The New Zealand Government is in "ongoing discussions" to come up with a new nationally determined contribution before the COP26 talks in Glasgow next month.
This means it has to decide pretty quickly what percentage reduction in carbon emissions it will promise that New Zealand will make by 2030, to do its share in reducing the global threat of climate change.
Climate Minster James Shaw told a Herald reporter that "even if our existing nationally determined dontribution was to remain the same [as pledged at the Paris agreement in
2015], we would not be able to shift the economy by enough over the next 10 years to be able to achieve it". He blames this on New Zealand's 30 years previous inaction on climate.
It's very important that the New Zealand public understands what this means; because we've had the wool pulled over our eyes for years, and are still being fooled now.
At Paris, New Zealand pledged to reduce its emissions by 30 per cent from its 2005 level, by 2030. It sounded okay, and we – or most of us - wanted to do our bit to stabilise the world's climate.
But probably very few of us realised, then or now, that that pledge was actually an undertaking to increase our emissions by 2030.
This is because of the sneaky way our government calculated the percentage reduction.
Some helpful statistician presumably came up with this trick, but it's impossible to believe that the government of the day didn't understand what it achieved.
Gross emissions was the figure used for the start date in 2005, whereas net emissions was the figure used for the end date in 2030. The net emissions is the gross emissions, minus the credits we get for planting forests, which suck carbon from the atmosphere; so gross emissions tend to be significantly bigger than net emissions.
Hey, presto. An increase of as much as 7 per cent was transformed into a decrease of 30 per cent. At first, nobody even noticed the sleight of hand.
The New Zealand public certainly didn't understand what its government had pledged on our behalf, and the dressed-up pledge probably presented quite well on the world stage also.
But shonky accounting can be found out.
Former Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright discovered the trick that had been played, and in her final report she pointed it out and called for our targets to be clearly, not misleadingly, presented.
What concerns me is that our current Labour/Green Government - and National - don't acknowledge the previous target was misleading, and are still using the same dodgy accounting methods, without the media calling them out on it.
No wonder Kiwis are "complacent on climate".
Other countries including the UK and many EU nations have significantly reduced their emissions during recent years, while New Zealand's emissions have, as pledged, significantly increased.
As in many human endeavours, aspiration is key.
I would love to see New Zealand politicians aspiring to plain honesty with the public about our nationally determined contribution, and also about what is, and is not now, possible to achieve in the way of countering global warming.
The whole world needs a respite from greenwash and doublespeak.
According to internationally eminent climate scientists, it is no longer possible to avoid global warming over 1.5 degrees.
If that's the case, it would be best to stop talking about staying under 1.5 degrees, and instead talk about the absolute necessity of staying below 2 degrees; and how New Zealand will work with other nations to achieve that.
• Jill Whitmore is a former businesswoman, a farmer, a grandmother, and a climate activist.