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Worth Saving - Speech at the launch of Green Party Climate Campaign by Dr Russel Norman

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


Thank you for that kind introduction, and thank you to everyone for being here.


Here’s a question I’d like to ask you - What would you save?


Isn’t that one of those questions that gets trotted out in conversations from time to time? If you had to save one thing from a burning house, what would it be? Would it be your pets, your family photos, mementos? Would it be money, or your widescreen TV?


It’s interesting to think about it, to consider what you value and what’s important in your life. What is essential, what’s necessary?


It’s something that everyone should think about this year.


In December, New Zealand has an opportunity to tell the world what we think is essential, what we think is necessary, what we think is worth saving.


At the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, nations will come together to agree on a way to keep global warming below two degrees, and stop the worst effects of warming from coming to fruition.


This year we’re facing one of the best opportunities in years to make our voices heard.


With world leaders meeting to negotiate a global climate agreement in Paris in December, there will be a spotlight on climate change in a way we haven’t seen for years.


You could say that unbridled global warming will result in a house on fire.


It is easy to feel overwhelmed by that idea, but as Al Gore has said, “despair is simply another form of denial and it invites inaction.”[1]


We are at a point in our history where we can stop the worst of climate change, and help restore the stable climate which has been the incubator for our human civilisation.


We just need the voice to say it.


If we tell the world that it’s worth saving our environment, our way of life, and our economy - we take a positive first step in the right direction.


Today, I want to make a first step towards that future by launching our climate change campaign, in which we will gather support from all corners of New Zealand, and challenge the Government to protect the things that are worth saving.


Let’s look at our economy – we currently rely heavily on farming and tourism. How will those things be affected by increasing global warming?


We are already seeing the kinds of extreme weather events that climate change will bring - droughts in Canterbury this year are still causing significant pain for farmers even as Wellington cleans up after this month’s flood.


For too long, the Government has relied on individual action, on people like you doing the right thing to counter climate change, on good businesses leading the way, but they haven’t held up their end of the bargain.


Put simply our Government has done too little for too long.


For too long, the Government has even denied that New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising.


For too long, the Government has failed to take action, claiming it’s too expensive.


For too long the Government has subsidised activities that increase emissions, with the unsurprising result that New Zealand’s emissions are rising rapidly.


Their rushed consultation process on the climate reduction target that New Zealand will target to the Paris meeting, giving people like us little time to have our say; it all suits their goal of doing nothing to cut emissions.


Well, we all know the cost if they don’t act. 


It is the Government’s responsibility to create a framework that enables individuals to live cleaner, lower carbon lifestyles.


And it is the Government that can make the most impact by making simple choices what shifts our taxpayers money away from pollution and towards clean alternatives.


The Government needs to change the game and stop spending money on dangerous projects like building ever more motorways, turning forests into dairy farms, and deep sea oil drilling.


Here is a starter for 10 of things we can do instead:


Let’s move money from polluting new motorways and spend it instead on a clean electric rail network, providing better buses, better walking and cycling choices.


Let’s have 100% renewable electricity, with solar panels on our schools and homes, and ban on deep sea oil drilling.


Let’s help the climate to breath. Let’s change Nationals rules that encourage trees to be cut down, so that it makes good economics to plant trees that store carbon instead.


And let’s stop forcing taxpayers to subsidise polluters.


Let’s put proper price on carbon so that polluters pay for the mess they make, and recycle the revenue into tax cuts for people and companies.


Let’s have a clear carbon price signal to help drive the transition to a smarter, greener economy.


These are choices. Many are fairly simple for a Government to make.


But this government has its head in the sand. 


Our job and this campaign is about making them hear. It is time to get loud.


We often hear people say, “but what does it matter about what NZ does – we contribute so few emissions compared with the biggest polluters?”


Being the little guy has not stopped us before, and it’s not going to stop us now.


We have only to think of how NZ led the way with our nuclear-free stance, how we were first to introduce universal suffrage and how we took to the streets to show our opposition to apartheid when the Springboks toured.


We were one of the first countries in the world to say yes to marriage equality, inspiring other countries to follow our lead.


Did we ever say, we can’t be nuclear free?  We are too small.


Did we say we can’t make a difference in South Africa, as we knocked blocks off the wall of apartheid and racism?




We may be small but we can be leaders and we can make change.


We have the tools to make purposeful action on climate change and lead the way in creating a low carbon society.


The biggest road block is the Government.


The purpose of this campaign is to show the Government there is a meaningful public mandate for climate action and that they need to listen to our voices.


They need to listen to four million New Zealanders who are calling time on reliance on fossil fuels, calling time on traffic jams and polluted rivers and destroyed forests, and calling time on burning away our future like there’s no tomorrow.


They need to listen to us when we say our environment, our way of life and our economy – are worth saving.


Our campaign is asking New Zealanders from all walks of life to stand up for the things that matter most – and to tell our Government what is at stake if they continue to do nothing.


We’re asking you to share what is worth saving to you – on a postcard or on our website – and we will deliver that message to the Government.


In the name of everything that is at stake, we will demand a climate plan New Zealanders can be proud of.


We shouldn’t just aim to save the family photos; if we take serious climate action, we can save it all.


[1] Gore, A: “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis”, page 12

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