The effect of climate change on health

We can’t tell what effects climate change might have on health, but the Ministry of Health is trying to look ahead and work out what impact it could have.

Julie Anne Genter:  Climate change and health report launched

A new report shows how climate change will impact on New Zealander’s health over the next 50-100 years, and makes the case for better preparation.

It can’t show how it will impact, it can only consider possible impacts, dependent on many things.

“Our climate is changing, and how this impacts on people’s health will also change. We need our health system to be better prepared to deal with increased temperatures and more extreme weather events,” Associate Minister for Health Julie Anne Genter said today.

The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and published by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR).

“The risks outlined in this report show why we need to act to reduce climate pollution now, as well as prepare for the level of climate change that is already set to happen.

“The flooding and evacuation of Edgecumbe caused serious disruption to people’s lives. Already this year we have seen how a storm like cyclone Fehi caused a state of emergency in Buller and Dunedin.

“Today’s report maps out where the problems will be. Allergens and irritants in air, extreme weather events, ultra-violet solar radiation, and vector-borne, water-borne and infectious diseases might all increase in the coming decades and they have the potential to impact on our health and the health of our loved ones.

Ultra-violet solar radiation has been an issue for decades, and these days many people, especially young people, are instructed to take precautions that may benefit their health in decades ahead.

This is complex.

“The spread of infectious disease, particularly in our water sources, is of concern and needs greater attention.

“The Ministry of Health will be working with DHBs, many of which are already doing a lot of work on this, to become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprints. The Ministry has asked ESR to provide scientific advice on how the health sector can adapt to climate change.

“I’m really encouraged to see greater work happening on preparing for how climate change will affect us. Later this year the Heat Health Plan Guide will be published.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats to society this century but reports like todays will ensure New Zealand is better prepared for dealing with future challenges,” Ms Genter said.

It is a large potential threat, and we should be doing things to try to mitigate possible effects, and we should be far less wasteful, we should produce less rubbish, reduce our energy needs, use cleaner energy, and eat a better range of healthy foods.

Regardless of what climate change al these things will be of benefit to us individually, the country will benefit, and the planet will benefit.

I’m having trouble finding the actual report. It doesn’t seem to be on the Ministry of Health site, nor on the ESR site. I have asked Julie Anne Genter for a link but haven’t had a response yet.

Nation – fossil fuel use in regions that rely on it

On Newshub Nation this morning:

John-Michael Swannix is in the regions to find out how communities that rely on the fossil fuel industry can be part of a carbon neutral future.


No cost benefit analysis of oil and gas policy

Matthew Hooton is suggesting that James Shaw has done no Cost benefit Analysis of the Government’s oil and gas policy.

The response from James Shaw to an Official Information Act request:

Dear Matthew

I write regarding your Official Information Act request of 15 April 2018 for

all advice to you or other ministers from Treasury, MBIE, MfE or other relevant departments on the effect on New Zealand and global CO2 and CO2 equivalent emissions of the new oil and gas policy announced by the Government last week. This includes short-term, medium-term and long-term effects.

I have been advised verbally by MfE that not exploring for more oil and gas would prevent emissions from oil and gas rising any further than they would anyway if all known reserves of oil and gas are burnt. I cannot speak for other ministers.

It took over three weeks to effectively say ‘none’. What Shaw has responded with is vague verbal waffle.

More important is what Shaw doesn’t say – this indicates he received no advice on the short term, medium term or long term effects of the oil and gas policy announced by the Government last month.

This is what Shaw said after the oil and gas policy announcement:

The Green Party is heralding today’s announcement ending new fossil fuel exploration in New Zealand’s oceans as a massive step towards a stable climate and to protecting our marine life and beaches.

“The Green Party and thousands of New Zealanders have been working for decades towards this day and this decision – that fossil fuels are not our future,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“Ending deep sea oil and gas exploration has long been a key goal of the Green Party and today, in Government, we’ve delivered on it.

“This is truly the nuclear free moment of our generation, and the beginning of a new and exciting future for Aotearoa New Zealand,” said Mr Shaw.

The Green Party have been working for decades towards this, however Shaw effectively admits he has received no advice from any Government department on the effect on New Zealand of the policy.


Problems and delays with biofuel project

Producing biofuel is proving to be much more difficult for Z Energy to produce than they had thought when announcing a project in 2014. They still haven’t produced anything saleable three years after their projected completion date but are still trying.

