Climate Justice

Generation Zero’s slogan is A Future That’s Not Shit – and we want that to go for everyone! 

Let’s talk about climate change, baby. 

Okay wait! Before you exit the page, already overwhelmed and a bit bored of hearing about the “C” words, hear me out. We need to talk about climate change, and not just as an environmental issue (we know that you know that it’s sad to see forests burning and lonesome polar bears stranded on melting ice). So, let’s dive in a little more, and try to see it as the multi-faceted issue it is. A social one. A political one. A justice one. 

We know that changes coming about from climate change will disproportionately affect those already on the margins of society. This might be quite literally in Aotearoa, with those on our coasts being the most susceptible to sea level rise and more intense weather events. But we are also talking about those socially on the margins. Because let’s be very clear – this is a justice issue. This will not affect people equally, and the way people are able to deal with this will not be equal. 

Social inequalities play a big part, both within a country and between countries. We can look at a country like the Netherlands, which is very low lying, but is better able to adapt to sea level rise through technology, more funding, and implementation strategies. Compare this to another low-lying land such as Bangladesh, which has less of these adaptation capabilities. The people of this country may face more displacement, and may even be forced to become climate refugees in the future. 

The countries with a higher proportion of people in poverty have historically emitted much less than those we today consider to be “Western” countries, and they will face the consequences of our actions in a more severe way and have less ability to deal with it. Same goes within Aotearoa. The average person and people living in poverty have contributed the least to climate change, yet will have the least ability to adapt to changes. And we know within Aotearoa that demographics such as Māori and Pacifica, as well as new immigrants and refugees, struggle economically and socially, so this is also a question of racial and cultural equality. 

Indigenous cultures will be affected disproportionately, they tend to have an integrated relationship with the environment. These relationships are increasingly being threatened with our natural world being degraded, and various cultural, spiritual, and traditional practices suffer from it. In Aotearoa, Tangata Whenua have the practice of Mahinga Kai – food gathering. If collecting shellfish is endangered by waterway pollution, ocean acidification, and overfishing, then this cultural practice will be endangered, not to mention the spiritual connection to the land that will be disrespected. 

We also need to look wider than our borders. We know our Pacific neighbours are in danger of rising seas and intensified weather events; arid countries already struggling with food production will have more droughts. 

So, we need to get excited about a transition to a low carbon economy. And to our credit, we are. The introduction of the Zero Carbon Bill was a major step in this direction (and a success story in how campaigning for policy change can happen). But we need to also get excited about a just and fair transition. 

How are our new policies going to affect people of different income levels, people in different locations around Aotearoa, people with varying abilities, and skill-sets, and cultures, and historical legacies? Will introducing a fuel tax help? Or will the rich brush it off as another cost, while the poor struggle with this burden while having to get themselves to a low-paying job every day? Some people’s livelihood depends on the fossil fuel industry – how will they be treated when their job is phased out? 

And how does all this relate to the elections? Well one of the ways that we can act on this issue is to ensure we are voting for people who see the importance of these issues, have solid policies and will actually act on them.  

So, how do we vote with Climate Justice in mind? We aren’t asking you to vote for one specific party necessarily. But there are things you can look out for when deciding who represents you best: 

  • Does this party consider climate change to be a social issue as well as an environmental one? 
  • Will they actively involve iwi and hapū in creating and implementing policies and plans? 
  • Do they have a climate change mitigation plan? (Mitigation meaning reducing further emissions). 
  • Do they have a climate change adaptation plan? (Adaptation being a way to live with the current and future changes). 
  • Do they have a plan to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy will be a fair and just one, with the potential for retraining opportunities for those whose jobs will be affected? 

Do they look outside of our own borders for a wider response and responsibility? 

Please vote these elections – and please vote with climate change and climate justice in mind. These issues are something that will be with us for generations to come, so it is important that we get it right now. 

By Rose Bayldon on behalf of Generation Zero 

Generation Zero is a New Zealand organisation who are keen for a zero carbon future, and actively try to make that happen both locally and nationally. Check out our facebook page or follow the link below to see our website. 

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