Yesterday was not only the day a new government was announced. It was also the day that a new stocktake compiled by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand laid out the challenges posed to New Zealand by climate change and warned that our gross greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 24% since 1990.
While the report was notable for its detail and in places the urgency of its language, these are not new facts. Governments have seen this develop and, by and largely, done little to respond.
Yet in 2017, the public is very largely on board with climate change as a problem. Last week, the tenth annual Climate Change and Business Conference saw corporate leaders address the practical implications of global warming with a renewed frankness. Two months ago, a Victoria University study found that New Zealand media treatment of of the issue has improved and is largely in line with the scientific consensus as expressed in the IPCC report.
The problem, more than ever, is in our politics. So the "policy gains" that the leaders of the Green Party announced last night to their delegates are extremely significant. They are, according to the email that went out:
Significant climate action, with a shift towards a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050. The specific focuses will be on: transport, energy, primary industries. The establishment of an Independent Climate Commission. Support for a shift in farming to more sustainable land use.
The shortfall in government also came up in this week's Media Take programme. It's a good show, on which we were joined by Peter Griffin of the Science Media Centre, Newsroom's evenironmengt editor Eloise Gibson, AUT's David Hall, Mike Smith, Huhana Smith and – talking about the Pacific Island experience, Alistar Kata and Kendall Hutt. The Pacific segment was the last one we added to the show, but it turned out to be the most profound. Pacific peoples who culturally define themselves through their land, are already beginning to lose that land.
There was one other sector that frustrated out commentators: agriculture. The farming lobby – and its intransigent press, which remains stubbornly outside the mainstream – continues to resist reform or, in many cases, even acknowledge a roblem. That lobby will not be happy with the prospect of meaningful action and it will resist that action strongly. It would be nice to think that a National Opposition will have the sense not to spend three years on a Fart Tax campaign, but that might be too hopeful.
Nonetheless, yesterday was a very auspicious day for this new government to be named. We can do this. It might not be easy. But it does feel as if suddenly we've started. You might say that yesterday, the climate changed.
The Media Take climate change special can be viewed here on demand and the 15-minute extended korero is here. Both parts will be packaged up into an extended show that will screen on Māori Television at 11.30am on Sunday.