The Appeal

 

Symptoms too serious to ignore: a call to face up to NZ’s critical risks.

Appeal to Parliament for a NZ Risk Assessment.

 

As demand for growth exceeds earth’s physical limits, causing unprecedented risks, what knowledge and changes do we need to secure New Zealand’s future wellbeing?

We live on a biologically complex and exquisite planet, home to 7 billion people and a myriad of other unique life forms.  We believe it is our human responsibility to maintain the integrity of life support systems and the natural processes which sustain and renew them.

We believe it is also our responsibility to fervently defend the basic right of humans to live secure and fulfilling lives consistent with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.  It follows that our generation must satisfy our present material needs in ways that do not diminish the prospect of their realisation for present and future generations.

We are deeply concerned about the links between global climate change, fossil fuel extraction and combustion, and the economy.  We consider the evidence is now overwhelming (refer Urgency below) for accepting that human-induced climate change, (including extreme weather events) and impending oil constraints threaten our ability to meet those environmental and social obligations.  There are also numerous other unprecedented trends and threats of the present era which, individually or in combination, could destabilise New Zealand’s wellbeing.

So far, New Zealand has failed to truly face up to such unprecedented threats to its collective security.  Indeed, some policies exacerbate the situation.  There appears to be an unwavering faith that technological fixes will be found in time. Yet with scientists saying critical “thresholds” are upon us, the odds of such solutions being found diminish by the day and the consequences of this faith being ill-founded will, in all probability, be disastrous and irreversible.

Therefore, 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 by dispassionately assessing risk levels in the following five areas. Then, if found necessary, and with public input, design coherent, robust cross-party strategies and policies to avert these risks and give future generations the very best chance of security, peace, social justice and opportunity for all.

1.  Economic security:  the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis. Such a crisis could adversely impact upon our society’s ability to provide for the essentials, including local access to resources, reliable supply chains, and a resilient infrastructure.

2. Energy and climate security:  the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels.  Progressively restricting their extraction, importation and use could promote a switch to genuine renewables and encourage smarter use of existing energy and energy systems while creating better public transportation.  Such responses would simultaneously lower GHG emissions.

3.  Business continuity:  the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower carbon economy. To mitigate this risk, all businesses could explore both market and job opportunities in reducing the human ecological footprint, finding substitutes for petroleum-based goods and services, increasing efficiencies and reducing waste in food and resources. This would position New Zealand as a market leader in low-carbon technologies and living arrangements.

4.  Ecological security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes. We believe that such protection is essential for both the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity and ultimately, all human welfare.

 5.  Genuine well-being:  the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and GDP.  An alternative is to measure progress by means of indicators of community sustainability, human well-being, more equitable wealth-sharing and environmental resilience, and to incorporate full-cost pricing of harmful environmental impacts.

A risk assessment is the first step in determining the scale, timeframe and interactivity of the risks faced by New Zealand. It would build on international risk assessments such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report.  Such a report for New Zealand should then be used as the basis for engaging the public and businesses of New Zealand in informed discussion as to what choices need to be made to buffer New Zealand from such risks and to work towards genuine well-being.

Thirty years ago, widespread public concern about nuclear proliferation led to cross-party support for New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation.  This was a defining moment in New Zealand’s history, and was in response to just one single risk.  The Land and Water Forum is another example of where New Zealanders have come together to acknowledge, work through and address the risks of deteriorating water quality. Today New Zealand faces numerous additional risks, which are all the more risky for being largely unacknowledged.  We believe 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.

Urgency

  • Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated recently that: “If current trends continue, and we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at least 90% of the available “carbon budget” will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room to move at all”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/09/fossil-fuel-infrastructure-climate-change, IEA (2011) World Energy Outlook). A new report draws attention to the climate extremes already being experienced and the urgent need to prepare (IPCC. 2012. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., et al]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 582 pp. Gruber,N. 2011. Warming up, turning sour, losing breath: ocean biogeochemistry under global change. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A 369: 1980–1996).
  • International negotiations to combat human-induced climate change (Rio 1992, Kyoto 1997, Copenhagen 2009, Durban 2011) reveal that the course of climate diplomacy has increasingly lost touch with the scientific evidence (New Scientist 3843: p3. We can still avoid a ‘lost decade’ on climate change. Dec 2011).  Not only is the widely used  target, based on the 4th IPCC assessment  report (450 ppm atmospheric CO2 equivalent) now very difficult to achieve, but this limit may be far too high.  Scientists such as Jim Hansen argue that the maximum safe level for atmospheric CO2 concentration is 350 ppm (Hansen, J. 2012.  Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature. http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ ha08510t.html).
  • Fatih Birol from the IEA (2011) has also stated that maximum global conventional crude oil production (“peak oil”) occurred in 2006. This means that “all liquids” supply will likely steadily decline after an undulating plateau with a growing gap between demand and supply occurring from around 2015. The economic implications of this decline are likely to be serious. See Hirsch, R. L., Bezdek, R. & Wendling, R. 2005. Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, US Department of Energy, and Hirsh R.L, ASPO presentation Vienna. 2012).  Only by moving away from fossil fuels can we both ensure a more robust economic outlook and address the challenges of climate change. This process will be a “decades-long transformation that needs to start immediately” (see Murray, J. & King, D. 2012. Climate policy: oil’s tipping point has passed, Nature 481: 433–435.).
  • Financial inequity is increasing and the world financial system is unable to deliver security; social cohesion is at risk both nationally and globally (see Jackson, T. 2009. Prosperity without Growth. Earthscan. London, UK).  In 1998, more than 45% of the globe’s people had to live on incomes averaging US$2 a day or less while the richest one-fifth of the world’s population has 85% of the global GNP. The gap between rich and poor is widening (see Meadows, D., Randers, J., Meadows, D. 2004. Limits to Growth: the 30 Year Update, Chelsea Green, USA.). The perpetual growth myth is enthusiastically embraced by politicians and economists as an excuse to avoid tough decisions facing humanity (see The Asahi Glass Foundation. February 2012. Environment and Development Challenges: the Imperative to Act, and Lloyd, B. 2009. The Growth Delusion, Sustainablity1: 516-536).

