OPINION: This November, all eyes will be on Paris as countries come together to thrash out a deal to tackle climate change and accelerate the shift towards a clean energy future. The world will be watching to see if New Zealand will step up to be part of the solution or remain part of the problem in the fight to prevent runaway climate change.

And so far the signs aren't good. New Zealand is part of what has recently been called in the Pacific 'the coalition of the selfish'. Instead of pushing for a strong global agreement that will help safeguard the future of these island nations, we have tabled a weak proposal that could threaten their survival by failing to make the necessary reductions in emissions.

It is not only our neighbours in the Pacific who have criticised our government's stance. The Climate Action Tracker, an international independent analysis of emissions pledges, has condemned New Zealand's climate target as "inadequate" and shown that if the rest of the world took the same approach the result would be catastrophic climate change.
New Zealand may be small but we do matter. Every country in the world has its role to play in brokering a global agreement on how to cut emissions and avoid dangerous climate change. That's the task for leaders gathering in Paris this November and at the moment New Zealand looks set to try to undermine progress.

With the first international agreement on climate change - the Kyoto protocol - running out in 2020, setting up a more effective replacement is a top global priority.

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As the talks on how to slow the warming of our world gather pace, the New Zealand government risks being left behind. Around the world, more and more countries, businesses, communities and people are taking action on climate.

Costa Rica, for example, is striving to be the first carbon neutral country in the world and has recently run entirely on clean energy for three months. Hawaii is also making strides to be powered by 100% renewable energy, with many homes already running off solar and the government investing in technology to generate electricity from waves.

It's happening here, too. Across the country people, organisations and businesses are calling for New Zealand to be part of the solution, and taking action that moves us towards a clean energy future.

Just a few examples are Otaki School and Kilbirnie Mosque going solar, Genesis Energy closing down our last coal-fired power station, and Auckland City council fighting for funding for a central rail loop.

Things are changing but the New Zealand government is lagging behind its people and the world.

Actions that could be taken right now by our government include investing in public transport and greening our transport system , supporting bio-fuels, renewable energy, sustainable forestry and agriculture, and putting a price on carbon to drive down emissions.

And there are wider benefits to taking climate action. Numerous international and domestic reports have shown the huge economic opportunities from moving to a low carbon economy and New Zealand with its natural resources and green reputation is well placed to take advantage of it.

New Zealanders from all walks of life recognise the opportunities that exist. They are demanding that we be part of the solution, and are joining with people all over the world to let our governments know that we need climate action.

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This will visibly come together in worldwide marches for the climate on 28-29 November just before the Paris conference starts. The first march in Auckland will see Kiwis take to the streets to show that we stand with our Pacific neighbours in calling for real climate action to secure a better future.

Find out more about climate marches and events near you at www.peoplesclimatemarch.org.nz
Alex Smith is a senior campaigner at WWF-New Zealand.
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