A few years ago in a speech in Auckland, I compared climate change to the nuclear free movement of roughly four decades ago.
And I did so for a few reasons.
Firstly, because the movement of the 1980s represented a life or death situation for the Pacific, and so does this.
Secondly, because it moved an entire generation to act.
And finally, because in both situations, politicians and people sat at the centre of decision making and power.
I meant it then, and I mean it now.
Climate change is my generation’s – and perhaps even more so, the next generation’s – nuclear free moment.
And today is a huge milestone in a movement, and in a transition we must make.
I view the Commission’s report as one of the most significant documents I’ll receive in my time as Prime Minster (even if it is taking me a while to get through it the second time).
That’s because the decisions we make off the back of it will truly shape the future.
According the UN, our planet has warmed 1.28 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
If global emissions remain high, temperatures will increase by a further 1 degree by 2040 and 3 degrees by 2090.
The impacts of this, along with the associated sea level rise, would be immense, widespread and catastrophic, including for New Zealand.
Drought, flooding, heatwaves, wildfire – we’re all familiar with the predicted fallout for our land, sea and communities.
And we have each and every one of us seen or felt the effects of a warming climate, in one way shape or form, in our own lives already.
Acting now is not a choice. It’s an imperative.
But it is also an opportunity.
The Commission’s report clearly demonstrates that acting now makes more economic sense than waiting, and that we can reduce emissions while continuing to grow the economy.
If we stick with today’s policies and settings, they will cost us an estimated 2.3 percent of GDP by 2050.
But if we act now, and invest in a strong, inclusive, climate-friendly economy, the impact on GDP will be almost halved over that period, at around 1.2 percent.
It is safer, smarter and cheaper to act now.
And we have been.
As a Government, we’ve been anticipating the Commission’s report, but we have not been waiting for it to take action.
The list of achievements in this regard is long and I’ve no doubt Minister Shaw will traverse it in a moment, but some of the things I’m particularly proud of are:
Ending new offshore oil and gas exploration.
Passing the Zero Carbon Act and become one of the first countries to put the 1.5˚C global warming threshold into primary legislation.
Bringing in vehicle emissions standards for new imports for the first time in New Zealand history.
Bringing back the mandate to include biofuels in the petrol we’ll still use in our cars for years to come, something I watched being undone when I came into parliament.
Doubling our climate change related aid to the Pacific.
Declaring a Climate Emergency and committing the public service to carbon neutrality by 2025.
Becoming the first country in the world to legislate for a price on agricultural emissions and building the world’s only farm-level emissions measurement, management and pricing system.
And being the first country in the world to introduce legislation to require all listed companies and large financial institutions to report on their climate related risks
We have achieved a lot, but as today’s report makes clear – there is more to do.
The Commission’s advice requires action right across the economy, and including action all New Zealanders can take, and I don’t for one moment want to discount the enormity of what’s ahead.
Having a road map doesn’t change the fact the road will be steep and tough at times.
Thankfully, the report reminds us that meeting our climate targets is achievable and affordable with existing technology.
Many of the tools are there. For example, the Commission points out that the total cost of buying and running an electric car reaches parity with a conventional car within the next few years.
Alot of what the Commission is recommending we are already doing, or is underway, and you can expect to hear more from the Government in coming weeks on key initiatives.
What we’re working towards is a smarter, greener, more resilient New Zealand.
There is so much to gain – new jobs and opportunities for Kiwi businesses, lower household energy bills, a more sustainable agriculture sector, less air pollution, an enviable global brand, warmer, drier homes, exciting new technologies, protection of native species and eco-systems, cost savings for businesses, and overall resilience.
If we do it right, we’ll leave the economy that’s stronger, and as Minister Shaw likes to say, a planet that’s better off for what we did.
In terms of what happens now, the Government has committed to taking the Commission’s report away, absorbing it and preparing an Emissions Reduction Plan.
We will complete this plan by the end of the year, in accordance with the Climate Change Response Act.
I’d like to add one thing before handing over to Minister Shaw.
When I first entered parliament, more than 10 years ago, climate change was the subject of a select committee, questioning its existence.
Things have shifted.
But so long as we have some parties in parliament that aren’t willing to confront decisions that address climate change, have we really shifted that far?
If we want businesses to invest in change, they need certainty.
If we want the next generation to believe we are investing in them, they need to see action.
The next stage of that challenge is not just for this Government, it’s for all of us, to show our commitment, to our nuclear free moment.