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National won’t ‘stand to side’ on climate action

Judith Collins spoke at the annual BlueGreens conference in Masterton on Saturday. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR
2021 a ‘pivotal’ year for climate policies

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Opposition leader Judith Collins spoke at National’s BlueGreens conference in Masterton on Saturday, saying her biggest hang-up was providing “sensible environmental policy” rather than “grandstanding”.

Fifteen National MPs visited Masterton on Saturday for the annual BlueGreens conference. From left to right: Andrew Bayley, Ian McKelwie, Erica Stanford, Christopher Luxton, Scott Simpson, Todd Muller, Louise Upston, Simon Watts, Stuart Smith, Jaqui Dean, David Bennett, Judith Collins, Tim van de Molen, Nicola Willis, and Nick Smith. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The conference was organised in part by Masterton councillor David Holmes.

The idea behind the event was to bring together minds, as “environmental issues are too important to be left to the fringe of politics and should be a mainstream issue for all New Zealanders”.

Collins thought 2021 would be a “pivotal” year of debate for climate change policy in parliament.

“Real change won’t happen without evidence-based science and practical solutions,” she said.

Collins was not convinced by government’s current and proposed policies.

“We will not be an impediment to effective action, nor will we quietly stand to the side while the government spends money on policies that won’t make a meaningful dent in our global emissions but will make the government feel better.”

Collins said the opposition would not simply stand to the side of action.

Current policy, to Collins, would lead to “closing New Zealand for business at the cost of thousands of jobs”.

“In achieving our climate goals as a country, we must also maintain a focus on delivering value for money for New Zealanders,” she said.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty says Judith Collins needs to “wake up”. PHOTO/FILE

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said Judith Collins needed to “wake up”.

“This type of politics – total negativity without offering any solutions is what led National to only 25 per cent at the last election.

“We saw this with the issue of farm conversion to forestry – a key issue here locally. They did a lot of complaining, but offered nothing to fix it,” he said.

Collins repeated the story of her upbringing on a small farm in Waikato, relaying how important the environment was to those who live in it.

“Like many New Zealanders who grew up on farms, I was very aware of the environment,” she said.

“Farmers are often ignorantly dismissed as people who ruin the environment. They have to live in the environment and so do their families.”

Collins said the National Party supported New Zealand playing its part to combat climate change, and had voted with the government to establish a Climate Commission.

“Before that, the last National government implemented the emissions trading scheme [ETS]. We oversaw, on a large part due to the ETS, renewable energy rise under a National government from 65 per cent to 85 per cent,” she said.

Collins said the rise in renewable energy use “wasn’t a bad record” and was “better than current government”.

Climate Change was “one of the most complex policy issues we have ever faced as a country”, she said.

“New Zealand is responsible for less than 0.2 per cent of global emissions, meaning almost all of the climate change we see will be beyond our ability to control.”

McAnulty said the government was setting New Zealand’s economy and society up to address climate change.

“Ignoring reality and playing the politics of fear is totally irresponsible when we face the huge challenges of climate change,” he said.

“The previous National government signed us up to the Paris Accord but then did nothing to meet our commitments.

“Now that this government is doing something about it, all National do is complain. But my bet is people see right through it,” McAnulty said.

Collins also said the National government had invested in science and research that had allowed the dairy sector to have the lowest carbon footprint in the world today.

Problems for Collins laid with Climate Change Commission’s draft recommendations to government is the number of cattle stock the country would have to reduce by.

“If we don’t produce our dairy products, countries like Peru, who have one of the largest carbon footprints in the world, will,” she said.

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