Nuclear disarmament and climate action speech to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference of Youth MPs in Lusaka, Zambia, March 2016.



I greet you in New Zealand’s first language: kia ora, nga mihi nui kia koutou, kia ora

I think one of the most interesting part of the speeches here, is people’s stories of how they were elected.

I was a young father and six years ago at the age of 28 I was elected to the New Zealand Parliament, and held the role of the youngest MP. Now we have an even younger 25-year-old in our Parliament, but I joke I still hold the title of the youngest-looking member of Parliament.

I want to thank our Zambian hosts for their generosity and acknowledge you, my colleagues, for your leadership and inspiration.

There are only four and a half million Kiwis of our 7.4 billion people on the planet so what’s the odds we’d have two speaking, one after the other, here today?

In this short contribution I want to follow on from Alan and discuss the role finance can play in two specific areas of sustainable development: nuclear disarmament and climate change.

New Zealand isn’t often on the world’s radar – and somehow didn’t even make it on the map of the World on the speaker’s lectern – but one of my country’s proudest moments on the World stage was becoming one of the first nuclear free nations, leading the movement against nuclear testing and seeing a nuclear-free South Pacific established.

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A nuclear weapons-free world is something on which New Zealand has put its money where its mouth is.

We’ve developed ethical investment policies, removing public funds from investing in nuclear weapons corporations. This included our public accident insurance fund, Superannuation Fund, the national retail bank Kiwibank, the Peace and Disarmament Education trust, the Pacific Conservation Trust, the Disarmament Education Implementation Fund, and others.

I would note the Norwegian pension fund and Swiss banks have also adopted divestment policies from nuclear weapon corporations.

Every dollar spent on nuclear weapons is a dollar not spent on jobs, or lifting people out of poverty, or providing electricity to the 1.2 billion people without.

My small country is at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. This ocean which covers 30 percent of our planet is also at the front lines of climate change.

In particular, places like the Cataret Islands, and island states like Tokelau and Kiribati, risk cultural extinction from rising sea levels.

We’ve seen terrifying extreme weather events, including the Southern Hemisphere’s recent strongest ever cyclone that hit Fiji in February. 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history, until last year.

The impacts of climate change could be in the magnitude of 20 percent of international GDP and millions of lives.

As emissions inexorably increase so does the global movement for action.

The international community, most recently at Paris, have committed to halting global temperature increase to 1.5-2 degrees and countries have submitted their emission reduction targets.

Finance and investment is a key part of climate action.

In New Zealand, we have seen our universities, local governments, and churches divest from fossil fuel investments.

These have been campaigns led and won by youth.

Public and private fossil fuel divestment is important because scientists warn we cannot afford to burn 70-90 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves if we want a safe climate.

Not profiting from pollution is one part of the solution, another is ending the more than $600 billion annual fossil fuel subsidies, according to the International Energy Agency.

This panel is about economic models for sustainable development.

We can debate what is the best economic model but it’s going to be simply academic if the planet burns.

History is replete with economic models and political ‘isms’: communism, socialism, neoliberalism. For me, the most radical political idea is a simple one, graphically demonstrated in the space age of our parents: the idea that we have a single planet.

Our planet, small and alone in the hostile vastness of space is our only home.

We have nowhere else to go, there is no planet B, and we need to live like we mean to stay.

Yet we currently consume per capita as if we had three planets, and developed nations like mine, as if we had seven.

To protect our planet we need to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and invest in clean energy and climate action.

Despite the great threats to current and future generations, there is reason for hope.

We saw not just more, but $100 billion more, invested in renewable electricity generation than fossil fuels last year. China this year announced the closure of 1000 coal mines and the youth-led divestment campaign is bearing fruits.

According to the International Labour Organisation, almost 43 percent of the global youth labour force is still either unemployed or working but still living in poverty.

Given clean energy and energy efficiency projects create four times more jobs than fossil fuels, we can grow jobs and protect our home.

In summary, let all of our 128 nations here today commit to protecting our only home from our two greatest existential threats: nuclear Armageddon and climate chaos.

Collectively, the nations of the world spend $650 billion on fossil fuel subsidies and $1.7 trillion a year on weapons as part of the global arms race.

