The increasing impact extreme weather is having on our communities is indisputable

Arena Williams (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūhoe) is the Labour MP for the Auckland electorate of Manurewa. She is a lawyer and mother of two. Stuart Smith is the National MP for the South Island electorate of Kaikōura. He is a former grape grower, winemaker and inducted as a Fellow of the New Zealand Winegrowers Board for services to the wine industry.

RYAN ATTWOOD, JASON DORDAY/STUFF

Cyclones, floods, wildfires, deadly heat waves- extreme climate related weather events are striking with frightening frequency

OPINION: Climate change is an issue some would argue is bigger than any other, potentially about our survival.

We have a Zero Carbon Act that makes it mandatory for the Government to take action with emissions-cutting targets. Is your party committed to this, or will you alter or throw parts out to secure coalition deals?

An MP from each side of the House gives their views.

Arena Williams, Labour MP for Manurewa.

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Arena Williams, Labour MP for Manurewa.

Arena Williams, Labour MP Manurewa

This Labour Government is the first to really take climate change seriously.

We have taken more action than any previous Government to tackle the climate crisis, and it’s working. It was Labour that passed the Zero Carbon Act in 2019, declared a climate emergency, and set the country’s first carbon budgets, alongside developing the first Emissions Reduction Plan.

This sits in stark contrast to the National Party, whose tax plan and strategy for climate change involves rolling back every measure we’ve taken to combat it – instead choosing to bury their heads in the sand.

But we know it’s about more than just talk.

We need action, and the range of measures we’ve taken during the past six years are getting results. Emissions have fallen for three years in a row and we’re on track to meet our first emissions budget. But it is tight, and any step backwards will mean we fall short. We’re going to do more.

Climate and the increasing impact extreme weather is having on our communities is indisputable – Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods reminded us all of that. We can’t opt out of the effects of climate change, so we can’t opt out of taking action.

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Tova O’ Brien hosts politicians from each of the five leading parties to talk infrastructure: roads, public transport, water, climate resilience; all are up for discussion. Produced in partnership with Infrastructure New Zealand and BNZ.

We put in place the Clean Car Discount, making EVs cheaper and resulting in one of the fastest uptakes of low emissions cars in the world. We’ve partnered with companies such as New Zealand Steel and Fonterra to stop burning coal. The Zero Carbon Act sets long-term targets to 2050, and a set of emissions budgets to get us there. New Zealand can and should be one of the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable food producers in the world.

Alongside this, we want to lead the way on renewable energy and stay relentlessly focused on driving down our greenhouse emissions. This year Prime Minister Hipkins has been on the road to China, Europe and the United Kingdom securing new trade deals and strengthening existing ones to help grow jobs and our economy, including a trade delegation to India within our first 100 days if re-elected.

Addressing climate change is the right thing to do to safeguard our environment for future generations, but it’s also the smart thing to do – taking action now is in our economic interests and will reduce cost pressures on Kiwi households. It is unbelievable that National has committed to scrap nearly every Government initiative that reduces New Zealand’s emissions.

Kaikōura MP Stuart Smith

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Kaikōura MP Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith, National MP Kaikōura

In 2015, it was a National Government that signed New Zealand up to the Paris Accord. That provided the basis for the Zero Carbon Bill in 2019, which has the full support of the National Party and will continue to have for years to come.

While across the house we agree on where we need to get to, we have quite differing views on how to get there. Labour and the Greens prefer to increase taxes and then throw money at the problem, rather than actually solving it, and without thinking through the impacts of their decisions on households and the economy. That method of thinking ultimately hurts Kiwi households.

An example of this is the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund. The Labour Government decided to give taxpayers’ money to wealthy corporations that could afford to make those investments themselves. This kind of economic lunacy is why our economy is in such a mess, with high debt and high inflation.

Gianina Schwanecke / Stuff

Wellington organisers Izzy Cook, 17, and Isla Ramsden, 16, talk to Stuff about why they’re leading the School Strike 4 Climate protest action. (Published May 2023)

There is no doubt that reducing our emissions over the next 27 years to net zero is a generational challenge, but it is one that can also bring opportunity. National has committed to removing the effective ban on gene technologies to unlock their tremendous potential to reduce agricultural emissions. This is an area where New Zealand has the scale and expertise to make a real contribution at a global level in the fight to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

If we are to move towards a carbon-neutral economy, we need more abundant, affordable and sustainable energy to run our homes, cars and industries. Although New Zealand already has one the highest percentages of renewable energy in the world, decarbonising transport and industry will naturally increase the demand for electricity.

We need to secure enough investment in renewable generation to get us through this transition. That’s why National’s Electrify NZ policy will fast-track resource consents for new renewable power projects, including solar, wind, and geothermal, by requiring consent decisions in one year, with consents to last for 35 years.

The impacts of climate change can be mitigated if we work together with a regulatory regime that enables investment in lower emissions rather than stand in the way. National is fully committed to reaching net zero by 2050, but we will do it in a way that brings each and every New Zealander on the journey with us and doesn’t waste taxpayers’ money.

There is no shortage of green capital looking for investment. The problem is removing heavy-handed regulations to make it easier for Kiwi enterprises to make sound financial investments in lower emissions.

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