At the end of last week Generation Zero, a non-partisan group of young people formed to advocate for climate action, started a Vote New Energy campaign to put a clean energy transformation on the political agenda in the run up to the general election. The campaign kicked off with the release of a report — A Challenge To Our Leaders – Why New Zealand needs a Clean Energy Plan [pdf] — which makes a compelling case for NZ to plot a course to zero emissions by 2050. The key points are:
- To have a reasonable chance of staying under 2ºC of warming, the world has a trillion tonne carbon emissions budget it must meet. NZ’s fair share of that budget will be used up in 15 years on current policy settings.
- Other countries are doing more than NZ. Denmark is implementing a cross-party plan to phase out fossil fuel use by 2050.
- The transition to a clean energy economy is “achievable, affordable and offers big economic opportunities for New Zealand”.
The report is model of clarity and concision, and I strongly recommend that you take the time to read it. It provides a very useful summary of what we know about the realities of emissions budgets in the New Zealand context, and builds on work done by groups like Pure Advantage to demonstrate the tremendous business opportunities to be found in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
It will make uncomfortable reading for supporters of the present government, not least because the report pulls no punches when analysing current emissions policy settings:
…the clearest indicator of failure is that the total effect of all government policies is an expected reduction of just 0.4% compared with having no climate or energy policies in place at all. The projected impact of policies on reducing CO2 emissions from energy and industry is even smaller at just 0.15%, and a mere 0.03% for emissions from transport.
And those are the government’s own figures!
Generation Zero’s challenge to all parties — “to commit to implementing a comprehensive clean energy plan that will put New Zealand on track to phase out coal, oil and gas by 2050” — has been welcomed by Labour and the Greens, but the only reaction from the government was a throwaway line from Tim Groser on the TV3 news report:
…New Zealand is committed to meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, but that some of the negative effects of climate change “can’t be avoided” and adaptation is important.
All of which may be true, but none of which is a sufficient response to a cogent and well presented analysis from a group of young New Zealanders who are committed to building a better future for their country.
Generation Zero plans future reports to look at climate action being taken overseas, and what a clean energy plan for NZ might look like. If this first effort is anything to go by, they will be important contributions to what should be the most important policy debate of election 2014.