Thousands of Kiwi school students plan to strike over climate change action next Friday.
Through the Herald, three of them put their questions to Climate Change Minister James Shaw.
All of the students have taken part in programmes run by the Sir Peter Blake Trust, which officially supports the strike.
Lucy Coulston, 17, of Gisborne Girls' High School, writes:
My biggest concern about climate change is how extreme weather events and serious fluctuations in temperature are going to affect people in so many more ways than they think. The world increasing over 2C [above pre-industrial temperature] doesn't just mean it's going to be hotter in summer, this change will throw chance events into regular mix, decrease crop yield, increase sea levels by 50 cm and decrease the availability of fresh water by 17 per cent. This isn't a "me" problem or a "you" problem, it's an "us" problem. With the 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of 45 per cent (relative to 2010) in mind, what direct action can the citizens of New Zealand take to reach this? What I seriously want to know for myself and others, what can "normal people" do to offset climate change?
James Shaw responds:
I guess the main thing that individual New Zealanders can do is pay attention to their transport.
So try to use petrol and diesel powered vehicles less and, where you can, take other options like walking or cycling or public transport.
Obviously, Lucy is not going to be in the market for a car any time soon, but if the family car is being changed over at some point, she could ask her parents if they are considering buying a hybrid or electric vehicle, if they've got the ability to do so.
The second thing is just ensuring that their homes are as energy efficient as possible.
And anything they can do to reduce their waste that goes to landfill. So those would be my main things: transport, energy efficiency and waste.
Maha Fier, 16, of Paraparaumu College, writes:
My biggest concern about climate change: the fashion industry. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world and it's something which is so relevant to everyone of all ages with fast fashion being so ingrained into how we buy clothing. From a society perspective, I believe everyone should begin buying second hand or buy from ethical fashion businesses, diverting away from synthetic fibres too. For the Government, I believe they should remove or discourage fast fashion businesses within New Zealand. My question for James Shaw is: Will the Government ever address fast fashion within New Zealand and the harms it does to our planet and come up with a solution to make the fashion industry more sustainable?
James Shaw replies:
When I was a consultant in the UK, I actually did some work over there with a coalition of companies that were looking at the impact of fast fashion on the environment.
So I'm vaguely familiar with the area and I know there are organisations here in New Zealand that are starting to try to look at it.
What Maha is asking here is what the Government can do to address fast fashion.
This is one of those things where the industry would be best placed to kick this off and start to think about how it can reduce its own emissions, and what the environmental impact of fast fashion is.
There's a group of companies called the Climate Leaders Coalition, which now include 80 of our largest businesses; collectively, they add up to more than half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, or over a quarter of our GDP.
So it's a really significant group of companies.
I would encourage Maha to take a look at the list of companies that are members of the coalition and get in touch with any that are in the fashion business.
Josephine Ripley, 17, of Nelson College for Girls, writes:
My biggest concern about climate change is not only the fact that we are damaging beyond repair fragile ecosystems leading to acute loss of biodiversity, but the resulting human suffering is so inequitable. Our neighbours in the Pacific are unfairly dealing first hand with the effects of climate change. The thought of culture loss on this scale is devastating. If I could ask James Shaw a question it would be: What plans are in place to transition New Zealand Aotearoa from an agricultural dependent economy to an economy that will meet growing global demand for sustainable plant-based nutrition?
James Shaw replies:
I would actually say those things, in some ways, are the same. When you are talking about what it's going to take to meet growing global demand for sustainable plant-based nutrition, that doesn't run in any way contrary to the idea that we would be an agriculturally dependent economy.
So, obviously, New Zealand is unusual among developed countries in that we are primarily an agricultural country. But agriculture has changed enormously over the last 100 years and it will change more in the future.
And as [business commentator] Rod Oram says, farms will probably be more valuable in the future than they are today – and they will also look differently than they do today.
If you think back 30 years, when we were at "peak sheep" – or when we had three times as many sheep or half as many cows – the transition since has been driven by economic incentives.
The thing we are trying to do now is to get the economic incentives right to help transition the economy over the next 30 years.
So I think that Josephine is absolutely right – obviously we've got a growing population around the world and demand will increase.
We also know that arable land around the world is decreasing at a rate of around one per cent each year, so we have to work out ways of more sustainably feeding people – and I think that New Zealand is well placed to do that.
The kind of thing the New Zealand Government is doing right now includes leading the Global Research Alliance with a group of countries that are looking at that question.
We also have an extensive research programme through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.
So there is a series of initiatives we are doing around more sustainable farming, and I think over time, we'll see that, as that demand increases, New Zealand farms will be able to meet it.
Finally, the Herald asks, do you support the students climate strike?
James Shaw replies:
It's not up to me to say that students should or shouldn't participate.
I believe it is their choice to make and students should weigh up the risks of being declared a truant, and any consequences that comes with that, against fighting for the future world that they will have to inhabit.
So that's up to them. I will say that I completely understand why they would, because the point they are making is that, over the course of the last 30 years, and ever since humans became aware of climate change, adults have had a duty care over their kids' futures.
And they have failed comprehensively and let them down.
So it's completely understandable why they would choose to leave the classroom and take to the streets to protest.