Newsroom: Why Z Energy is persisting with its biofuel plant

Four years ago, Z Energy announced a cunning plan: to build a plant to turn tallow into biodiesel. The plant would be operational in 2015 and would help Z and some of its commercial customers (companies like Fonterra, Fulton Hogan and NZ Post) take a bit of fossil fuels off their carbon balance sheet and meet their greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

Voilà. Easy.

Four years on and a new government with ambitious carbon reduction targets has put biofuels more firmly on the radar. Cars will go electric, but for the time being there aren’t many “green” alternatives to fossil fuels for heavy trucks, ships and planes.

But over in Manukau, more than two years after it was meant to go into production, Z is struggling to get biodiesel out of its plant. The company has yet to produce a single litre of saleable biofuel. Z still thinks biofuels are a good idea, and it has customers keen to buy it – even prepared to pay a couple of cents a litre extra for it.

Z’s sometimes tortuous experience trying to get its plant up and running has a key lesson for industry and government as we look at ramping up New Zealand’s nascent biofuels industry.

It’s not as easy as you think.

I hope the Green and Labour parties learn something from this. Biofuel may end up being a viable alternative for some energy needs, but it hasn’t been a quick fix so far.

What’s good about biofuels?

In the simplest biofuel scenario, you grow a plant, which absorbs CO₂. Then when you turn that plant into ethanol (the most common biofuel) and burn it in a vehicle engine, a little green sleight-of-hand allows you to write off the CO₂ it produces. Just like that: carbon neutral. Well, almost.

It’s a bit more complicated with biodiesel made from waste products (rubbish or tallow, for example), as you don’t have that handy CO₂ in-and-out exchange. But what’s not to like about making fuel from waste, especially when burning biofuels produces slightly less CO₂ than burning fossil fuels?

And what’s not so good?

Biofuels also have some significant downsides:

– As Z has found, the technology can be complex. The company knows that choosing to use an untried New Zealand technology rather buying a more expensive off-the-shelf product from overseas has added to the technical challenges. Even so, according to the Productivity Commission’s report: “advanced biofuels are much less technologically mature and therefore come with significant technical risk”. For example, five years ago, there was much excitement about a new biofuel made from algae. Algae would produce high yields and wouldn’t use up productive land. But the euphoria soon died down. Oil giant Exxon pulled out of a US$600 million joint venture, claiming viability is likely to be 25 years away.

– The easiest way to make biofuels is from plants – anything from sugar beet to corn to that spiky plant in Australia no one can find another use for. But the idea of using productive land to grow fuel (rather than food) has some serious ethical and environmental downsides, which have stymied projects overseas – and put many people offside. In 2009, US President Al Gore told a green energy conference he regretted his support for the US ethanol industry because of its role in driving up the price of corn, and therefore food.

– Most biofuels have to be mixed with carbon-emitting fossil fuels at very low ratios (5-10 percent biofuel with 90-95 percent ordinary petrol or diesel) just so they don’t mess up our engines. Sometimes it hardly seems worth it. (Interestingly, the mixing thing is more to do with engine technology than the properties of biofuels. In fact Henry Ford designed his first cars to run on biofuel, not petrol.)

Zero nett carbon emissions by 2050 are still reliant on significant advances in technology and cost of production.

National ‘resetting approach’, moving more to climate change mitigation

The National Party is moving more towards climate change mitigation, but sounds caution on moving too far or too fast. Leader Simon Bridges has challenged the party on “resetting our approach to environmental issues”.

Climate report reinforces need for careful transition – National Party Spokesperson for Climate Change Todd Muller…

…welcomes the release of the draft report released by the Productivity Commission today but is warning of the risks of going too far too fast.

“The report calls for careful preparation and balance as we transition to a low emissions economy,” Mr Muller says.

“We have to reduce emissions significantly to meet our international obligations, but it’s important that we transition in a way that maximises opportunity and minimises costs.

“It is also important to adjust at the pace of available technology and remain conscious of our competitors and the wider global response. For instance, bringing agriculture into the ETS would make us the only country in the world to expose our industry in this way, making us outliers, not leaders.

“Going too far too fast could decimate our most productive sectors, costing jobs and actually increasing global emissions. Introducing agriculture to the scheme at the very entry level of 90% free allocation and $50 a tonne would cost the agricultural sector $190 million a year.

“The more extreme estimates of carbon prices of $250 a tonne and no free allocation would cost the agricultural sector $9.7 billion a year and wipe out the entire industry.

