More than 200 people attended the event to hear from panellists on climate announcements. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
It was a meeting of two worlds as farmers and climate change activists packed into the Carterton Events Centre on Monday night to hear from panellists about the report from the Interim Climate Change Commission and the Zero Carbon Bill.
Organised by Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott, the panel included Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty and National Party spokesman on Climate Change, Federated Farmer’s Andrew Hoggard, and Lisa McLaren from Generation Zero.
More than 200 people attended the event.
They were welcomed by members of the Wairarapa Extinction Rebellion group who had positioned themselves at the entrance of the building along with picket signs.
Having been raised in Wairarapa, McLaren said she was also concerned about good farmland being lost and acknowledged that people in urban areas also had work to do.
She called for more resources and capabilities to be put behind those looking to tackle climate issues.
“Every degree [of warming] counts. Every tonne of emissions counts.”
She emphasised the global impacts of climate change, pointing to the war in Syria as one the first climate-related conflicts.
“This problem is bigger than us,” she said. “We are going to be so much better off than a lot of the developing world. We need to be mindful of all the privileges that we have.”
Muller agreed there was clear evidence that the world was warming.
He also recognised the global nature of climate change but was more focused about calibrating New Zealand’s emissions with economic competitors overseas.
“We are the most emissions-efficient producers in the world.
“The importance is having that technology available before rolling it out on to the economy. If you don’t have the technology, you hurt a lot of people.”
The panellists took a range of questions from the audience, addressing various concerns about climate action.
One member of the audience, wearing an Extinction Rebellion t-shirt, asked for the panellists’ thoughts on incentivising action by selling “carbon-free” products for premium prices, like other markets, such as organics.
Hoggard agreed it was a great idea but said he didn’t feel there was access to premium consumers markets, like those in the European Union and United States.
“We are not getting those premiums at the moment.”
He was sceptical about what more the country could do to promote itself, as the most efficient producers.
Muller shared similar views and said a lot more evidence would be needed to support claims for premium products.
Questions also related to the role of the Emissions Trading Scheme versus a carbon tax system.
McLaren said the Zero Carbon bill put the framework in place.
“[It] puts a target in place so that the government has to reach that target, but they can do so however they want to.”
Muller was also asked whether he would keep the Minister of Forestry position and continue to develop Te Uru Rakau if National came to power.
He said it was a question he’d heard repeated a lot in other areas concerned about afforestation.
While he acknowledged concerns about the loss of productive farmland to forestry, he said the Minister, Shane Jones, had done a great job to highlight the importance of forestry to the New Zealand economy.
He’d rather work on improving the system than tearing it down, he said.
Extinction Rebellion Wairarapa founder Jeremy Logan’s question – whether climate change was the greatest threat facing humanity and if not, what was – drew the strongest responses from the panellists.
McLaren said it was, and that we should be concerned that the rest of the world takes it seriously too.
Muller said there was a “rush in this debate” and was cautious about the language used around climate change.
He and Hoggard argued for people to focus on the actions taken rather than rhetoric.
The Ministry of Primary Industries and Ministry of Environment are hoping to hear from Wairarapa people on Monday about proposals to reduce agricultural emissions.
They will be meeting with submitters at the Carterton Events Centre from 10am to noon.
Business Wairarapa are also hosting an event to better understand the Zero Carbon Bill on August 15, at Farriers in Masterton from 5.30pm – Andrew Hoggard will again appear alongside Susan Kilsby, agricultural economist at ANZ Bank.