Looking ahead this Earth Day

It’s Earth Day today and here at Labour, we’re deeply committed to protecting our environment – not just today, but every day.

It’s why we’ve boosted funding for conservation, launched programmes to protect our native plants and animals while providing jobs, taken action on plastic pollution and invested in recycling and food-waste schemes. It’s why we established a Climate Commission and why we’re engaging with parties across the political establishment to ensure Aotearoa’s next generations can enjoy an unpolluted environment and the vibrant natural world we call home.

On this Earth Day, let’s look ahead to the challenges in front of us, but let’s not forget the mahi we’ve already done. These achievements include:

Taking climate change seriously

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world right now, and we can’t afford to wait until it’s too late to do our bit. Last year, we declared a climate emergency. In doing so, we committed to taking urgent action to reduce emissions to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming. 

We passed the landmark Zero Carbon Act, with a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and we’ve committed to decarbonising the public sector by 2025. By 2030, we plan to have moved to 100% renewable electricity. We’ve reformed the emissions trading scheme so that it helps us better transition to a clean, climate-friendly economy, and we’ve worked with farmers on a world-leading agreement to reduce agricultural emissions too.

We’re also starting to upgrade schools and hospitals so that they run on clean energy, and are supporting businesses to make the switch.

Together, these changes will make a big difference to New Zealand’s carbon footprint, but we know this is just the start, and we’ll continue to make action on climate a priority.

Cracking down on waste

Around 61 percent of the waste found on our beaches each year is plastic: this can cause serious harm to our marine life. We’ve banned single-use plastic bags, and have committed to phasing out more single-use plastics in the years ahead. We’ve also addressed food waste (which, globally, accounts for around 8% of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions) by redirecting food to those in need.

Going forward, we’ll continue to take action to tackle our plastic waste problem, including by investing in sustainable alternatives to plastic, funding waste infrastructure, and improving recycling services in New Zealand.

Cleaning up our environment while creating jobs

One of the environmental projects we’re most excited about is the Jobs for Nature fund, which is based wholeheartedly on the kaupapa of manaaki whenua, manaaki tāngata - care for the land, care for the people. The package is set to create almost 11,000 jobs in our regions, and will help put environmental protection at the heart of our COVID-19 economic recovery.

The projects funded by Jobs for Nature are already restoring wetlands, regenerating native bush, controlling pests and weeds, as well as getting people into jobs.

Pushing out pests and protecting natives

To reach our goal of making New Zealand predator free by 2050, we’re taking a hard line on destructive species like possums and rats to reduce pressure on our precious native wildlife. We’ve also taken targeted action to protect New Zealand’s endangered Māui and Hector’s dolphins.

An eye on the business world

We’re introducing changes that will require financial businesses like insurers, banks and investment managers to report on how climate change will impact them, and how they will manage the risks and opportunities going forward. This will help businesses identify opportunities to switch to lower carbon technologies now, to reduce the impact of climate change in the future.

We also established the Green Investment Fund, which will support businesses to reduce their emissions while making a profit. Together, these changes will support New Zealand’s transition to a more sustainable economy.

The future – not just of our children but of the children of our Pacific neighbours and of the world – depends on our commitment to take action on climate change and protect our precious environment. The policies we’ve put in place are moving us in the right direction, but we’re not stopping here.

This Earth Day, we’ve got our eyes fixed firmly ahead – on the next steps we can take to protect Papatūānuku, for all of us.

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