Does the end justify the means? For James Shaw it does.
The Climate Change minister is heading off to climate change talks in Glasgow in November, despite the fact that his attendance throws up a number of issues.
A, and this applies to all attendees, how can climate change activists justify flying around the world when air travel leaves such a sodding great carbon footprint? The grounding of flights during the height of the 2020 pandemic saw CO2 emissions from aircraft reduced by up to 60 per cent . The answer is they believe their work to save the planet justifies hurting it just a wee bit with their international flights.
And indeed, their domestic ones. Green Party MPs spent more on travel than any other party last year. However, they point to the fact that they offset their carbon emissions. Just FYI, 66 trees will need to be planted to compensate for Shaw and one other person flying business class return to Glasgow. Bargain.
This leads us to B. How can he justify an in-person attendance when he was the one advocating for Parliament to use Zoom for MPs to safely conduct business under Level 4 lockdowns? The answer there is that there are no virtual options for the climate change conference attendees. Which seems incredible but there you are.
There's also a Ministry of Foreign Affairs communique that shows concern from officials that a lack of ministerial representation at international talk fests could limit New Zealand's ability to influence policy and help our allies.
I'm sure it's true that for many people, Zoom meetings are no substitute for being on the ground. Members of New Zealand's business community are champing at the bit to reconnect with their customers and suppliers overseas – especially now the rest of the world is opening up. A number of them told me that now they are double jabbed, they'd be on a flight tomorrow – except they can't get an MIQ spot.
Which brings me to C. Getting a place in one of our quarantine facilities is like finding one of Willy Wonka's Golden Tickets. They're almost impossible to get. People who have been desperate to see dying parents, grandparents trying to get across the world to help out with new babies, families who've been separated for more than 18 months – they can't get a place for love nor money.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
But Shaw and his entourage can. And to what end? While Shaw no doubt believes his attendance in Glasgow will make a difference, history shows it's unlikely. COP 25 talks in Madrid ended in disappointment. Negotiators went into record overtime to avoid a complete breakdown but the government attendees once again failed to adopt rules for international carbon markets, and the bitter struggles over "ambition" and aid for developing countries weren't resolved either.
Shaw's office says – quote - the nations most impacted by the climate change crisis, including those in the Pacific, want countries to be at COP to agree to a major and urgent increase in action, as well as to accelerate funding to support mitigation and adaptation in the most vulnerable countries – end quote.
But if you asked 'the nations most impacted by climate change' whether they'd rather have Shaw attend climate change talks in Glasgow or whether they'd rather have a cheque, I wonder what the answer would be.
I have absolutely no doubt that Shaw believes his reasons for travel are vitally important. But then, as we've heard in the media, everyone has their own reason for wanting to travel – and more importantly, wanting that MIQ space – and they too believe their reasons are important.
What we're seeing is one rule for parliamentarians and one for everyone else. Team of five million, my arse.