Prior to attending the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Peru, I thought that I was going to have an easy time representing a country that is known to be clean and green. I was wrong.
Contrary to popular belief and perceptions, New Zealand is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters and also one of the countries who heartbreakingly commits less than its capability. So, we and our future children can say hello to extreme weather and more droughts, all thanks to the New Zealand government.
Like high school cliché groups wherein you become cool if you’re part of the cliques, New Zealand is part of the Umbrella Group, a collective of rich countries who give their best in doing the least. New Zealand portrays that it is doing its fair share when, in fact, its emissions have increased by 25% and its contributions to the Green Climate Fund are two times less than Columbia – a third world country. Awkward.
Despite all of these disappointments, civil societies continue to give the government grief. For example, the Coal Action Network Aotearoa put a strong demonstration where they asked the minister to stop throwing their heads in the sand and start looking at the reality of climate change.
Another more direct instance where civil society gave them grief was when New Zealand Youth Delegation delegate, Maddie Little, gave her condolences to Climate Change and Economic Minister Tim Grosser for his loss of ambition during a meeting inside COP20. Complete with a bouquet of flowers and a consolidated sheet of what the government can and should do to alleviate climate change, the confrontation was truly a success.
It is about time that people realise that we live in a world where climate change is no longer questioned scientifically. We all know how the Earth contains the heat that is produced by the sun as well as greenhouse gases that are emitted by cars, animals and burning fossil fuels for energy. These greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere and traps most of the heat making our climate warmer. In fact, Stanford University’s Stanford Woods Institute for Environment senior fellows Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field found that climate change is occurring 10 times faster.No wonder many of our neighbouring small island states are suffering from sea level rise, drought and extreme heat. All of these exacerbate their territories from sinking.
What would happen to our neighbours when they lose their land you might ask?
If the New Zealand government fail to implement our target emissions, we will inevitably accommodate citizens from our neighbouring countries as environmental refugees. I am not saying that taking in refugees is bad in fact I advocate the opposite. As an immigrant, I think that helping those in need and providing refugees a better and more secure future is vital. However, I feel more for those people who will lose their land, their connection with their land, their families and possibly lose their cultural structure and practices.
Thus, the New Zealand government who prides itself as the leader of small states upon winning a seat in the UNSC, would need to do more in committing and implementing nationally determined target emissions as well as making decisions that prioritises the environment over economic gain.
Also, our government should include the youth in the decision making process as we are essential the stakeholders of the future. One way it could do this is by allowing youths to join the official New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade delegation to United Nations conferences such as the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties as liaisons or advisers.
More importantly, the government should listen to the policy cries and asks of civil societies. Since 2015 is the last year countries will negotiate in the UNFCCC, civil societies are more fired up to put pressure on the government to make policies that align with what future generations need – an Earth that is below 2 C. As you read this, many campaigns from national climate action network such as Generation Zero are brewing up. Similarly, many international climate working groups such as Fast for the Climate are also bringing together people from different corners of the world to engage in actions that will open the eyes of governments and ordinary people alike to the harsh and devastating realities of climate change in countries that have been affected and continue to suffer.
This is the year when 190 countries will draft and sign a climate agreement which will determine whether we can look forward to a future with less extreme weather conditions. Will countries actually sign this agreement? I don’t know
But what I do know is that this 2015 agreement is not the sole answer to the climate issue. What I also know is that international process is very slow because little agreement happen due to the fact that countries are out there to protect their national interests. So what I hope is for communities and individuals give their share in stopping climate change. I hope that we can live a more eco-friendly life so we and our children can have a future on Earth.