The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reiterates the concern that time is running out fast.
This, the third report from the IPCC in two years, came only weeks after the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle.
And yet, despite all the warnings from experts on what should be done, our politicians are bickering about the best course of action.
Nick Henry, the climate justice lead at Oxfam, tells The Front Page podcast this debate shouldn’t be reduced to a choice between mitigation or adaptation.
“Mitigation is how we stop the climate crisis getting even worse than it already is by reducing our carbon emissions and not putting pollution into the atmosphere that causes climate change,” Henry says.
“Adaptation is recognising that the climate crisis is already on us and is going to get worse if we don’t do all that mitigation that we need to do.”
Henry argues that we need to do both of these things at the same time to ensure that the adaptation we do to can withstand the changes coming in the future.
While politicians continue to question the value of mitigation, Henry says developing nations will end up paying the price if climate change isn’t halted.
“Developing countries on the front lines of the climate crisis in the Pacific and around the world have done the least to contribute to this problem,” he says.
A consistent argument voiced against mitigation is that New Zealand is simply too small to make a tangible difference to global emissions, but Henry counters that by pointing to the example of other Pacific nations.
“Look at the actions we’ve seen from our smaller neighbours. Six Pacific nations met in Vanuatu in recent weeks. The ministers of those countries far smaller than New Zealand came out with a strong statement calling for a just transition to a fossil-free Pacific. It calls for the Pacific Island forum to take action ... It really calls for a collective action to end our dependence on fossil fuels.”
While Aotearoa certainly has the wealth to build its way out of climate change, Henry says he would like to see our Government take a leadership role in this part of the world.
“I think New Zealand has the opportunity to show moral leadership and do better than what we have,” he says.
“New Zealand is currently dropping the ball on climate change action, and that’s backed up by the Climate Action Tracker report ... that called our climate action highly insufficient.”
While much of the focus is on what countries can do, Henry says that pressure should also be placed on the wealthiest people in society to change the way they invest and do business.
“If we look at the carbon budget that we all have between now and 2050 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, it would work out to around 2.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person per year. Around 50 per cent of the world’s population is already emitting less than half, so they’re doing their part. But the top 1 per cent of the world’s population burns through that kind of budget in the first 12 days of each year.”
So what should we be focusing on if we want to take mitigation seriously? Is there any hope of finding a political consensus? And what can small nations do to drive change?
Listen to the full episode of The Front Page podcast to hear an in-depth discussion about our ongoing battle against climate change.