Green New Deal News

Covering Climate Now: In search of solutions

OPINION: In the news business, we exist to cover big, dramatic events and their impacts on our readers.

But sometimes, the lack of news is the story.

Official data out this week showed New Zealand's emissions of greenhouse gases have barely budged in several years, and that's a big problem. In any other area, a year-on-year shift of barely one per cent would scarcely rate a mention. In the climate change arena, it could prove life-threatening, unless we can bend that curve down.

* Can we defend NZ's staggering natural carbon reserves?
* Modest drop in greenhouse gases shows scale of challenge
* Climate Commission warns high-emissions coronavirus spend-up will spark new crisis

It's too soon to know how Covid-19 and our response to it will change emissions. What we do know is that a dip in fossil fuel consumption created by people losing their jobs, and, sometimes, their loved ones, isn't the way New Zealanders want to transition to a world of cleaner energy.

We need electricity, food and transport systems that we all can live and thrive with for longer than the duration of a lock-down. When our bubbles burst, these long-term challenges will be waiting for us.

Today, we've joined Covering Climate Now – an ambitious, week-long global initiative emphasising the urgency of the climate story.

Covering Climate Now's roster features hundreds of news outlets, including the Guardian, the Toronto Star, Bloomberg, CBS News, Al Jazeera, and several New Zealand newsrooms.

You'll see some of the best international stories on Stuff this week, alongside our original reporting.

Last year, media banded together to highlight the climate crisis. This time, we'll be focussing on solutions: not just technological fixes like alternative fuels, but efforts to put a price on carbon or shift public spending towards climate-friendlier outcomes.

For this Covering Climate Now week, Stuff has investigated whether New Zealand is doing enough to protect the staggering stores of carbon in its old-growth native forests, particularly those on private land.

We'll talk to farmers embracing regenerative agriculture, and ask whether free public transport is part of the climate solution. Readers have asked why carbon dioxide readings in the air aren't going down during lockdown – we'll be explaining that, and exploring what it means for tackling the climate crisis.

Our ongoing Climate: Explained column will provide answers to common questions.

Our weekly newsletter will round up the best climate stories for subscribers at the end of the week. You can sign up here.

There remains plenty of cause for hope.

No longer are business leaders talking as if climate action is antithetical to prosperity – many are talking as if the very society their business relies on is under threat, unless we act quickly. They are right.

Last week, we reported on new research showing small increases in sea levels – the 10-20cm our past emissions have already locked-in – will have a big impact on flood risk.

Even farming countries, like New Zealand, will suffer changes to the way they eat and the availability of favourite foods as extreme rain knocks out crops, and fire risk and extreme dry become regular occurrences.

As well as cutting emissions, it's high time we planned for those changes.

This year, and the few that follow, may determine whether New Zealand bends that curve and does its bit to stave off heating. Our Climate Change Commission will be bedding in and making its first recommendations. We will see the shape of the Covid-19 recovery and what it means for our climate action. Already, the commission is warning we could compound the Covid crisis with a climate crisis, if the Government makes poor decisions.

We'll be watching all of this and analysing it for you.

We're not alone. Countries around the world are struggling to find a path to zero carbon by 2050 and only a few – the United Kingdom and Germany among them – have turned their trajectories around. It's yet to be seen whether New Zealand will follow.

By this time next year, we hope we can bring you good news on that front. Now, that would be a dramatic story.