“My concern is that if we push too hard and fast here, we could leave communities behind. The National Party will support the careful preparation and balance needed to ensure a just transition to a lower carbon economy.”

Stuff: National Party ‘resetting our approach to environmental issues’ – Bridges

National leader Simon Bridges has pledged his party will have a strong environmental focus with a broadchurch approach to thinking.

However, he says the Government’s announcement to halt deep sea oil exploration is “perverse”.

Alongside Bridges, there were people from Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and Oil and gas and former Green Party MP Kennedy Graham addressing the 100 strong crowd at the annual Bluegreens Forum in Darfield, Canterbury, on Saturday.

Bridges challenged his party, staff and supporters with “resetting our approach to environmental issues”.

He said a strong economy, education, healthcare and social services were not worthwhile “if we’ve ruined the environment”.

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.

“My view is that people aren’t used to hearing a National Party leader talk like this, but I’ve said right from the start that the environment is important to me and the National Party … The environment isn’t an optional extra.”

Bridges was “proud” of the work the previous government achieved during its nine years, introducing an emissions trading scheme, Predator Free NZ and the Environmental Reporting Act, but a continued and ramped-up effort was needed.

“Climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more,” he said.

“We now need to wrestle emissions down, just staying stable doesn’t cut it … We need to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions.”

The Bluegreens, National’s environmental arm, has operated for 20 years since being formed and represented by just a few party members, including former Environment Minister Nick Smith.

Forty-six of its 55 MPs were now signed on.

All the main parties in Parliament support measures to mitigate the possible effects of climate change, with the possible exception of a vague Seymour and ACT.

Levy on traditional vehicles may fund ‘freebate’ for electric vehicles

The Productivity Commission has put out a draft discussion document calling for drastic measures to shift from fossil fuels to clean electricity. One proposal, being promoted by climate change minister James Shaw, is to put a surcharge on new vehicles that rely on fossil fuels and use that to provide a ‘freebate’ to lower the price of electric vehicles.

RNZ: Fuel-car levy could subsidise electric vehicles – govt

In a draft discussion document, the Productivity Commission estimated carbon prices may need to be 12 times higher, up to $250 a tonne, to reach the government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

That is a huge change in what is supposed to be a market.

It called for a shift from fossil-fuels to clean electricity and greater use of farmland for forestry and horticulture.

Green Party co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw told Morning Report one option being looked at was the prohibitive cost of electric vehicles.

“So what the report is talking about is a freebate system where essentially we charge a price on – we put a levy on – fossil fuel vehicles and you use that revenue to subsidise electric vehicles.”

“What we all know right is that electric vehicles are a lot cheaper to run because they’re roughly about a third of the price per kilometre versus petrol, they’re a lot cheaper to maintain because they’ve got fewer moving parts, but the up-front cost of the vehicle is prohibitive.”

“If we continue to allow greenhouse gas emissions to increase, and we don’t invest in new technologies, and we don’t switch our car fleet and we don’t change how we do electricity, then yes they’re suggesting that there will be a bit of a shock to the economy.”

He said he did not know when such a change might be brought in, and it was just one of many options they were considering.

National is critical:

National’s transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross said the government should follow their lead and continue prioritising electric vehicles for the crown fleet.

Mr Ross said a levy would hit people at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum hard.

He said people who can only afford cheap secondhand Japanese imports would effectively be subsidising the cost of electric cars for the wealthier New Zealanders who can afford them.

That same argument applies in part to subsidies for home insulation and for installations of solar panels.

For vehicles this could be resolved by putting a big enough levy on fossil fuel driven vehicles to enable a full ‘freebate’ – giving electric vehicles to poor people for free. That would be popular, especially in the winter for those who are given a free handout to help pay power bills.

Ministers differ on banning coal

Megan Woods, the Minister of Energy and Resources, interviewed on Q&A this morning and was asked about the future use of oil and gas, and coal.

She gave an assurance they (the Government) “we have done no work on banning coal” and “there are no plans to do that”.

CORIN Where does coal sit in this? Will you ban future exploration of coal?

MEGAN Look, this isn’t a decision about coal; this is about block offers. And this is about offshore oil and gas.

CORIN This is important, though, because you need that coal, as we mentioned earlier, in terms of electricity supply in the event of a dry year. And the papers that were given in terms of the Greens’ questioning during the coalition was that if we didn’t have any more, if you stopped coal exploration, you’re talking 2028, there’d be no more coal.

