COP award another for the pool room

"Whadd'ya call this, darl?"

"It’s the ‘Fossil of the Day’ award."

"D’ya hear that kids? ‘Fossil of the Day’ award! That’s going straight to the pool room."

Once there, it can join the others New Zealand won recently at the last two Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change happenings, better known to all as COP26 and COP27.

Now we are at COP28, being held in the billionaires’ paradise of Dubai in the oil-producing Middle East. And little clean, green Aotearoa is again punching above its weight when it comes to failing with its environmental progress.

There was little doubt we would fail to secure yet more bling this year, particularly with a fresh coalition government containing the National Party and Act New Zealand.

This latest award, from the Climate Action Network International, especially recognises the government’s intention to allow offshore oil and gas exploration again, ostensibly to ease the way as we bolster our renewable energy sources and ensure we don’t have to import more nasty coal when we get in a pickle.

What makes this award even more stunning is that Simon Watts, our sparkly new climate change minister — who sits outside Cabinet we hasten to remind readers — hasn’t even made it to Dubai yet.

To be fair to this government, we need to emphasise that our fossil awards have not been doled out purely to those of a Centre or Centre-Right persuasion.

Last year, an anti-accolade was awarded at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt to then climate change minister, Green Party co-leader James Shaw, for going against the wishes of many Pacific Island nations and "seeking to delay any agreement to establish a loss and damage finance facility ... until 2024".

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
And at COP26 in Glasgow, Mr Shaw picked up the second-place fossil award for New Zealand’s efforts to stand in the way of setting limits on carbon offsetting.

New Zealand also took home a prize from the landmark Paris COP21 event, at which nations signed a legally binding treaty to cut emissions and limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2degC, preferably 1.5C or lower, above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

That fossil award went to former prime minister John Key for not walking the talk — addressing the conference and claiming to be a leader in ending fossil-fuel subsidies while giving $80 million to the oil, gas and coal industries at the same time.

None of this reflects well on us. After all, that’s an average of a fossil award at every other COP conference during the past eight years.

Of course, New Zealand is not alone with being held up for criticism. Second in the awards announced this week was Japan for "greenwashing" and third was the United States for making funding of conflict a higher priority than climate change.

We need to keep in mind the awards are just a small aspect of what goes on at these massive events of more than 60,000 people. So many useful discussions take place and plenty of decisions are made which inform policies which mitigate against climate change and help reduce emissions.

Still, it is not a good look for New Zealand. The new government appears like it will need constant reminding that the climate crisis is not something which can be parked to one side while they fret about the cost of living and where the money will come from for tax cuts.

And another thing ...

Talking of climate change, South Dunedin is back on the radar with important reports now before the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Regional Council on the future of the low-lying suburb.

Scientists, council staff and policy experts have been studying the likely plight of South Dunedin as the sea level rises this century. The South Dunedin Future report highlights how flooding from groundwater will become increasingly widespread in the coming decades.

South Dunedin’s issues are Dunedin’s issues, are the South’s issues and New Zealand’s issues. It is good to see this work is under way in earnest, work which deserves the full support of all who care about the future.