Youth-led climate campaigners Generation Zero welcome the government’s efforts, particularly the financial assistance package to aid those affected by COVID-19. New Zealanders, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds and people with disabilities, are deeply affected by COVID-19. The campaigners recognise that the financial assistance package announced today by the Prime Minister will help ease the burden during times of uncertainty and stress. Alongside this though, investments to address the COVID-19 crisis also present a massive opportunity to make headway on the climate crisis.
“The wellbeing of our people in Aotearoa is paramount during these times in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” says Generation Zero member Dewy Sacayan. "But at the same time, achieving climate justice and addressing this climate emergency is a large public health concern requiring action. We can therefore have the possibility of a win-win situation where we address COVID-19 and climate change.”
COVID-19 has put the brakes on travel and economic growth, and now the government is making a much-needed multi-billion injection into key parts of the economy. The climate campaigners are concerned that this money will simply prop up the status quo in emission-intensive industries at a time we need massive green investment.
“Let’s not miss this opportunity to head down a decarbonised pathway, rather than clinging desperately to business-as-usual where we continue to do a disservice to these industries who need help in transitioning to a zero-carbon economy.”
A recession due to COVID-19 is reportedly likely, and such a scenario could result in reduced green investment if it isn’t seen as an essential part of future-proofing Aotearoa. While the climate campaigners understand the importance of protecting the health of New Zealanders, this should not be an excuse to forget our present and long term obligations in addressing climate change.
“Fundamentally, the same system that is hurting people in the face of the virus is simultaneously causing and exacerbating the human impacts of climate change. This is when the importance of a just transition is paramount to ensure that our most marginalised groups who will be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and climate change are at the forefront in designing and receiving the assistance they deserve.”
“The reaction to COVID-19 is showing how people’s lives are going to change to solve a crisis, and now we can also apply this to the climate crisis to help secure all of our futures, while placing a just transition at the centre of action,” says Generation Zero member Alex McNeill.
Generation Zero will monitor further governmental policies on COVID-19 and ensure that the need for consistent climate action that centres those who will be the most affected is not forgotten. “After all, there can be no climate justice without social justice.”