MEGAN Look, one of the things that we are seeing, Huntly is transitioning to a gas peaking plant, away from using coal. Gas is about half the emissions of coal. But it still is half the emissions, so we’ve always said it’s part of the transition, gas. But I think one of the things that we need to be really clear on, that a transition is not status quo. The status quo is doing nothing, burying our heads in the sand and not having the long-term future-proofing plans for the economy. So we are absolutely accepting that gas will be used as part of that peaking.

CORIN I don’t mean to be rude – I just need an answer on coal. Is there a future for more exploration of coal?

MEGAN Oh, look, we have made no announcements about ending coal, and we certainly haven’t done any work.

CORIN Are you ruling out that you won’t ban coal exploration?

MEGAN Oh, we have done no work on banning coal.

MEGAN No, I’m not saying it’s a possibility at all. What I’m saying is there are no plans to do that. We haven’t done anything.

But this has been questioned: ‘Incredulous’ for Energy Minister to say no work on coal ban been done – National MP

Energy Minister Megan Woods says there’s been no work, plans or announcements around banning coal exploration yet Climate Change Minister James Shaw has signed New Zealand up to phasing out coal by 2030.

In November shortly after the Labour/NZ First/Greens government was formed, Shaw headed to Germany where he told the COP23 conference that New Zealand intends to become a leader in the global fight against climate change.

While there he signed New Zealand up to the international “Powering Past Coal” alliance, which is committed to phasing out the use of coal for electricity generation.

At COP23 Shaw said, “we know that the future of our electricity system is in renewables, not coal, so I was delighted we could recognise that formally at this important international meeting”.

NZH: Shaw to UN conference: NZ now a leader in climate change

At COP23, New Zealand has also signed up to the Powering Past Coal alliance, which is committed to phasing out the use of coal for electricity generation by 2030.

Shaw told the Herald New Zealand’s only coal-burning generators at Huntly are to be decommissioned by 2025.

“But symbolically it is really important, and the more countries that get in on it, the better.”

Newsroom: Our Inconvenient Truth: NZ will keep burning coal

Green party leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw was unconcerned by the announcement when interviewed before question time on Wednesday.

“We want to get out of fossil fuels by 2035. I think the Genesis announcement is consistent with that,” he said.

He hoped that technological advances would help Genesis get out of fossil fuels before 2030.

Full interview:

Acting Prime Minister

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters are overseas together, as they are now, Labour’s deputy leader takes on the role of Acting Prime Minister. However Kelvin Davis has kept a low profile.

From Stuff – Below the beltway: The week in politics

Kelvin Davis: Davis has been acting prime minister while Ardern was in Europe all week. We forgive you for having absolutely no idea. While avoiding any mishaps or the spotlight at all might have been a deliberate policy, this would have been a good time Davis to rise his political profile at least a little bit. His interview with RNZ in the Prime Minister’s normal slot wasn’t so bad that it made headlines, but he could have done a much better job defending the Government – he missed an obvious error in the premise of one of the questions which would have turned the conversation around well.

RNZ had some coverage of Davis during the week:

The latest political polling is a mixed bag, with something to celebrate and something to worry about for every party involved.

Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis says it’s not a good look for Mr Bridges. He also discusses the government ending oil and gas exploration permits, saying he has had a lot of support for it in Northland, and it’s the right thing to do.

Labour-Green oil and gas naivety questioned

The Government announcement last that no more off shore oil and gas exploration permits would be granted was celebrated by the Greens and their allies (like Greenpeace), but it hasn’t received wide support. Questions are being asked of the possible negative effects, and the lack of planning or substance on the transition from fossil fuels to alternative forms of energy.

Listener: Is the Govt’s ban on new oil and gas exploration brave or naive?

Just transition or heart over head?

The decision to stop issuing offshore oil and gas exploration permits was not pre-election policy. Although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was musing privately months ago about the politics of such a move, it is barely a month since she broke from her formal programme to accept a petition from Greenpeace on the forecourt of Parliament.

Always with an eye to powerful imagery, Greenpeace backed the moment with pictures of history-changing Labour leaders of the past: Savage, Kirk, Lange and Clark. Ardern could enter that pantheon with a huge symbolic gesture designed to make real her claim that climate change is “this generation’s nuclear-free moment”.

She has done so, in a move that is at once measured and justifiable yet also naive and arguably cavalier with a major industry. No other country with a significant oil and gas industry has made such a decision.

…the naivety of the Government’s new policy is that it will not, of itself, reduce global carbon emissions, but could increase New Zealand’s if it leads to more coal use in the meantime.

