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New Zealand Protest Calls For Action On Climate Change


By Tom Peters, Socialist Equality
Group

About 300 people gathered outside New
Zealand’s parliament in Wellington on January 26 to demand
government action to address catastrophic climate change.
The rally was led by groups of high school students but also
included university students, teachers and other workers.
Organisers foreshadowed further events once the school year
begins.

The event was organised by School Strike 4
Climate (SS4C), which held three nationwide school strikes
in 2019 as part of international protests. Tens of thousands
of people participated in New Zealand, with rallies in
September 2019 attracting 170,000 people nationwide.
Protests were suspended over the past year due to the
coronavirus pandemic.

Even as the refusal of
governments to suppress COVID-19 has led to nearly 2.2
million deaths, there are growing warnings that their
failure to address man-made global warming is preparing an
even greater disaster.

Rutgers University researchers
recently found the world is the hottest it has been in at
least 12,000 years. The polar ice caps are melting at a
record rate, in line with the worst scenario predictions of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Rising seas
are already endangering many islands and coastal
communities. A paper published this month in Frontiers in
Conservation Science, warns of a “ghastly future of mass
extinction, declining health and climate-disruption
upheavals” and “the steady erosion of the fabric of
human civilisation.”

This crisis requires nothing
less than transforming the global economy along socialist
lines, taking power out of the hands of corporations, which
profit from pollution and control policy-making in every
country.

Capitalist governments are completely
incapable of taking the necessary action. The recent policy
announced by US President Joe Biden, ostensibly aimed at
reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050, does not provide
the resources needed to achieve this target, and is crafted
to avoid imposing burdens on corporate
polluters.

Similarly, New Zealand’s Labour Party-led
government, which includes the Green Party as a coalition
partner, passed the Zero Carbon Act in 2019, which has a
target of zero emissions by 2050 but does not require any
concrete actions to achieve this. Late last year, the
government declared a “climate emergency” and promised
to make the public sector carbon-neutral by 2025. Even if
achieved, this would only eliminate 7 percent of the
country’s emissions.

Many young people at
Tuesday’s protest expressed frustration with government
inaction. One placard stated: “Labour: Do something for
once.”

A young student, Charlotte, told the crowd:
“I have felt fear and despair in my heart when I think
about my future, because all the science points to the fact
that things are going to get pretty bad. But movements like
this make me harness that fear and turn it into
determination.”

School student Nathan linked the
climate crisis to social inequality, saying: “Our current
system… favours prioritising money and individual
advantages over systemic change and improvements to
everything. We need to focus on fixing the whole world
instead of improving one person’s experience at the
expense of everyone.”

Environmental scientist David
Lowe warned protesters not to be fooled by “weasel
words” from the government, which he said continued to
support “unchecked growth” on a “finite
planet.”

Kate, a postgraduate marketing student from
Victoria University of Wellington, told the World Socialist
Web Site she had been protesting regularly for action on
climate change over the past two years since she “realised
it had the potential to end life on earth.” Governments
throughout the world were talking about the issue but had
done little. “There’s so much that needs to be done,
cutting down emissions to virtually nothing.”

While
Kate felt that the Labour Party was better than the previous
National Party government, she said the Zero Carbon Act
“doesn’t mean a lot if there’s no implementation
behind it, and there’s really nothing at the moment.”
Jensen also criticised the Emissions Trading Scheme,
describing it as a “money-making scheme” that allows
companies to “buy the ability to pollute.”

SS4C
presented a list of demands to the government, including the
urgent phasing out of fossil fuels, electrification of
public transport, subsidies for renewable energy, funding
for electric vehicle charging stations, government
investment in “green infrastructure projects,” clean
agriculture, and retraining workers for “green
jobs.”

The group also called on the government to
allow people made homeless by climate change to “migrate
to New Zealand with dignity,” and contribute more aid to
Pacific island nations facing rising seas, hurricanes and
other disasters.

SS4C organisers, however,
are largely young members of the Labour Party and the
Greens, and sought to promote illusions in Prime Minister
Jacinda Ardern’s government. The rally’s opening speaker
said: “The time to act is now. People are suffering. This
is not the clean or fair Aotearoa that we are portraying
ourselves to be. However, there is still hope, together we
can achieve what has been deemed in the past as
unachievable.”

Green Party co-leaders
Marama Davidson and James Shaw, the minister for climate
change, were invited to address the rally, along with Labour
Party MPs and Stuart Smith from the opposition National
Party—all of whom postured as defenders of the
environment.

Davidson cynically declared that the
Greens wanted an “overall system change” to “make our
world a better place.” She stated: “Climate justice is
about transforming a system that for generations has
concentrated power and wealth for short-term profit and
gain, and only into the hands of a few.”

In fact,
social inequality and poverty have continued to soar since
the Labour-Greens government first came to power in
2017.

SS4C leaders glorified the government’s
response to COVID-19, saying it should show the same
“can-do Kiwi attitude” in tackling climate change.
However, the government’s main response to the pandemic
was to give tens of billions of dollars to big business and
the banks. Meanwhile, working people are suffering from
increased unemployment and hunger, and severely unaffordable
housing driven by property speculation.

The Greens
support so-called environmental businesses, such as the
elite private Green School, which received nearly $12
million from the government’s COVID-19 handouts thanks to
lobbying by the party.

Shaw promoted the
government’s Climate Change Commission, saying its
recommendations due to be released next week “will shape
our response for years to come.” This is a pro-business
body led by Rod Carr, a former chairman of the Reserve Bank
and former leader of the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce. The
commission’s recommendations, like every other government
policy, will be completely subordinated to the demands of
big business that nothing must impinge on their ability to
make
profits.

© Scoop Media

 



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