New Zealand should be leading the world when it comes to fighting climate change. Yesterday our government’s lack of action was brought sharply into focus by four people with some solar panels and a banner.
The Greenpeace message was simple. The government's failure to act on climate change has seen pollution increase and New Zealand miss out on creating thousands of clean energy jobs.
The fact it was delivered from the rooftop ledge of the old parliament buildings guaranteed it was noticed. Some government members, likely wanting to avoid talking about the issue of climate change, were quick to complain that the activists had breached security.
Inadvertently, they went straight to the nub of the issue; security. While they didn’t like four uninvited people climbing on their building there was no risk to them or anyone else. On the other hand the activists represented the millions of people around the world who fear for the security of their families. That security is being put at risk by governments failing to take meaningful action on climate change.
Greenpeace says our government has failed to introduce a single piece of law to reduce climate pollution. It points out that the government’s own figures show that the increase in total emissions by 2020 for NZ will be almost 30% worse than it was in 1990.
By anyone’s standards that’s a poor result. As a country which prides itself on its clean, green international reputation it’s appalling. In fact, New Zealand rated 43rd place out of 58 countries in the 2014 Climate Change Performance Index. We’re getting left behind.
Just yesterday a Dutch court ordered the government to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels. It was a landmark ruling in a case brought by hundreds of concerned citizens that could pave the way for similar legal battles in countries around the world.
As well as cutting emissions, some countries have announced their goal of 100% renewable energy. New Zealand, which was once at the front of the pack, only has a target to generate 90% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
With 50% of our jobs being linked to our clean green image, our addiction to fossil fuels threatens to put Kiwi jobs and communities at risk, rapidly eroding our export earnings and economy and seriously damaging our environment.
Recently a petition was started telling our government that 90% isn’t good enough and to boost it to 100%. You can sign it here.
To help promote the petition we photoshopped an image of the Beehive covered in solar panels. Just like the Greenpeace activists yesterday, we’re making the point that we want our government to take a leadership role in the fight against climate change and to start investing in clean energy.
While we support Greenpeace’s message (and we also spend a lot of time on roofs with solar panels) we’re not actually going to be rappelling off the Beehive. We’re being disruptive in other ways. We know from talking to many Kiwis that they love the idea of going solar, because they see it being good for the wallet and good for the environment, but have been put off by the upfront costs. We’ve removed that barrier with our new solarZero plan so that homeowners, schools and businesses can buy solar power generated from their rooftops but without the cost of buying or maintaining the panels.
While we were the first solar company to do that in NZ, it’s been happening in the US for a while where more than 70% of all residential solar installations in California, Arizona and Colorado use a plan similar to solarZero.
Consumers over there, and here, love it because the plan provides financial security and going solar is a step towards environmental security. That’s a win, win and the sort of innovative approach our government needs to take. There’s nothing secure about investing in fossil fuels which are polluting the air we breathe and making our weather more extreme. Solar energy is safe, reliable and will never run out.
Andrew Booth is the founder and CEO of solarcity. He is a former board member of Greenpeace International.