It is disingenuous to claim that existing permits might sustain a healthy oil and gas sector until the 2040s. The fruitless hunt for major gas fields in the Great South Basin since the 1960s proves the point that exploration is expensive and usually unsuccessful.

But perhaps the biggest risk is the promise of a Government-led “transition” to new industries of the future. Airy ministerial talk of capital being redeployed to new activities is a carbon copy of Rogernomics-era rhetoric. Capital was redeployed, but not necessarily in New Zealand.

The Government is talking a big game on its ability to direct the emergence of such new industries, but its capacity to deliver this upside of transformative change is untested and the value of the industries it is disrupting is all too measurable.

While radical change was necessary then ‘Rogernomics’ was executed hurriedly with more hope or desperation than planning.

Tim Watkin takes the similarity with Rogernomics style reform-and-hope policies, as opposed to David Lange’s ‘anti-nuclear moment’ – Oil be alright. But has Labour learnt the wrong lesson from its past?

Jacinda Ardern has drawn on our national pride in New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance to rally support for her decision to end offshore oil drilling. But her announcement has echoes of Douglas and Prebble as much as Lange and Palmer

When Jacinda Ardern was asked to justify her government’s decision to stop issuing oil drilling permits forthwith she drew on a memory that sits deep in her party’s – and our country’s – soul. Our nuclear-free status. The decision for me, however, recalls another controversial move by that same fourth Labour government.

For Ardern and her team, so long out of government, it is a chance to do the sort of thing they expect Labour government’s to do. The moral thing. Policies that show vision and make the world a better place. What’s more, it shows leadership in the Pacific.

As with our nuclear-free policy, the decision to leave the oil where it is gives New Zealand the moral high ground, a sense of mission and it gets us noticed. It’s also similar in that it will also do next to nothing in the short term to change global behaviour or make the world safer.

Our nuclear-free stance has been largely symbolic, as will this stance be, unless or until the rest of the world follows suit.

Like Rogernomics, last week’s decision was announced with no real consultation and ruthless speed. There was no time for opponents to circle the tankers. Like Rogernomics, it moved Labour away from the safe centre and took it to the edge of mainstream politics. And like Rogernomics, they have shown no sign that they have planned for the consequences – forseeon or unforseen – of this policy.

Talk to members of the fourth Labour government today and few resile from the thrust of the economic reforms, but almost all wish they had done it differently. More slowly, with transition funding and re-training upfront. With more consultation. More commitment to not leaving some people on the scrapheap.

Sadly, there’s no sign this government has heeded that lesson. Not yet anyway. The announcement came with the zeal of the nuclear-free dream, but without the legwork. There was no transition fund announced. No plan to find new purposes for the people and their skills. No three year grace period, for example, in which the country’s fourth largest export-earning industry could start on what Greens co-leader James Shaw has promised will be a “gentle transition”.

One could forgive Shaw and the Greens for being naive, given their lack of experience in power. The same could be applied to Ardern – but as Prime Minister she should be better advised. She seems to have believed her lofty hype over leading a generational change on climate change.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the new Government was woefully unprepared for taking over. They have taken some quick and bold moves – like committing to major spending (handouts) for fee-free tertiary education – and leading the charge against climate change without any sign they know where this will take New Zealand economically.

But by embarking on this in a sudden, even sneaky, way and without a considered and consulted transition plan, it’s undermined the ‘what’ by buggering up the ‘how’. Labour has failed to learn from its own history. Or, at least, the part of its history Ardern says inspired this bold move. The question now is whether the government moves rapidly and with proper thought to live up to its promise of that “gentle transition”.

There is time for getting it right, or at least better and less risky, but there is no sign of this being recognised by the Government.

Another unlikely critic is Brian Fallow: Exploration ban a pointless, self-righteous policy

Resounding cheers greeted Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw when they went to Victoria University last Thursday to explain that morning’s announcement that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits will be granted.

Gratifying to their ears, no doubt — but entirely undeserved.

This policy is self-righteous nimbyism, environmentally pointless, economically costly and politically counter-productive to the Government’s own agenda on climate change.

Tossing a trophy to the Green Party base, perhaps in the hope of reducing the risk that the Green vote gets wasted in 2020, smacks of ad hoc partisan politics as usual.

It is utterly at odds with the careful, consultative, consensus-seeking approach being pursued over the larger climate agenda.

James Shaw has set up a committee (according to National the 75th committee/group of this Government) to consult over climate change transition but as pointed out in Climate Change Committee announced, significant omissions this notably lacks direct representation from the key farmer and oil & gas industries.

