Coming Together to Address Climate Change

When it comes to protecting the environment, we could arguably say the majority of us have at least one shared goal (keeping the earth habitable for future generations). Yet the inability of global policies to translate into any real progress in the face of increasingly desperate cries from the scientific community is striking.

Though by no means the only environmental issue of significance, climate change is the most pressing example of this failure. Through the mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) we had the first legally binding emission reduction targets for developed countries (the Kyoto Protocol) in 1997. The Paris Agreement of 2015, a commitment to keep global warming to ‘well below’ 2’C, was ratified by far more countries and included the biggest emiters in China and the USA, but essentially allowed each country to set their own emissions targets.

Yet greenhouse gas concentrations, far from being reduced, have reached record highs. The average temperature rose from 0.25C above the pre-industrial era in the early 1990s to an increase of 1.1C in 2018. In the next 12-18 months, the temperature increase is likely to hit 1.5C, declared recently as the ‘tipping point’ by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that will instigate the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The IPCC recently highlighted that over half the countries signed up to the Paris agreement are falling well behind their targets.

So how do we, a wee town in a wee country in the pacific, have any meaningful impact on these imposing global threats? The bottom line is that combating climate change needs hard targets, road maps and action from every sector of industry and every level of government, now. Local bodies will bear much of the impact of climate change (storm damage, rising sea levels, economic pressures) and will need to produce grassroots solutions to both prevention (cutting emissions) and adaptation (mitigating risk).

With the objective of helping Nelsonians learn the environmental positions of the seven Mayoral candidates for the NCC elections, the Nelson Environment Centre hosted an event last Monday evening for the community to put their questions to candidates Avner Nemais, Bill Dahlburg, John Wakelin, Mel Courtney, Mike Ward, Rachel Reese, and Tim Skinner. If you missed it, listen to the podcast on Fresh FM’s website

If we want real action on climate change, we need to act locally and vote in the local elections based on the candidates’ positions on the environment. But more than that, we need to be prepared to put up our hand and say “I want change”, and put some real effort into making it happen.

Holly Cole