What do we want?

In Newsletter Editorial5 MinutesBy Gavin MyersDecember 8, 2023

Here’s what might be seen by some as a somewhat controversial statement. More and more lately, I’ve struggled to take the whole climate change thing seriously. No, I’m not a so-called ‘climate denier’; I fully agree we need to find better, cleaner ways of living and achieving all that’s encompassed in that. But the more I’ve heard, read and seen over the past year or so, the more I wonder if we – as 21st century global citizens – know exactly what it is we want.

Between discussions at the IRTENZ 18th conference last month, reports coming out of the COP28 conference this week, and ongoing questionable (and that’s being kind) tactics by climate ‘activists’, my interest in the topic is slowly being eroded.

Let’s start with the climate activists and get the crazies out the way. On Wednesday, Giltrap’s Lamborghini and Porsche dealerships on Great North Road Auckland were vandalised by the Restore Passenger Rail group who berated luxury cars as “a symbol of greed and climate change” and blamed the new government for encouraging such. In October, protesters from the same group targeted a dealership in Wellington.

Am I the only person who struggles to take these people seriously? Not only in this instance, but anyone who feels damaging priceless artwork, glueing themselves to a road or any similar ‘protest’ is an acceptable and effective way to motivate change. No, spraying red paint all over a dealership or destroying property is not activism; it’s vandalism, deliberate damage and destruction.

It’s not the dealership’s fault the National Party wants to scrap Auckland light rail. If that displeases you, why not sum up the courage to protest outside National’s regional office, only 6km away on Great South Road, Greenlane? Maybe they got their Great roads mixed up… Easy mistake to make when you’re filled with such rage, I suppose.

If you want to push for real change, garner support and make a difference, being non-sensible is not the way to appeal to others’ sensibilities. Quite the opposite, in fact.

What about COP28, then? That top-tier gathering on climate action this year was held in the most ironic of regions… Representatives from the UAE themselves have, unsurprisingly, erred on the side of fossil fuel, virtually promoting it this year. An agreement is meant to be reached by the parties today, and the reports I’ve seen this week mention weak, vague talk and allude to oil industry lobbyists aiming to protect their interests. Well, one would be naïve to think they wouldn’t.

No doubt, whatever agreement is reached, it won’t be enough for the activists who will inevitably vent their frustration by painting another dealership or trying to destroy another Van Gough.

On our own shores, National has been in the headlines for its plans to restart offshore oil and gas exploration. This, I take it, is an economic decision but one that may help New Zealand with its energy security. Since the refinery at Marsden Point was shut down in 2021, the country has relied solely on fuel imports creating a lot of vulnerability.

And, while New Zealand is better placed than many countries to take advantage of its renewable resources, we will need fossil fuel for a while yet, whether anyone likes it or not. I’m confident in saying that because amongst all the talk at IRTENZ 2023 of future vehicles and improved efficiencies was an overarching sentiment that we – as a country and a market – are just not ready and do not have the support for any alternative at the scale needed. Nor does it seem we will anytime soon. Reports from our overseas colleagues impart the same sentiment. The overarching sense I get is that the target dates, edging ever closer, will come up, and be kicked on down the road.

The debate rages on, I guess… What is it we actually want?

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers