Throughout this week UKYCC will host a series of guest blogs by young people from around the world, giving their thoughts on the importance of the EU 2030 package.

Today we feature a guest blog from Meghan Stuthridge, giving us a New Zealand and Pacific Island perspective on the EU 2030 package.

My country has a lot of sheep, pity many of them are in government: the ramifications of the European Union’s 2030 agreement for New Zealand and the Pacific.

New Zealand likes doing its own thing. We can claim a great number of global firsts and have made a large mark in film, music, science and innovation considering our small population and short history. Punching above our weight has become synonymous with our national identity. Yet, there remains a massive gap in this outlook when it comes to tackling climate change. Our Kiwi ingenuity that could have been harnessed to overcome what is our greatest challenge has been forsaken. We have resorted instead to hiding behind bigger nations we say should be making the major decisions. When we have been confronted about our lack of commitment, we have awkwardly pointed fingers to avoid personal ownership.

One of the players we routinely blame is the European Union. Once the beacon of hope for climate change policy reform, recent negotiations have illustrated a lack of momentum and a loss of ambition by the EU further exhibited by the shameful inaction of the New Zealand government. The recent announcement of the EU’s 40 percent emissions reduction rate pre-1990s levels by 2040 has been espoused by its creators as being “ambitious and affordable,” but that is relative to what costs you are considering, and what world we want to live in.
If we want to exist in a four degree world, then yes, this agreement could achieve that. But this is not a great outcome if we consider the current projections for such a world, one where some places will become utterly inhabitable. Such an increase in temperature would devastate all communities but especially those in the Pacific. New Zealand’s closest neighbors, low lying islands such as Kiribati, the Marshall and Solomon Islands, are already suffering the consequences of global warming, and their futures seems to be literally underwater. A key strategy for New Zealand has been avoiding actual mitigation efforts by placing a focus on adaptation for these countries, giving a significant portion of climate change funding to the development of infrastructure there in preparation for future land erosion. But only so much can be done to minimize the grievous impacts of saltwater contaminated land and water supplies and increasingly catastrophic tropical cyclones.

New Zealand fails to take full responsibility for its own climate mitigation and adaption. The same excuses my nation makes for not making changes are the very same reasons to in fact do so. Our leaders proclaim that we are a small nation, we are already at 75% renewable energy, and we only contribute 0.14% to global emissions. Instead of seeing this as a blessing, we have cursed ourselves by our political and economic shortsightedness. Our pride has turned into arrogance, and we have undeniably chosen to follow the black sheep of the climate change world. According to our current government, setting targets for 2030 similar to the EU for both emissions reductions and renewables is an unwise move, because we are doing our fair share. Recently, our Minister for Climate Change Issues, Tim Groser, stated that our abysmally low commitment of five percent pre-1990 levels by 2020 is enough, because “That is the same as Australia, effectively—minus 4. It is roughly the same as the United States—minus 3. And it is somewhat better than Japan—plus 3—and Canada, which is plus 4.” Really? You decide to join with some of the biggest polluters and shames of the climate talks? Right. He then goes onto say that we will not be committing to binding target similar to the European Union because we already have an “aspirational” target of a 50 percent reduction by 2050. The EU is already set to achieve a 24-25 percent below 1990 by 2020, and to do similar, he says, would destroy our economy. His statement captures perfectly the attitude New Zealand’s leaders have towards climate change policy, not only about where their priorities are, but who they are influenced by. The EU relies far more heavily on oil, gas and coal but has committed greater targets for renewables. While there are notable holes in the legislature, including the abolishment of individual country renewable targets in favour of a European Union- wide goal post- 2020, at least it is a step forward. My country, if it had actually been brave enough to make proper changes, would have found the 2030 target far less daunting because we would have been a similar path towards 20 percent reduction rates by 2020. We are now set to increase our emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

We have become freeloaders, and the EU’s announcement only gives us less incentive to do more. They have done the work for us, but even that work is clearly not enough. Perhaps the permanence of the agreement will influence the decisions of New Zealand’s leaders to leave the pack and be the brave leaders we once aspired to be. It is looking more likely, however, that we will continue to bleat on and do nothing except emit methane, following blindly behind others as we all go over the edge of a cliff.