To bastardise an old saying, “Climate Action must not only be seen to be done. It must also be done.”
The ball room at Auckland’s Rendezvous Hotel was nearly filled to its 400-seat capacity for Monday night’s climate change consultation meeting. That’s a big turn out on a cold autumn evening from people who are concerned about our government’s climate inaction.

Predictably, passions ran hot.

Perhaps too hot for our political representatives to turn out and hear what real New Zealanders think about climate change. Only the Green Party had MPs who made their presence known.

For me, I did what I promoted in last week’s article.

climate-change-consultation-2I watched the Ministry for the Environment’s short video that describes the key things we need to consider when setting New Zealand’s post–2020 contribution to mitigating climate change. The video was perfectly pitched at the general public. It was clear and reasoned. Watching it, I was in no doubt that it’s creators believed in the fact of climate change, that we were the cause and that the issue needed to be addressed.

I read the Ministry’s discussion document which explained the main issues and describes New Zealand’s situation.

And then I read the submission form.

As a writer, I believe the words we choose to use are important. They convey a lot that is unsaid, they reflect our feelings and subtly convey what we really want. The words used in the submission form concerned me greatly.

The Ministry talked about the country having a decision to make. It did not make clear what they believed the decision was about – is it about the level of our contribution to mitigating climate change or whether (or not) we would even make a meaningful contribution?

I assumed the decision was about the heading of the submission form – “Objectives for the contribution.”

The contribution! Not Our contribution. In de-personalising this issue, it becomes something we may do because others expect it. But climate change will and is affecting each one of us. This is our problem to solve and we need to make significant sacrifices.

The Ministry use the word ‘contribution’ as if we were giving something sought out, something of value. It is not a contribution we are making in Paris. It is only a target. And a non-binding one at that.

The first of three objectives to our ‘contribution’ talked about it being “seen as fair and ambitious … by … an audience.” We are not an audience watching a stage show. We are active participants in an unfolding world-wide catastrophe.

The second objective was that “costs and impacts … are managed appropriately.”  Appropriateness cannot be assessed when the costs of not taking action are not released alongside the costs of taking action.

The third objective talked about guiding NZ over the long term.  Memo to Minister: problems are occurring now and will only get worse if mitigation action is not also taken now.

The message from the meeting was that informed and concerned people do not want to be only ‘seen’ to do the right thing.

To bastardise an old saying, “Climate Action must not only be seen to be done. It must also be done.” The wording in the submission form does not give me any confidence of an intention to take action.

Similarly, the Ministry’s performance at the meeting did not give such confidence.

In summing up the mood of the consultation meeting, the Ministry’s Deputy Secretary Guy Beatson, entirely missed the dominant theme repeated by many speakers: that we want the government to show some leadership in mitigating and in adapting to the fact of climate change.

He did pick up on the repeated theme of wanting our politicians to develop a cross-party agreement on an action plan rather than continuing with the flip flops of party politicking.

What I want from the Ministry, is that it side with the 97% and to advise the government to get off the climate change fence and take committed action.