Cows, rivers, tractors, pipelines – all prominent in this election campaign. But how about the climate, which links them all? In this post, Zella Downing looks at the parties’ climate change policies.

Climate Policy
Party Priority Statement
Green Party #4, #33, & #34 out of 43 policies Climate change is not just the biggest challenge of our time, it’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our economy and society for the better.

We have a responsibility to act.

Labour Party #10 out of 30 policies Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world. If we do not urgently reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, warming will disrupt the climates our agriculture and other industries depend upon, sea-level rise will affect our coastal cities, and ocean acidification will affect the marine food chain.
TOP #6 out of 15 policies The science is clear; climate change is real and as a result we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by 2050. This is a great challenge for the world, but as a nation we should embrace the opportunity to reduce emissions. After nine years of doing nothing we are slipping behind other countries.
Māori Party



unlisted out of 13 policies but is included in the environment policy The Māori Party is committed to the protection of the environment – to leaving this earth better than how we found it. We also want to ensure that hapū and iwi, as kaitiaki and tangata whenua, have a significant role to play in decisions that affect the environment.
NZ First



unlisted out of 23 policies but is included in the environmental policy All environmental policies will be proactive with a view to creating employment and sustainable wealth whilst improving one of our few competitive advantages. Serious environmental problems and risks need to be addressed



unlisted out of 27 policies – cited under Bluegreen Progress on the Bluegreen website National is committed to seeing New Zealand transition to a low emissions economy.

That’s why we’re taking a balanced approach that ensures we continue to grow in a way that is good for our planet.

ACT unlisted out of 14 policies We believe that free markets, far from being incompatible with good environmental custodianship, are essential to it. It is wealthy countries, where people take ownership, people pay the true costs of valuable resources and pollutants alike, and communities have opportunities to get out and make a difference that make the difference, that have the best records on the environment.
United Future


unlisted out of 16 policies no comment


Elections are a defining feature of a democracy. They remind us of our ability to participate…to have a voice…to shape the world. Yet too often elections are degraded into post-puberty popularity contests. The last American election is a case in point, and the unfair way Metiria Turei was driven to resign is another.

Issues have become tools to polarize, intimidate or bribe the public, and the most pressing issue to consider when casting your vote in this election is Climate Change. None of the political parties of Aotearoa are harbouring acknowledged climate deniers as the Republicans did in 2016; the closest we get is the Conservative Party who “believe that there has always been, and always will be Climate Change, the real debate should be ‘Are we polluting our environment?’ and most of us would agree that we are.”

Without outright denying Climate Change exists, some New Zealand political parties demonstrate a rudimentary understanding of the urgency needed to stave off further warming of the planet.

The National Party policy on Climate Change isn’t even listed on the policy page of their website, demonstrating its utter lack of importance in their planning. They have policies to be predator free by 2050, implement tougher rules for freedom campers, increase fees to foreign visitors who want to experience New Zealand’s Great Walks and increase the amount of funding available to the Department of Conservation Community Fund, but nothing on Climate.

If you delve deeper into National policy and go the the Bluegreens webpage, you can click on Bluegreens Progress and find a statement on climate change. But the Bluegreens are a subset of the National Party—invented obviously to appease the consciences of all the true blue voters who recognize the amazing gift we have in living in God’s Own. The statement itself focuses on rewarding themselves for signing the Paris Agreement so quickly and explaining how difficult it will be for New Zealand to do anything because of our ‘unique circumstances’. They state that they are committed to seeing New Zealand transition to a low emissions economy, and that commitment requires balance. I wonder if that’s the kind of coaching advice Steve Hansen gives the All Blacks: Commit, but be balanced.

As well as expressing an increased interest in public transportation, electric cars, and increasing the amount of electricity that comes from renewable energy a further 10%, National’s plan claims it will reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, phase out the ETS one-for-two subsidy by 1 January 2019, review and strengthen the Emissions Trading Scheme to ensure it is fit for purpose and is encouraging reductions and tree planting and invest $20 million a year into research on agricultural emissions reduction.

New Zealand First does not have a specific climate change policy either, but it does identify climate change as an issue under its environment policy. Their first step would be to exit the Emissions Trading Scheme and replace it with a UK/Norwegian style Climate Change Act. They would also establish a new Parliamentary Commission for Climate Change (PCCC) as an Office of Parliament and make it legally responsible for reporting against both the Kyoto and Paris Agreements, setting three-yearly ‘Carbon Budgets’ designed to reach these commitments. Provisions would be made for the PCCC to provide independent advice to central and local government on meeting the Carbon Budget and preparing for climate change. There’s no mention of prevention.

