On 5 June 2014, Paul Young, a co-founder of Generation Zero and a participant in Motu's Low-Emission Future Dialogue, hosted a live chat on the website of the New Zealand Herald on the theme of "What's next for climate change action?" This was part of an ongoing series organised by Element and the Centre for NZ Progress on what New Zealand might look like in 2025.
Paul launched the chat with an article highlighting the global warming challenge, New Zealand's current situation and - most importantly - some practical solutions that could help New Zealand to phase out fossil fuels by 2050. The chat elicited some thoughtful questions from readers, ranging in interest from the recent carbon tax proposal from the Green Party to which energy solutions are feasible in the New Zealand context, what we can learn from other countries and how we can overcome political polarisation.
Paul's responses built on the careful research that went into Generation Zero's first policy report, A Challenge to Our Leaders: Why New Zealand Needs a Clean Energy Plan. This report is well worth reading. Its powerful conclusion states:
Here we have laid out why we believe New Zealand can and should strive to build a 100% clean energy economy by 2050 or earlier. Doing so would serve the additional purpose of safe-guarding our economy from risks associated with increasing and unpredictable fossil fuel prices, and bring us many other co-benefi ts and economic opportunities. However, the present reality is that as a country we are continuing to move in the wrong direction. There is nothing inevitable about this; it can be changed with leadership and political will.Leadership is not just the responsibility of our politicians. The transition to a low carbon society is a process that the whole country needs to engage in, and people all over New Zealand can ensure that climate change and the required energy transition are at the forefront of the conversation about our country’s future. We urge community leaders, church leaders, Kaumātua, businesspeople, teachers, and leaders of all types to use their clout to lead this conversation, and to promote change within their own spheres of influence.
In addition to maintaining a constructive focus on solutions, Generation Zero is managing to communicate complex information in ways that sidestep political lines and engage people of all ages.
The voice of the rising generations is a powerful one, and has the potential to fuel some inspiring conversations about New Zealand's response to climate change.