~ Mo tatou, a mo ka uri a muri ake nei ~

“For us and our children after us.”

 

Sign the Appeal

As demand for growth exceeds earth’s physical limits, causing unprecedented risks, what knowledge and changes do we need to secure New Zealand’s future wellbeing?

Ours is a biologically complex and exquisite planet. Caring, informed people now accept that a healthy sustainable environment is integral to all life and that our future depends on having genuine sustainability as our core goal.

Today, most scientists believe critical “thresholds” are upon us, that the consequences are likely to be disastrous and irreversible if we do not make urgent fundamental changes. In this respect the links between climate change, current fossil fuel extraction and combustion, and a stable economy are deeply concerning. So far, New Zealand has failed to truly face up to such unprecedented threats to its security.

We, the undersigned, therefore call on the New Zealand parliament to face up to the situation and forthwith, dispassionately assess the risks in the following five priority areas*and from those recommendations, design cross-party policies to avert any confirmed threats to give future generations the very best chance of security, peace, social justice and opportunity.

1. Economic security: the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis.

2. Energy and climate security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels.

3. Business continuity: the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower
carbon economy.

4. Ecological security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both land-based and
marine ecosystems and their natural processes.

5. Genuine well-being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based economy, preoccupied
with maximising consumption and GDP.

* for further explanation on these five, refer to “The Appeal” on this website

Please note the Appeal has been formally presented to parliament 9th April, 2014.  We will continue to collect signatures and support from organisations with a view to submitting them to the Select Committee..

I support a National Risk Assessment of the five subjects identified in the Appeal for a wise political response to our deteriorating world.

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Wise Response has launched on AVAAZ !

We’ve just released a new push for signatories to build on the 3,500+ including you who have already signed via the website, in advance of our submission to parliament on the 9th April.

Please can you re-sign this Avaaz petition via the link below, and then share. We will de-duplicate signatures to ensure we do not misrepresent our supporter numbers.

Avaaz

 

 

 

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Help to collect signatures – download the Appeal as a PDF here: Risk Appeal Petition

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Recent comments from signatories:

At last. This movement towards an apolitical, non party political, risk assessment which allows for the big picture and future direction for NZ’s development to be described in terms of what is actually known and can be demonstrated is to be applauded. We are at a stage where current policy decisions and political systems of confrontation are not serving us well. This is an idea whose time has come.
At present by not allowing for a well researched wise response to be part of normal process we are putting ourselves and the future of this, the most recently settled country of diverse peoples at risk.
This initiative could be the very wise response expected of a young and privileged people who have come to understand the importance of this as a pivotal time in relation to long term sustainability for an integration of systems.
Knowing more will not do damage and may shine the light on what is needed to discover a productive co-operative way forward in this a period of dimness.
Given the seriously wise and diverse list of people and organisations who support this initiative, I would expect no less than a co-operative pragmatic reception. Margaret Arnold QSM

As a small and potentially agile country which already views it’s wider environment as a key element in both its social and economic future, the proposed evaluation, executed by recognised experts independent of political and economic interests can only serve to strengthen the future of this nation and therefore New Zealand’s role in influencing our future on this planet.
As such, I implore the Government to act on the request of this appeal, Dr. James T. Reardon

It is time that narrow economic views stopped running New Zealand. I fully support this initiative which would bring depth and a broader vision to future governanc, Daniella Blake

We have the responsibility to take considered action based on evidence.
We have the opportunity to lead in best practice.
We have the possibility of finding workable solutions that will enhance our communities, our nation and our environment, Joe Hunter

I believe NZ is unique globally in our potential to address these issues (at the national level), and reap the long term benefits from becoming recognised as a global leader around these issues, Brent Bielby

This is the most rational and comprehensive approach I have come across, to these issues. I’m very happy to support this call for a parliamentary national risk assessment to take place, Douglas Holborow

An excellent and logical initiative, Ralph Lyon

There is no ‘Planet B’, Dr Kenneth R Deans

Our world and all within it is desperately in need of the leadership that can rise above the inveiglement and exigency of short term party political and financial expediancy, David Goodley

Our future depends on making smart decisions now. We need to take environmental issues seriously. We only have one earth and we in NZ must act responsibly to protect it, Jennifer Stone.

A very timely movement in the light of NZ’s future crimes against humanity and Life on Earth, through exacerbating climate change and extreme weather events by pursuing expansion of fossil fuel extraction on land (Denniston) and at sea (Taranaki and Canterbury), Paul Elwell-Sutton.

As a country we have the means to form a collective response to these issues. We can use our collective intelligence to move from the direction we are in. Now is the time act to become part of the global village that hold these principles, Malibu Hamilton.

Everything is connected; we are a part of the natural world and it is incumbent on us all to work with nature rather than using it with no thought for the consequences, West Coast Blue Penguin Trust.

Long term cross party planning is required in order to future proof our environment. The short term planning of an incumbent government constrained by a desire to ensure re-election is insufficient to ensure long term sustainability, Merilyn Manley-Harris.