Interestingly enough, they would also provide financial support for the development of water harvesting schemes; take account of the views of key stakeholders when making environmental policy; support the extractive industries while ensuring core conservation values are maintained; and support an evidence-based approach to environmental issues.

The Māori Party want to ensure that hapū and iwi, as kaitiaki and tangata whenua, have a significant role to play in decisions that affect the environment. Both their economic and environmental policies are classed as Kāwanatangagovernment, dominion, rule, authority. Their climate change policy is listed as solutions and is nested within their environmental policy.

They will prioritise solutions that address the effects of Climate Change working across the political spectrum , enact emissions targets into law and support the setting of carbon budget that would act as stepping stones towards the targets, support the establishment of an independent Climate Commission to advise on setting carbon budgets and to report on meeting those budgets, forestry and electric cars.

They have a determined approach to advance the use of renewable energy, stating that they would close all coal fired power plants by 2025. They also want to ensure Mana Whenua are consulted on all oil and mineral exploration permits.

Newcomer, The Opportunites Party (TOP) considers Climate Change a priority and uses bold language to plot a way forward. Their policy, Climate Change Action, states that New Zealand must wean itself off fossil fuels, which they see as an exciting challenge, an opportunity to improve overall prosperity.

Junk credits held by the government would be dumped, and the ETS would stay closed to international trade. Revenue from a higher carbon price would help households and businesses become more energy efficient. New investment of significance would help create a low carbon future.

“TOP aims to take the most efficient and effective path to a low carbon economy. There is no time for delay, nor for a sentimental focus on any particular technology.” Their policy statements have been explained in a series of one minute videos. Climate Policy in a Minute is worth a watch.

Labour’s policy has a key weakness: it doesn’t rule out new coal mines or oil and gas drilling.  But they admirably seek to lead the nation with the understanding that Climate Change is the greatest challenge facing the world.

Their comprehensive Climate Change Manifesto addresses the need to take a cross-party approach; ensure a just transition to a low-carbon economy; establish carbon budgets, emission reduction targets and an independent Carbon Commission; restore the ETS so that it does what it was intended to do – put a price on carbon that drives behaviour towards low or zero-carbon options; complement the ETS with further measures; acknowledge the importance of including agriculture in the ETS and promote forestry; promote research and development; honour international obligations; and adapt to the changes that are already occurring.

Climate Change has been a significant component of Green Party policy for years. The Greens consider their Climate Protection Plan to be an economic policy. All of their environmental policies are intended to tackle climate change while also protecting the environment, but by listing their climate change policy as an economic policy its importance is elevated.

Financial security, prosperity, jobs and investment drive much of human behaviour and is a key motivator for shaping their political views. Since all the economic structures we currently have in place will become unstable and irretrievably altered should full blown Climate Change occur, defining Climate Protection as an economic policy is both pragmatic and astute.

“We’re the first generation that will feel the effects of climate change, and the last that can stop it. We have a responsibility to act.” That is a statement of political conviction.

Briefly, The Green Party will pass a Zero Carbon Act; establish an independent Climate Commission and a Kiwi Climate Fund; promote forestry, renewable electricity and electric rail; kick-start private investment with a Green Infrastructure Fund; divest public investment funds; and commit to no new coal mines, fracking or deep-sea oil and gas drilling.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw has released a Member’s Bill to require all Government legislation to have a Climate Impact Disclosure Statement to outline the likely impact of the legislation on the climate.  This bill would ensure every new piece of legislation acknowledges the reality and costs of climate change, so parliament will be thinking about our climate all of the time.

And Climate Action—Yes, we can is a plan identifying how New Zealand can reduce emissions by a respectable 40 percent.

The policy statements of The Greens and The Opportunities Party communicate the enormous opportunity that lies before us, an opportunity to take action and direct the future and our circumstances rather than fall victim to the unrestrained whims of nature. Labour clearly identifies the importance of acknowledging and addressing Climate Change, but their language is more restrained, more cautious. As the contender in this fight for the right to govern The Land of the Long White Cloud, perhaps they feel they have more to lose.

United Future don’t even have a policy for the environment, let alone Climate – although new leader Damian Light does appear more tuned in. ACT has a policy on Conservation and the Environment, but there is no mention of Climate. Neither does the Mana Party mention Climate, but they would ban fracking and deep-sea oil drilling—no mention of coal. The Democrats for Social Credit would replace the Emissions Trading Scheme with measures to reduce pollution and introduce financial assistance to help industry meet the new emissions standards”, but they don’t mention Climate Change.

If Climate Change is not put into check, we all lose. Let’s use our vote wisely. Have conversations with the people you share your life with. See if you can get them to do the same.