An hour ago, I received on the steps of Parliament this petition. I undertook to bring it immediately to the attention of the House. The Clerk has tabled the petition today. It is fair to say that this is perhaps the most important petition ever to be delivered to Parliament. It is called “The Appeal to Parliament for a New Zealand Risk Assessment”. It calls for the 50th Parliament to commit to an all-party risk assessment of how and where New Zealand might be exposed to key global threats. No single undertaking could be more important. The petition comes just 2 days after the fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the assessed impacts of climate change for the world in the 21st century.
As the petition puts it, we live on a biologically complex and exquisite planet, home to 7 billion people and a myriad of other unique life forms. We believe, say the petitioners, that it is our human responsibility to maintain the integrity of life support systems and the natural processes that sustain and renew them. It follows, they contend, that our generation must satisfy our present material needs in ways that do not diminish the prospect of their realisation for future generations. The petitioners express a concern. So far, they say, New Zealand has failed to truly face up to such unprecedented threats to its collective security. Yet with scientists saying that certain critical thresholds are upon us, the consequences of not taking the proper action will, in all probability, be disastrous and irreversible. “Therefore,” they say, “in the name of all our children and grandchildren we, the undersigned, call on the New Zealand Parliament to face up to this situation now… We believe that Parliament should build on its proud tradition of foresighted collective response to risks, and initiate a risk assessment as the first step in achieving a more secure future.”
This petition is signed by some 6,000 New Zealanders, with a leadership group of 100 signatories. They include a former Prime Minister and past MPs; the mayor of a major city; leading Māori; a number of former All Blacks and Black Caps; a university pro-vice-chancellor and other prominent academics; a former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment; a poet laureate; some of the country’s leading artists, authors and broadcasters; and several leading scientists who serve on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change itself. I choose to cite one name, Sir Lloyd Geering, professor of religious studies at Victoria University. I cite him because, at age 96, Professor Geering is a member of the Order of New Zealand, the highest honour this country can bestow. This is no ordinary petition. It is no disparagement of any others brought to this House to recognise that this petition is of unprecedented magnitude and import. It essentially appeals to Parliament to consider the future of the planet and our nation, and it does so in light of the enormity of what lies before us.
This House is the arena for party rivalry and the contestation of ideas. We devote our time to critiquing each other and competing for electoral support. It is pluralistic democracy and that is fine, but there are issues that transcend domestic political competition—above all, the fate of the planet. There is no other phrase that can do it justice. It requires that we lower our swords and come together to reason our way through. There is something primordial occurring here and we need to be up to the task. We need to be up to the task, for future generations, not only our own, depend on the decisions we make in this House now and in the critical next few years. I advance this admonition to myself as much as to colleagues opposite. I have on occasion been critical—trenchantly so—of Government policy, but I have also held conferences in the neighbouring Chamber designed to enable us to come together in a different setting and spirit and reason our way to a cross-party consensus. May this appeal assist us in that endeavour. May it be favourably received.
Mo tātou, a mo ka uri, a muri ake nei
Green Party: Kennedy Graham’s speech on Climate Change