While the NZ Government’s decision to declare a climate emergency in New Zealand is to be applauded- currently there appear few mechanisms to achieve a carbon-neutral government by 2025. Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s touted response to have all government vehicles electric, is a case in point of the contradictions in environmental policy. There is an urgent need for all citizens to recognise the impact of product and service consumption.
While electric cars will reduce carbon emissions through vehicle exhaust pipes, the production of the required number of electric vehicles will result in further destruction of our environments- lithium mining for batteries , steel production, plastics production. to name just a few. A sleight of hand process that reduces emissions in one area and replaces it with more consumption in another- is simply deceitful and will not improve our environmental impact. Any climate “emergency planning (an ’emergency’ implies a short -term problem- this is not a short-term issue) must also address the collateral bio-diversity loss that is occurring in New Zealand and everywhere in the world.
As a recent Israeli study amply demonstrates; production of inert ‘stuff’ by humans now literally out-weighs the living things on this planet https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/09/human-made-materials-now-outweigh-earths-entire-biomass-study
We are replacing living entities with dead inert matter at a rapidly increasing rate- a recipe not just for an emergency, but a planetary disaster.
While moving to a steady state economy is the only plausible response to the disaster rapidly unfolding on our little plant; current levers of power and influence globally and in New Zealand clearly will not allow that to happen in the short -term.
Consequently , rather than moving gently and steadily to a slow-down and cessation of human ‘growth’ , we are rushing headlong and ever faster towards the precipice of environmental catastrophe, before we fall over…and reach ‘steady-state’ in a way that will cause huge immediate human and other species’ suffering and death.
To hopefully avoid that precipitous fall, I would suggest a measure that will in a relatively short time , allow all members of New Zealand society to appreciate we cannot continue this headlong dash to oblivion.
A requirement that all animate and non-animate goods and services in New Zealand carry a warning label which indicates how much the product has impacted on both climate change ( positive or negative) but also ( and more crucially) biodiversity. The labeling could be something similar to cigarette warning labels and provide an opportunity for purchasers to be aware of the environmental impact of their purchase, to compare goods’ environmental impact and to encourage producers to reduce their environmental footprint..
Over time this labeling would also provide an opportunity for government to additionally tax those products and services that were high in environmental impact, once public support had reached an acceptable level.
From there, the public debate on how to implement a sustainable steady state economy could proceed.
As you will be well aware, as you see the data continue to pile in at an ever increasing rate on global warming and bio-diversity loss , we now have little time and opportunity to change our trajectory.
The response to my email from New Zealand’s Ministry of the Environment courteously noted my suggestions, but declined to support it,noting that there were some unnamed private New Zealand companies interested in such an idea.
Subsequently my daughter has suggested that there would be web companies out there who could develop an app which could provide information online for ‘consumers’ on the relative carbon footprint and impact on biodiversity of products being sold.