Our Letter to Prime Minister, the Hon John Key

Dear Prime Minister,

Climate change is the challenge of our time; its scale and reach making it unlike anything humanity has faced in the past or is likely to face in future.

Climate Minister Tim Groser - better for the climate to just stay home from Paris.

Climate Minister Tim Groser – better for the climate to just stay home from Paris. (Flickr)

As such, Governments will gather in Paris in December in an attempt to reach a global deal limiting warming to 2 degrees and setting countries up for zero-carbon economies by 2050.   

Paris can be a watershed moment; the choices made there could determine whether our planet is a viable one on which we can all live. Already, we have Tuvalu’s Prime Minister seeking to move his entire population to another country.

Any agreement to come out of Paris must be legally binding; it must commit, by law, all countries to cut their emissions, and it must prevent governments backsliding in the face of political or economic change.

The New Zealand delegation to Paris, led by Minister Groser, is pushing for countries’ emission reduction targets to be non-binding, meaning governments could walk away from them at any time. This approach would fail to deliver the emission cuts needed to safely manage climate change, the results of which would be catastrophic. The European Union and others have already rejected non-binding targets for this reason.

In light of this, and with respect, we request that you withdraw New Zealand’s delegation from the talks, and decline to attend yourself.

To table a proposal for voluntary targets is not to fiddle while Rome burns, it’s to throw petrol on the blaze. It admits defeat at Paris from the outset.

Leaders will need to show courage in December. They’ll need to overlook the interests of the few in order to secure the futures of the many. Your Government has shown neither the courage or fortitude required. You are not up to the task. And if you cannot lead, you must get out the way.

As well as pushing for a non-binding deal at Paris, your government has taken no substantive action to tackle climate change in New Zealand.  You continue to subsidise big polluters, and you have failed to introduce a single piece of legislation to reduce pollution. As a result, your officials predict New Zealand’s emissions will keep climbing, at a time when they should be falling, and fast.

By 2025, the average New Zealander is expected to have a bigger carbon footprint than a US citizen.

Your failure to acknowledge the threat of climate change (and to seize the opportunities in taking action to mitigate it) means New Zealand has one of the poorest climate action plans and weakest emission reduction records of all the developed nations who’ll be in Paris.

Independent, international analysis found New Zealand’s pledge to reduce emissions by 11% by 2030 on 1990 levels to be “inadequate” and described key elements of the policy as little more than “creative accounting” (4). Remove the clever accounting and the pledge translates into an 11% increase in New Zealand’s emissions by 2030.

A senior official in the UN’s climate division recently said: “I fondly remember the days when we could look to and point to New Zealand for inspiration” on climate. We have fallen from grace over the most challenging issue of all, and our country is now being held back by a “can’t do”  attitude that is a betrayal of the true values and spirit of New Zealanders.

Every head of state, delegate, civic leader, civil servant, NGO representative, man and woman at the December summit should have only one objective in mind – to reach a meaningful, global deal that will keep our children and grandchildren safe.

Given you, your officials and Minister Groser seem willing to overlook the science and cut the most fundamental of corners, we request that you all stay home in December and do not attend Paris. A strong climate deal could rest on it.


Greenpeace Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid

Niamh O’Flynn,  350.org

Cindy Baxter, Coal Action Network Aotearoa