Climate action has been a topic of conversation for years but the devastating floods at the start of 2023 have been a catalyst for change, pushing the climate agenda to the top of the list.
We’re hearing a lot of words like emissions reductions and adaptation – but how do we put people at the heart of the conversation?
The Government is due to release its Equitable Transition Strategy in June, providing the perfect opportunity to create strategies and policies that put people at the centre. It’s also the right time for all our political parties to unite with the shared goal of ensuring a just transition to a zero-carbon and climate-resilient economy – where all New Zealanders can thrive.
We know that, as we transition towards a carbon-zero and climate-resilient future, not everyone will be impacted equally. Some regions, communities, and sectors will bear a greater burden than others. All at a time when the economic cost of living crisis is continuing to compound and adversely impact our most vulnerable people.
We’re in the midst of economic uncertainty and hardship for many New Zealanders, with record inflation and cost of living increases. Our communities are focused on surviving day-to-day, not on what they can do to support national ambitions for transitioning to net zero. We must support them to have a voice in a way that is enduring and extends well beyond election cycles.
These are certainly not easy challenges with simple solutions – but we can’t afford to hide from hard things. We must have the honest and frank conversations that are required, as it will be up to the government, with support from the private sector, to step into those challenges and help those in our communities who will most need it.
To do so means we need to collaborate in a meaningful way to create a bold and fair transition that considers the businesses and communities that will be negatively affected by this change and address those inequities – because no one can do it alone.
How do we do that? By working together and involving all parts of society. This means political parties, businesses and communities coming together to develop an Equitable Transitions Strategy that ensures all voices are heard, especially those who are often left out.
We must involve and empower communities in decision-making processes, allowing them to input into any policies, plans and actions.
Protecting and supporting our communities also means ensuring everyone has access to affordable and clean energy, housing, and transportation – not just those at the top end of the tax bracket.
We also need to invest in green industries to create new jobs and train people to work in them. We must develop a workforce transition plan, now, so we can adequately support people to find new jobs in green industries.
Lastly, we need to collaborate with other countries and global organisations as we transition – we can’t act in isolation, we need to harness the experiences and opportunities already being identified globally to help accelerate our own transition.
It’s a no-brainer. Implementation needs to be inclusive of all New Zealanders; our political parties, our businesses and our communities must work together to develop an Equitable Transitions Strategy that ensures a fair, equitable, and inclusive transition towards a sustainable, climate-resilient, and zero-carbon New Zealand.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility to ensure that the benefits of a more sustainable, climate-resilient and zero-carbon New Zealand are shared by all, regardless of their background or circumstances, so that no one gets left behind.
- Gareth Marriott is the current Chair of the Sustainable Business Council and a steering group member of the Climate Leaders Coalition. He is the managing director of OCS ANZ, one of the country’s largest facilities management companies.