“Time to take a historic step for climate change”

From the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.


Time to take a historic step for climate change, says Environment Commissioner

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has issued a rallying call to MPs of all parties: it’s time to come together to tackle climate change.

“Climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue,” said Dr Wright. “It’s a huge challenge. And not just for the current Government, but also for the Governments that succeed them into the future, be they blue, red, green, or any other colour,”

In a new report, the Commissioner acknowledges that the Government has made progress since the Paris agreement. And the cross-party working group on climate change has been a welcome development. But she says it’s now time to take the next step.

“There is an opportunity here for the next Parliament to build on recent developments and take a historic step forward that will be credited for generations to come,” said Dr Wright.

Dr Wright has recommended a new Act that is similar to the UK Climate Change Act. This is a law that was passed with overwhelming cross-party support in the House of Commons in 2008. At least nine other countries have since passed similar legislation, including Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

A similar law in New Zealand would put emissions targets into law, and require the setting of carbon budgets that would act as stepping stones towards the targets. It would also establish a high-powered independent expert group that would crunch the numbers and provide objective advice.

“There has been a lot of debate around what our targets should be,” said Dr Wright. “But I’m much more interested in how we are actually going to achieve them.”

The Commissioner says underlining her recommendations is the need for a long-term approach to climate change.

“When it comes to climate change, we need to get used to looking decades ahead,” said Dr Wright. “The world is going to be a very different place in the future.”

The report is subtitled Climate change, progress, and predictability. Dr Wright says businesses and investors are crying out for some predictability in New Zealand’s response to climate change.

“Many businesses are keen to take advantage of the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy, but they need more predictability before they invest.”

The Commissioner’s report, Stepping stones to Paris and beyond: Climate change, progress, and predictability, is available here. A set of frequently asked questions is available here.

‘More 1080’ madness

It seems madness promoting more use of the poison 1080. It serves an important purpose but should be replaced as soon as possible.

The Commissioner for the Environment has called for more use of 1080, claiming it is ‘safe’. One News reports in Call for more 1080 ‘absolutely unbelievable’:

Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright yesterday slammed the current 1080 scheme as “inadequate”, saying the chemical is safe, effective and that alternative methods are not as good.

Every year, 3500 tonnes of 1080 poison is distributed across the country to kill pests like possums, stoats and rats.

It is widely acknowledged that 1080 is near essential in controlling pests, but it is a necessary evil that should be reduced as much and as quickly as possible.

Not surprisingly there has been opposition to the call for more 1080 use.

Kate Winters from the protest group 1080 National Network told TV ONE’s Breakfast that increasing the use of the poison to control pests is a step in the wrong direction.

“I find it absolutely unbelievable that she (the commissioner) is advocating more use of 1080 in a country that claims itself to be clean and green,” Ms Winters said.

“We should really be looking at banning it, and reducing the use until it is eventually banned, hopefully in 2020.”

Ms Winters does not deny that 1080 is effective but says a lack of knowledge makes it dangerous.

“We know it’s a killer, what we don’t know is what it does and what low doses do to our native species, to our environment and humans.”

United Future leader Peter Dunne sides with this view and with the Department of Conservation.

Mr Dunne says he supports DOC’s efforts to find alternatives to 1080.“I think the Parliamentary Commissioner is being short sighted.

“Very few people argue that 1080 is the ideal solution, and there have been constant calls over the years for more research to be done into viable alternatives.

“DOC has under strong criticism from many recreational groups for what was seen as too rigid an approach to 1080 – now when it is doing much more at looking at viable alternatives, it gets criticised by the Parliamentary Commissioner for not being rigid enough!

“In my view, DOC has got the balance about right.

“Of course, we must protect the conservation estate in particular from unwelcome predators – no-one seriously questions that – but as New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to still use 1080, we must also be constantly looking at alternatives,” he says.

Mr Dunne says the Parliamentary Commissioner’s 2001 and 2013 reports show a “blinkered” approach which “detracts from the impartiality of her office.”

Mr Dunne is calling on the Parliamentary Commissioner to work with DOC on a balanced approach to the use of 1080 and alternatives, rather than to keep attacking its efforts.

United Future had supported groups wanting to ban 1080 leading up to the last election, but now accept that 1080 needs to be phased out while alternatives are phased in.

Putting more effort into finding alternatives to 1080 should be a high priority. New Zealand uses about 80% of the world supply of the poison.