The Green Party will today make what have been some of its biggest frustrations with the Labour Government election priorities, including making sure all decisions are consistent with keeping global warming below 1.5C.
It comes after co-leader James Shaw on Saturday accused Labour of blocking real progress on climate change due to “other priorities” - part of the Greens’ election strategy to target voters of its traditional ally disaffected with the current battle for the centre with National.
Shaw also said in his speech during the first day of the party’s AGM this weekend in Auckland he believed a National-led government would be “beholden” to Act and would together drag back climate progress 30 years.
A section of the party’s manifesto, to be revealed by co-leader Marama Davidson today, will call for a standalone Ministry of Climate Change while also ensuring all government decisions are consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5C.
The party would also ensure the Climate Change Commission could directly set the unit supply in the Emissions Trading Scheme, in line with Emissions Budgets.
Currently, the government could decide the number of units and recently this had seen the market collapse after Cabinet opted to ensure there was a lower price due to the rising cost of living and to keep fuel prices lower.
On Saturday, Shaw was also reaffirmed as co-leader, alongside Marama Davidson.
It came after a shock result last year when Shaw failed to get the 75 per cent support of members needed to be re-elected. The campaign was instigated by members of the Young Greens and Green Left Network who wanted to challenge his leadership on certain policy areas given it was a non-election year.
Shaw was ultimately reinstated after a somewhat messy and public process.
If there was any lingering dissent with Shaw none of it was on display during his speech, in which members intermittently burst into loud cheers and applause in what could be seen as a display of unity for the media pack present.
Members spoken to said they were focused on the election campaign ahead and were happy with the work Shaw had put in around the country speaking to various delegations about their concerns.
The recent situation with former Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere also appeared to be put to rest.
Kerekere resigned after appearing to call fellow MP Chloe Swarbrick a “crybaby” in a group chat, and other allegations about her behaviour (all of which Kerekere herself has denied).
“It hasn’t come up,” Shaw said, when asked about Kerekere’s actions.
“If you look at the mood in there, it’s pretty buoyant. People are very focused on the election campaign.”
Shaw also made what could be seen as a pitch for the farming vote - revealing that Cabinet this week had signed off on work to better recognise sequestration efforts in emissions accounting, such as native restoration from wetlands, peatlands and native forests.
The issue had been a stumbling block in negotiations with farmers to introduce pricing for agricultural emissions.
In what was a sombre speech at times, Shaw highlighted the scale of the climate crisis, referencing how Tuesday was the planet’s hottest day on record. The second hottest was Monday.
“The climate crisis is no longer something that’s happening to someone else, somewhere else, at some point in the future,” Shaw said.
“It’s happening to us. It’s happening here. It’s happening now.”
Shaw said the Green Party was the only party to “treat climate change as the crisis it truly is”.
He said he had made “no secret” of wanting to have done more, but blamed Labour, a “majority government”, for having “other priorities”.
It was a critical time in the climate space, he said, with the next government needing to update the climate plan next year. He warned that work could be undermined by a National-Act coalition.
“The decisions the next government makes will determine emissions reductions for the rest of this decade.
“Everything we have achieved, from putting climate targets into law, to ending the use of coal to heat our schools and hospitals, to finally putting nature at the heart of our climate response will be dismantled.
“And we’ll be back where we were, 30 years ago.”
Speaking to the Herald ahead of the manifesto launch, Shaw said giving the climate portfolio - currently within the Ministry for the Environment - its own ministry meant it could be better integrated across the rest of the government.
He said the idea to ensure decisions were consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5C was in response to a recent court decision that found the Zero Carbon Act didn’t require it.
He also acknowledged issues with the emissions pricing, saying it would be better for “the experts to just make that decision directly”.
Another pledge would be to better focus on gross emissions in reporting, rather than net emissions, which the Climate Change Commission recently warned was a more accurate accounting method due to fluctuations in offsets such as forestry.
Shaw said despite Labour turning its back on some climate change policies earlier in the year, which was “disappointing”, he didn’t believe there was any “change in direction” overall.
“The Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions that he wants to bring a very pragmatic approach to getting the best possible outcome for the resource available.
“If you look at the New Zealand Steel deal... that is a really good example of how to get kind of maximum bang for your buck.
“But Labour don’t apply the same level of urgency the way that the Greens do.
“It is really important for the Greens to be a significant part of the next government, and to have more green ministers around the Cabinet table.”