Last Saturday Labour Party members and friends gathered in Titirangi to talk about the environment and green technology. It was great that deputy leader and Labour’s environment spokesperson Grant Robertson was able to join us. (UPDATE, and Grant’s speech can be found here)
I gave a speech about the unbreakable nexus between economic development and environmental protection. It’s called The Dolphin and the Dole Queue and you can read it here or follow the discussion it’s generated at The Standard.
My speech contextualised clean-tech and renewable technologies and how these might meet some of the pressing environmental challenges. It did this by placing in context:
- The gathering storm clouds of major environmental trends, such as climate change, fossil fuel scarcity and population growth;
- Why a strategic shift to a green economy which incorporates clean-technology and renewable energy is required;
- A reality check on the remaining ‘gap’ – that fact that, even with prompt action, major risks and adjustments will still exist;
- Rules of thumb for navigating future choices – evidence and analysis, the precautionary principle, and resilience economics.
There is no longer a genuine debate about whether our climate is changing. Instead there is an overwhelming consensus of climate scientists versus the old vested interests of polluters and their curious allies on the conspiratorial fringe.
The truth is our planet is near – if not past – the point where our ever-increasing demands on resources will surpass the Earth’s ability to sustain our civilisation in its current form.
Too many politicians appear to have calculated that frightening people with the truth just makes things difficult for them. Maybe that was true. Perhaps it still is. But the time for short-term thinking must end because the facts are clear.
Do you want future generations to have much more difficult and conflict-riven lives than we do; is it acceptable to you that your descendents should look back at us and ask “How could you have known what you did and yet you did nothing?”
There is huge potential for New Zealand in clean-tech and renewable energy. We’ve already got Lanzatech capturing industrial waste exhaust and turning it into energy. We’ve got SolarCity installing solar panels on thousands of roofs in Christchurch. Living Earth is creating compost from waste which might have gone to landfill. New Zealanders are doing amazing things in the clean economy which matter, and which help us get a slice of the $6 trillion potential global market.
But a core part of my speech stressed that a more serious and sophisticated analysis of the potential and limits of clean-tech is required. Yes, we must ensure New Zealand isn’t left behind and that our country maximises both the ecological and economic value of our necessary transition to a clean economy. But we must also carefully guard against the risks of “green-wash” and being overly optimistic that a move to a low carbon future means business as usual. Because it doesn’t. It’s going to take cultural changes around consumption and stewardship of the things we own and the land we inhabit, and we’re going to have to meaningfully reach out to the developing world so that their rise doesn’t countermine our progress.
New Zealanders must work through the challenges now because the rest of the world is racing ahead of us. We need to deliver a broad public and political push for sustainable economic growth and enhanced environmental protections, and we need to start today because our “clean green brand” is already being questioned overseas.
This change is sharply at odds with National’s “milking and mining” plan of ever-increasing pollution and kicking business leaders who dare to speak out against their dead-end strategy. So progress is going to be a big challenge.
I concluded that, while the challenge is huge, community engagement and activism is necessary and change is possible.
What do Red Alert readers think? How can we get the most from clean-tech? Is enough being invested in its development? How are we going to change attitudes and work together so we can enjoy fulfilling lives today while still saving this planet for our grandkids?