No alternative to taking action now

The Climate Change Commission’s report is an opportunity to create a better alternative, writes Scott Willis.

Scott Willis
Scott Willis
Growing up on a farm in the Waitaki Valley I have vivid memories of the 1984 election and the favourite slogan of neo-liberal idealogues: There Is No Alternative (Tina). It meant farm protections slashed, unions broken, public services cut, privatisations, increasing inequality, all to the tune of 1980s electropop.

Come 2021, Tina 2.0 means something else entirely. It means a future for our children and grandchildren. The transition this time will be shared equitably, if we pull together, and we’ll all benefit, not just the few.

Tina 2.0: the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice to Government was published this week and is open for public submissions until March 14. Personally, I am heavily invested in all the solutions to reduce emissions (wind power, solar systems, electric and active transport, regenerative agriculture, climate-safe housing, the circular economy) but I am particularly interested in those actions that not only reduce emissions but also help us adapt to global heating and climate breakdown. Because adapt we must. We are in the midst of a climate emergency and there is no alternative.

In the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice, the focus is on reducing emissions (mitigation) using clear emissions budgets. However, adaptation is clearly a co-benefit in much of its advice to Government.

The Mahinerangi Wind Farm on the north side of Lake Mahinerangi. The Climate Change Commission...
The Mahinerangi Wind Farm on the north side of Lake Mahinerangi. The Climate Change Commission says we’ll need more wind power distributed along the length of the country. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
In a long skinny country such as Aotearoa New Zealand, we’re subject to a diversity of climate change variables and hazards. Building resilience into our electricity system is critical. Electricity from renewables will provide the means to decarbonise our transport, provide much process heat and power industry. The implications are an urgent investment in renewables and phasing out of fossil fuel electricity, with increased diversification.

In the commission’s evidence chapter on heat, industry and power, it advises "dispersing wind farms around the country and taking into account potential changes in future prevailing wind patterns". It shows not only adaptive planning, but also opens the door to building community resilience with community ownership.

"Demand response technologies" are another commission-backed solution, which means things like inverters that allow you to power your car from your house or your house from your car’s battery, or automated systems with permissions for a third party like a network owner to control part of a household or business energy allocation (ripple control of your hot-water, remote controlled heat-pump, etc). The household/business earns income for contributing to grid resilience, and we build the ability to keep the lights on when all else becomes difficult. This not only builds community resilience, it also reduces transmission losses and keeps more of our energy dollar local.

There are many other co-benefits of course. The support for reducing farm emissions through reduced stock numbers and lower inputs, along with some land use change — new native forests, energy farming — will help clean up our waterways, restore biodiversity and create economic opportunity.

It’s in transport that I think the biggest difference between the Tina of 1984 and 2021’s Tina 2.0 will be felt. I remember the closure of the Waitaki Valley railway in the 1980s, railroad sleepers becoming garden borders, and the old rail corridor eventually becoming part of the Alps to Ocean cycleway.

"People will continue to rely on private transport until public transport services and infrastructure is provided so people find public transport, walking and cycling convenient, safe and enjoyable," the commission notes in its report. So while the 1980s began the breaking up of collective assets and services, Tina 2.0 proposes connection: cars to houses (vehicle to grid), walking, cycling and rail, compact urban form, resilient townships and active participation in growing the circular economy.

I can imagine a future in which I don’t need to own a car. I might catch a railcar to work on the days that I don’t work remotely from home. How will others fare? That depends on our voices over the next few weeks and then the Government’s will in adopting "policies that [...] operate by reducing social inequities rather than exacerbating them".

We don’t need to invent new stuff. We have it all here. The report’s executive summary says it best: "Work must start now".

So now we all need to push, for our children and our grandchildren, to help our politicians be bold.

Let’s make Tina 2.0 something to celebrate.

For more

Try out your climate action preferences: https://sites.google.com/view/climate-action-preferences/home

Get updates from the Climate Change Commission: https://www.climatecommission.govt.nz/get-involved/events/

Make sure you have your say by 14 March: https://www.climatecommission.govt.nz/news/upcoming-consultation/

- Scott Willis is a climate and energy consultant. Each week in this column one of a panel of writers addresses issues of sustainability.

 

Comments

The Climate Change Commission’s draft advice does not go far enough, it is the bare minimum the country must do just to reach its promised commitments and I fear many of the targets will yet get watered down or never reached.
The planet is hotter now than at any other time in the past 12,000 years, and that it may actually be warmer than at any point during the last 125,000 years. Climate change will be sudden and cataclysmic. We need to act fast. There are parts of our planet’s carbon cycle, the ways that the earth and the biosphere store and release carbon, that could trigger suddenly in response to gradual warming. These are tipping points that once passed could fundamentally disrupt the planet and produce abrupt, non-linear change in the climate. Some believe some of these tipping points have already been reached, others that we may still have time to stop the domino effect. When they are passed we can expect climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources.
We need to stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road for future generations.

UN Climate Change is briefing nations on expectations for #COP26 today,
Chief Antonio Guterres called on all governments to come forward with significantly more ambitious climate action plans by the meeting, with 2030 targets consistent with a net zero pathway. Read more: http://bit.ly/SGonCOP26

Yikes, sounds like you are 100% opposed to Muldoonism, the very man who established the Clyde Dam and created more electricity that Blueskins powerscheme. Maybe you could be a little more open-minded to other political ideologies given neo-libs didnt exist in the time your dishing your one sided view on.

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