ACT leader David Seymour says today’s declaration of a climate emergency was a sign that “feelings rather than facts” is driving the Government’s response to climate change.
“Today’s climate emergency was a triumph for post-rational politics,” he said.
“If the Government has a sound climate change policy, it doesn't need to declare an emergency. If it has to declare an emergency, maybe its policy isn’t working.”
He said declaring an “emergency” stretches the meaning of the word “to the point that it’s almost meaningless”.
“Debasing our language like this makes it harder for us to communicate and reason with each other and solve the most pressing issues of our time.”
It comes as Parliament voted to declare a climate emergency. Labour, Greens and the Māori Party voted in favour, while National and ACT opposed.
National MP Nicola Willis said the declaration was the Government’s way to “distract” from its record of inaction.
“This declaration will have no measurable impact on global climate change,” she said in the House.
“The motion before us employs all the implied drama of the word ‘emergency’, but it does so with zero practical effect.”
"When our kids look back on this moment in history, they won’t judge who was on the right side or the wrong side by what words were spoken. They will judge us by our actions," Willis said in response to the Prime Minister’s urging that Parliament should "be on the right side of history” by declaring a climate emergency.
"It is unfortunately just another collection of words of the sincere policy and concerted action New Zealand must take to drive down our emissions," she said.
But not all MPs were critical of today’s move.
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Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said “for tangata whenua, this motion is well overdue”.
She said tangata whenua had known for a long time that the environment was in trouble, and asked people to unite for future generations.
Green Party co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw promised “substance” behind the declaration, saying the Government would be “reluctant to declare a climate emergency that would just be empty words”.
The Government said it is taking “immediate action” - promising the public sector will reduce emissions and offset any to ensure it is carbon neutral by 2025.
“The public sector needs to be and will be an exemplar that sets the standard," Ardern said.
It would include entities such as Fire and Emergency NZ, Education NZ and in principle includes Kainga Ora, school Boards of Trustees, District Health Boards and tertiary providers.
Departments and Ministries are also included.