Is there anyone in Labour capable of doing the hard work necessary to make such a transformative  policy work successfully without too many risks and adverse effects?

With Shaw in charge of the Climate Change ministry the only Labour MP (apart from Ardern) with related responsibilities is Megan Woods as Minister of Energy and Resources, and Minister of Science and Innovation, things that will be (or should be) a prominent part of the climate change/fossil fuel transition.

We await concrete Green action, and can do without the nutters

The Labour led government banned oil and gas exploration on Thursday, sort of, permits anyway, in the future. It has dismayed NZ First and the Greens are ecstatic, in what may be a largely symbolic move. But it has risks, including:

  • It could deter investment in the existing and non-banned fossil fuel recovery industry based largely in Taranaki
  • If it stops future gas recovery it could increase our reliance on existing dirtier coal energy if the Greens don’t get their way and ban that too)
  • It could force New Zealand to import more expensive energy to meet our needs.

Green co-leader James Shaw followed up yesterday launching a ‘preliminary survey’ of finance for climate related economic activity.

“There are huge opportunities in the clean economy. Today I’m launching a report into how we can finance the transition to net zero emissions, creating jobs in new industries and upgrading our economy to be more resilient.”

The greens claim that alternative energy offers huge business opportunities – see Green report – climate finance in New Zealand.

But there is still a lack of concrete proposals on post fossil fuel clean green optionn. Green ideals need to be translated into viable opportunities.

Shane Cowlishaw (Newsroom): Real climate challenge lies ahead

Tasked with creating many of those next steps will be a new, independent watchdog.

The climate commission will be established under the Zero Carbon Act, with an interim committee soon to be announced while the permanent body is set up.

Alongside its job of holding the Government to account for its progress on greenhouse gas emissions, it will also provide advice on setting targets, reducing emissions and addressing climate risks.

It has its work cut out for it.

On the face of it, the decision to ban new offshore exploration permits will have little effect on our use of oil and gas.

Until people’s habits change or new taxes on fossil fuels are introduced, the country will continue to import what it needs from overseas.

Last week Jones was in Taranaki to soften the exploration ban blow, announcing $20 million of spending for the region.

It included $150,000 on new energy initiatives, but the major money was for the restoration of a cathedral and better walking tracks.

That won’t replace the loss of the oil and gas sector. New industries will be needed.

Shaw told media he believed the end of exploration would be a boon for the economy rather than a hit, as clean energy industries surged forward.

“It does represent, I think, the greatest economic opportunity in at least a generation for the creation of new jobs and new technologies that our dependence on fossil fuel has held back for too long.”

At this stage, however, talk is cheap and unless real solutions are put forward the Government risks watching the exploration ban thrown out at the next election.

The Greens have talked up their vision for a vastly different energy and economic environment to what we have now.

They have succeeded at getting into Government. They have succeeded in making a mark with the ban on future oil and gas exploration permits.

They have a much bigger task ahead of them – proving their ideas are not just unrealistic ideals, and coming up with concrete alternatives.

And no Robert, I won’t just give the promoters of the revolution a blank cheque and ‘trust the Greens’.

In principle I support many of their aims. I think that we need to make a much better effort in transitioning away from our reliance on fossil fuels, for a number of reasons, including pollution, the environment, the climate, and the economic risk – a war in the Middle East could throw New Zealand into chaos. We have already had major change forced on us by the oil shocks in the 1970s.

But I have concerns about some of the Green aims, and what impact their ideals could have. Some of them can’t avoid having adverse effects, any major change does.

It’s time now for the Greens to step up and prove their worth. They have only just begun and are a long way off having a convincing alternative at this stage.

One thing that would help them gain support is to ditch extreme targets. Zero carbon, zero road deaths, zero poverty are so fanciful they are easily dismissed as pie in the polluted sky.

They need to convince the people of New Zealand that there are benefits from radical change – and that will mean not being too radical, at this stage at least.

A goal of halving emissions would be difficult enough – and even that is too vague for people living everyday lives.

Trying to force things like bikes and trains on people risks resistance.

Greens need leadership that works with the people, for the people rather than for the few percent of their loyal supporters.

Green zealots who think that their way is the only way, and who are  are intolerant of criticism and being held to account, are likely to continue to be detrimental to the cause.

If the Greens want to win the PR battle they need to start by convincing their own of a reasonable approach to radical change. Otherwise they risk being dismissed as nutters.