As young MPs, let us commit to a new arms race: not in making guns and bombs but compete in a new race, using our arms, and our hands to develop, build, and prosper.

Let’s have a new race to get to 100 percent clean energy.

We’ve seen the heights what we can achieve and new perspectives gleaned from the space race, so let’s compete in a new race to fill the spaces of our parliaments and institutions with more youth voices.

Let’s celebrate the diversity of our races and work collaboratively towards the Sustainable Development Goals, together, as the human race.


  1. ‘This panel is about economic models for sustainable development’

    More neo-con claptrap from the Greens: ‘sustainable’ and ‘development’ are mutually exclusive concepts, particularly within the framework of propping up current dysfunctional lifestyles. .

    ‘Let’s have a new race to get to 100 percent clean energy.’

    There is no such thing as ‘clean energy’: mining, refining, extraction of metals from ores, manufacturing solar cells, manufacturing windmills, making batteries, building hydro-dams all require massive amounts of fossil fuels, and generate CO2.

    Atmospheric CO2recently hit a record high of 407ppm, and it’s not going to stop there; 410ppm by the end of May 2016, and we will break through 420ppm well before 2025.

    The only clean energy is that obtained from the sun and harnessed by plants via photosynthesis. Everything else is delusion and misrepresentation. Such fundamental truth is politically unacceptable, of course.

    Gareth would have done more for the environment and future generations by staying home and saving several hundred kilograms of aircraft and vehicle CO2 emissions.

    • You’re right, there’s no such thing as clean energy per say. Clean energy is achieved through multiple technologies, new skills and new work places. The sum of all parts that reduce generating energy and costs competive with established energy.

  2. “A nuclear weapons-free world is something on which New Zealand has put its money where its mouth is”

    Note the repeated use of the term “nuclear weapons” throughout the text.

    Is this intended to begin realigning the Greens more in favour Nuclear Power?

    This would appear to be a great idea because of it’s excellent safety record and potential to reduce CO2 emissions.

    • We have no more than 50 years of plutonium reserves left. That’s a big problem when militaries are competing for resources to build obsolete weapons for yesterday’s wars.

      • Apparently, there is something like 100,000 years worth of uranium and thorium reserves available world-wide.

        • Most of that is in Russia. Unless your name is Iran. I don’t think we’re getting much uranium any time soon, that’s kinda of why the west has plutonium reactors

          • There is plenty of uranium in Africa and Australia. There is unlimited potential for ‘fast breeders’.

            • My knowledge of the difference between uranium an thorium fission power:

              Thorium is more common than uranium

              Thorium reactors require breeding of U233 from Th232, which can be done at thermal neutron energies.

              It’s harder to use thorium for nuclear weapons than uranium, but still possible.
              There are some fiddly-bit differences in chemistry, etc. that have small impact on reactor design.

              If it’s more politically feasible then we should redirect efforts towards thorium.

              I will reserve my opinion until they actually build an economically viable Thorium reactor.

  3. Divestment away from oil and invest in clean energy and healthy water ! ! ! !
    ====== >>>> ” Sustainable Development Goals ”
    Whooah ! Gareth you are hitting it square on the head and very fine writing in deed. My word, after reading this, I was inspired and thankful for your work on behalf of all of us and our precious home/environment.

    Want more to wake up to the truth in your words and your intentions and stop with all the climate denials and stinkin thinkin. You make more sense than most writers and politicians out there and we all need to keep on keeping on and doing what each of us continue to do towards healthy; life affirming goals.

    Whoever feels threatened my our goals and intentions will give out their nonsense negative ticks but they are few and scared. The goal is peace and well-being for every living thing and thanks Gareth for spelling it out pretty clearly. Keep up your great work – much appreciated.

  4. Sustainable Development Goals, if this is what you are referring to and not something else ( ? ) , are part of the UN Agenda 21 goals and priorities and if this is what you are referring to Gareth, you may want to look more deeply into it. Rosa Koire spells out the down sides to sustainable development. It has been deeply rooted in most societies for a long time and on the surface, it sounds good but it is geared up to support and contribute to the NWO agenda.
    The UN is not our friend, for the most part. If in doubt, do more research.

    I have put up her links before so I will not repeat it.
    If anyone is interested, google Rosa Koire and the UN – Agenda 21
    – ( sustainable development )

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