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'It's bigger than both of us': Voters urged to push govt on climate after major report

A loud message is coming through the new UN climate change report - it is time for us all to radically change our lifestyles.

Things like walking, cycling, public transport and working from home are all actions the IPCC says will make a difference if enough people try.
Things like walking, cycling, public transport and working from home are all actions the IPCC says will make a difference if enough people try. Photo: 123RF/ RNZ

The significant report has painted a bleak picture of what is ahead without swift action, and the window for avoiding the worst is closing further every day.

Within two years, greenhouse gas emissions need to start declining.

The coal industry needs to almost entirely shut down and methane emissions need to be cut by a third - all within the next eight years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that people need to pull their weight and change their ways to help meet those requirements.

New Zealand is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters per-head of population.

Massey University Emeritus Professor Ralph Sims, who was a review editor of the IPCC report, said it was already unlikely that the country can could its methane emissions by a third, when agriculture made up half of greenhouse gas emissions.

"We need people to look at their lifestyles, look at their carbon footprints and consider how they may reduce them," he said.

Shoppers at a Wellington supermarket, many with reusable bags in tote, told RNZ how they feel about changing their lifestyles.

"People do need to change their behaviours, but it's so hard to do when it takes 10 times more work," one said.

"I think I do my bit, but I probably don't do enough," another shopper said.

"I think it's absolutely do-able, why not? It needs to happen," someone else said.

"I'm prepared to do my bit."

So what can people do?

Their best.

Things like walking, cycling, public transport, eating less meat, flying less, working from home are all actions the IPCC says will make a difference if enough people try.

Transport changes include ultimately a shift from gas-guzzling transport to electric vehicles, which will be significant for New Zealand, because transport is still the country's highest growing sector.

Just last month, record sales of utes were recorded as people rushed to beat the government's Clean Car Discount.

Many shoppers told RNZ electric vehicles were not on their agenda.

Power supply for electric car charging.  Electric car charging station. Close up of the power supply plugged into an electric car being charged.
Many shoppers told RNZ electric vehicles were not on their agenda. (File image) Photo: 123RF

"One of the reasons I went with a hybrid rather than an electric vehicle is because I couldn't afford an electric," was one response.

"What, $30k for a second-hand [Nissan] Leaf? It's still crazy expensive compared to $3 or $4k for a diesel," another said.

"We bought our cargo e-bike about two years ago, and the climate was one of the factors," someone else said.

Coal Action Network campaigner and climate researcher Cindy Baxter urged people to use their power as voters and customers to force the government and industry to act.

"The biggest thing you can do it push your government and push the companies - like Fonterra, like the company you buy milk from, like Countdown, all those companies. You're the customer, push them to make the change as well because it's bigger than the both of us."

The report stated governments would need to front up and make changes in transport, industry, buildings and agriculture to let people live low-carbon lifestyles.

Baxter believed more support was needed for those who could not afford to make some of the IPCC lifestyle changes.

"It does cost the poorest people the most amount of money, we need to look at that and use the income from something like the Emissions Trading Scheme to support the people who can't afford it and are being hit the hardest."

Greater Wellington Regional councillor Thomas Nash agreed every bit counted, but balance needed to be skewed more onto decision-makers.

"I see that as our job as people in councils, and government, to make it easier for people and that's why we're trying to do things like reducing public transport fares and making it easier to not have to rely on a car," Nash said.

"This isn't going to be easy, this is going to be hard and we're going to have to work together."

The IPCC reports take about seven years to compile, meaning that the next warning report will be coinciding with those critical timeframes.

Auckland's mayor says the city is ready to respond to the UN's call for urgent action on climate change.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff speaks to media following Cabinet's extension of the alert level 3 lockdown.
Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The council is looking at public feedback on a targeted climate levy to raise about $1 billion over 10 years, which would be used to reduce emissions, improve public transport and increase tree planting.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff told Morning Report the signs were encouraging that ratepayers were willing to pay more in rates to combat climate change.

"The early results of [the consultation] show that by a very strong majority of people are ready to pay, it works out at about $1.10 a week on the average price property, they're ready to pay that price to create a better future for their kids."

The council also has a climate action plan which looks at various areas, including reducing its own fleet of vehicles and converting what is left to hybrid and electric and ceasing any future purchases of diesel buses.

Goff outlined a range of other public transport measures that would be ramped up over the coming years. Asked about how timely these would be considering the report's tight timeframe, he said "almost certainly, it will need to be cranked up to do more".

"We've set ambitious targets, because we have to frankly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was definitive on this, it's not too late to act but it certainly will be.

"Far from being on track to reduce emission by 45 percent, we're on track to increase them by 14 percent so Auckland has to do its bit, it's a third of the country's population and we need to work closely with central government."

Goff said he needed to convince councillors and ratepayers it was necessary to bring in a new targeted rate ahead of an election, even when some people were struggling with the economic effects of Covid-19.

"The best time to act would've been 10 years ago ... the second best time to act is right now. And what I'm trying to do with the targeted rate and a whole range of measures ... that says to our fellow Aucklanders 'look I know you'd rather not pay any more in rates, but this is really urgent, this is about our future, this is about heading off the catastrophic impacts economically and environmentally of climate change'."

He acknowledged government needed to ramp up its efforts and a cultural mind shift was also needed.

Truckers believe there are some simple solutions to help the industry quickly target carbon emissions with government support.

Transporting New Zealand CEO Nick Leggett
Transporting New Zealand chief executive Nick Leggett Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Ia Ara Aotearoa, Transporting New Zealand, chief executive Nick Leggett told Morning Report using larger trucks would mean fewer vehicles on the road and better digital technologies could streamline transport.

"For heavy trucking particularly, the challenge is that the zero emission technologies for heavy trucks don't exist right now, they may in the next five or 10 years on a larger scale but we actually can't afford to wait that long."

Leggett said the government needed to incentivise things like low and zero carbon fuels like seen that with biodiesel mandate introduced last year.

"If every diesel vehicle in New Zealand was able to link into that, there'd be a 4 or 5 percent reduction in emissions immediately."

A number of other potential solutions Leggett suggests include energy-efficient driving, more efficient logistics, such as using technology to ensure freight trucks are not going around empty, and bringing in eco-trucks, which are larger but carry more freight.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle told Morning Report the plan to get farmers to reduce emissions (He Waka Eke Noa) would be through to the minister in May.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle.
DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

"We've been out to consult with farmers, we've got wonderful feedback from them and some real consistent themes."

But there are different views Mackle said, with rural lobby group Groundswell NZ Farmers criticising potential levies.

Mackle said there was nothing final yet.

"I can't think of an example in our history where the whole of the primary sector has worked on a big challenge like this ... so we've got to do this jointly, it's not all about dairy.

"We've got to keep talking and we absolutely want to hear from Groundswell ourselves, as long as it's constructive and when it comes I guess heated towards misinformation that's when we've got to speak out."

He said New Zealanders were already world-leading in efficiency and how we produce food but acknowledged it was not enough.

"It won't be a silver bullet and let's be clear about that. It'll be the sum total of a bunch of different things we're going to do."

source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/464708/ipcc-report-climate-campaigner-urges-voters-to-push-government-and-companies-to-act