As we begin 2018, I have a request to my counterpart, Minister James Shaw, to ensure the significant climate change discussions that await both Parliament and communities all across New Zealand this year are anchored in sound evidence and supported by considered reflection, not adversarial rhetoric.

As opposition spokesman, I accept climate change is one of the most significant challenges confronting the globe over the next 50 years and will likely be a high profile domestic issue over the course of the next 12 months - particularly as the Government embarks on consultation regarding both our current emissions targets and the establishment of an independent climate commission.

But it is crucial that these discussions are characterised by respect for differing views and proven evidence.

The Government does not enter this debate with a blank sheet, but rather a detailed series of commitments and actions already committed to by the previous Government.


Incoming governments have a tendency to try and frame up their agenda and priorities in the context of previous Government neglect.

Climate change is not one of these areas.

The National Government had a raft of actions under way in the climate change space, not the least its commitment to the Paris Accord and an early commitment to a 2030 target as a major step to our demanding 2050 target of 50 per cent fewer emissions than our 1990 levels.

Even more important though, in my view, is how the wider climate change debate is framed up during this year.

An informed discussion on further ambition to current targets may well have some merit, but it must be characterised by acknowledgement of the progress already made, and a dispassionate evidence-based assessment on how change will impact day-to-day lives of our people.

I am concerned at how binary the language had become towards the end of last year around climate change. The incoming Government is quite within its rights to promote climate change as an area of its focus but it does itself a disservice by framing its ambition as a stark contrast to the previous National Government's record.

We will not progress a useful nationwide discussion if politicians quickly move to partisan defence of either their record or their ambition and cloaking their respective arguments with the perceived failures of each other's visions.

Let's avoid the tired "we're right, you're wrong" rhetoric, let's avoid knowing the answers before we have posed the questions to our communities, and above all let's listen with real intent. I welcome climate change being front and centre in 2018, but it must be informed by the best available science and practice, and continue to have the feel of proportionality.


If in 12 months the traditional look back on the year demonstrates there has been a conversation with New Zealanders that is open, respectful of divergent perspectives and outlines a pathway that people feel broadly comfortable with, then 2018 will have been a successful year.

The National Party is up for it, I hope the Government is too.