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Climate change is council business

Opinion Piece

Re: Not enough action, January 18 letter.

I agree with Bob Hughes. It's disappointing that five more people in last week's online survey thought the council was doing enough, or too much, about climate change, than those who thought the council was not doing enough.

But only 238 people voted. That's about 0.5 percent of the district's population. Indeed, Tairawhiti Youth Environment collected more than five times as many signatures urging our council to declare a Climate Emergency.

What I found interesting about your online survey were some of the comments. One respondent said “Really, is it a council job fixing climate change?”

I think so! The council has been voted in by us, the residents. We voted for them, at least partly, in response to answers candidates gave to the questions raised by your editor and at various meetings, where climate change was an important issue. Bob says a Climate Emergency declaration was a pre-election issue supported by most of the successful candidates. More importantly, a number of those candidates said that climate change should be taken into account in every issue that comes before council.

This is where I believe the real work to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will happen — around council tables and in the board rooms of businesses, including some farming businesses.

In the United States, despite Trump working to undo the good work of previous administrations with regard to emission controls, state governments and local councils are banding together to continue to curb US emissions. We can do the same. All New Zealanders need to work at turning around the legacy of rising emissions that our country is saddled with.

I refute another respondent's comment, “If everyone in Australia and New Zealand cut their emissions to zero it would make absolutely no difference to the climate.”

Whilst our contribution and Australia's contribution to the global total is small, so is that of many other countries. Australia's emissions in 2017 were roughly the same as Britain and slightly more than France and Italy. New Zealand's emissions rank at about 10 percent of those of Saudi Arabia and more than 10 percent of Australia's total, so individually or preferably together we can make a difference!

What would really make a big difference would be if our experiments in reducing cow and sheep emissions can be made to work out in the paddock, and be used worldwide.

Nelson's Cawthorn Institute has been working with a type of seaweed that has been proven to reduce stock methane emissions by as much as 80 percent when included as a small part of feed supplements. The Government is funding more research in hopes of commercialising the process. This would revolutionise dairying and make a huge dent in global emissions.

Australia could also make a huge contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by shifting away from exporting coal and natural gas. Australia is now the world's largest exporter of both natural gas and coal. If it opens up the Galilee valley to coal exports — as approved — and they are burned, there will be no way that global temperatures can stay below a 2 degrees increase. Stopping the Adani Company developing the Galilee basin coal reserves would be a wonderful way to start a new direction for our neighbours in 2020.

There is still hope Bob, but as you say in your column, science can only help us if we, the people, get behind it and keep encouraging our Government to push for more and faster change.

Bill Hambidge