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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by the declaration of a climate emergency?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

David Seymour: Why does she stand by the declaration of a climate emergency but not a declaration of a housing emergency, given that homeownership rates have fallen to a 70-year low under her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will be aware that, when it comes to the issue of climate change globally, we sit amongst 33 other countries who’ve declared emergencies, over 1,800 jurisdictions, and that’s in no small part because Governments around the world have a tradition of when we see the impacts of climate change and the forms of significant weather events, those are the kinds of things in which civil defence emergencies are declared. They demonstrate a risk to people and property, and if we are to address the source of future civil defence emergencies, it is the climate emergency that we need to address.

David Seymour: What effective policies has she put in place to lower New Zealand’s emissions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It’s not just what we do, for instance, around transitioning public—[Interruption] if I may?—around the biggest investments in public transport that we have seen under any Government; making sure that we have the infrastructure that supports the uptake of EV vehicles; transitioning our Public Service towards carbon neutrality; removing fossil fuel generation from, for instance, our schools and our hospitals, which we’ve put ourselves on a path to; supporting the private sector to remove the use of fossil fuels for energy generation within their business, which is a significant contributor. It’s not just those things. In order to support our long-term aspirations, we need to make sure as a country we have carbon budgets in place, and the zero carbon legislation we put in place, which I was disappointed the member didn’t support, is also key to our activity.

David Seymour: Why have none of those policies worked, in light of the fact New Zealand’s emissions continue to rise under her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will be well aware, as the Climate Commission points out themselves, even with the intensity of effort that we’ll need over the next five years, the lag in the way that these are manifest through those long-life gases means we have to put in intense activity now in order to see our emissions peak and then fall. But I know the member will be aware of that, because I understand he will have read the report.

Hon James Shaw: Is it true that the ACT Party did not vote against the zero carbon Act on its third and final reading?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s not a matter the Prime Minister has responsibility for.

David Seymour: When will the Government’s policies start reducing emissions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member takes a look at page 7 of the report, in the draft advice from the Climate Commission, you can see the trajectory for, under our current policies, reaching the goals we have of reaching a 2050 target of net zero for carbon. It also has our biogenic methane targets, and you can see the trajectory really peaks out over the next five years and then declines. What they are suggesting, however, is that we should change up the way we reach those goals for our next generation, relying less, for instance, on forestry and making sure that we see reductions in real terms.

David Seymour: If she stands by the declaration of a climate emergency, will she declare a public order emergency in response to gangs recruiting twice as fast as police and shooting people on an almost weekly basis?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Whether or not it’s housing, whether or not it’s child poverty, or whether or not it’s issues of community safety, the declaration of a climate emergency does not lessen the other challenges this Government faces and, in many cases, inherited after decades of inaction. So the member would be misinterpreting the act of a climate emergency if he takes the view that it means these other issues, many of which we have included as Government priorities, are somehow less important.

David Seymour: If the point of a climate emergency is to support future generations, why has she not declared it an emergency that New Zealand students’ test scores have fallen in nearly every international comparison all of this century?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We traversed this issue a little bit yesterday. Firstly, I’d again say in no way does a climate emergency lessen the urgency of ensuring that every child has access to high-quality education. What we have seen in our education system, unfortunately, is the aftermath of a failed experiment on national standards. What we have done as a Government is make sure that we have put into our assessment regime measures that will allow us to see the progress of children in those critical areas where we know their success will be determined by meeting basic levels of numeracy and literacy.

David Seymour: Is the reason she hasn’t declared emergencies in public order, education, or housing that, when she declared one in climate, it made absolutely no difference to the situation whatsoever?