independent of his hosts, Minister Groser opined this week that we are the ‘only idiots doing anything’, and that a call for a legally binding deal by 2015, while understandable, ‘may not be realistic’.
The mirror on the wall has myriad images of idiocy.
Are we being catatonic here, stupid, devious, or simply dilatory? Either way, will the outcome be different?
Is this the deflating gasp of the outgoing Government of the 49th NZ Parliament collapsing, as it did in Copenhagen when it was fresh and, relatively, young?
Minister Groser, employing his endearingly flirtatious trade vernacular, called for a ‘roadmap, or a process, to negotiate a more coherent long-term deal which ends this mosaic of different bits into a single comprehensive treaty’.
In fact, we have had, since Rio, Kyoto, Marrakech and Bali, a framework convention, an international treaty, a roadmap, and an international plan. What we need from Durban, in the wake of Copenhagen and Cancun, is decisive action. The people require this of their representatives, including New Zealand.
I call upon Minister Groser to use Durban to bolster New Zealand’s domestic climate change policy, and strengthen commitment to mitigation, in the presence of his hosts.
He is free to borrow from my humble plea. Call for an unconditional commitment by New Zealand for national carbon emission reductions, domestic without offsets, of 33% by 2020 and 90% by 2050. Make this call, irrelevant of what other State Parties choose to do.
Start the 50th Parliament as a Government willing to lead the debate and action on climate change. Renounce the position of ACT, recycled coalition partner, comprised of its climate change denial and self-indulgent opposition to the emissions trading scheme. Be part of a leading triumvirate of NZ leaders fit for history – Messrs, Key, Smith and Groser.
Your gracious hosts will thank you. That is to say, the New Zealand voters of 2014. And 2024.
Because, New Zealand is now at risk from rising sea level. The IPCC has highlighted our vulnerability, expecting that the projected rise will make it riskier to live here over the next century. Niwa scientist James Renwick points out that this could be a problem, given that 12 of our 15 major centres are on the coast.
My own report in response to the Canterbury earthquakes highlights the need for resilience against inevitable sea-level rise. Christchurch is now predisposed to flooding. The chance of more extreme weather events, more often, must be considered when planning the rebuild.
The Earthquake Recovery Minister, Mr Brownlee, is yet to comment on sea-level rise and the impacts of climate change on our future city. He is especially dynamically engaged in the demolition of the inner city.
When Minister Groser tears himself away from his gracious hosts and returns home, he could do worse than turn the local triumvirate into a quartet. Local, national, global interests – they are all one and the same.