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Crying wolf on emergencies

crying wolf on emergencies

Not everyone has got excited over the Government’s ‘climate emergency declaration’ and say the nation has more pressing issues.

“When Governments and international organisations are throwing around the word ‘emergency’ and indicating mass deaths around the world, citizens start to panic …,” says Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum.

“Emergency is a word that implies we are in immediate danger and that swift action needs to be taken. With that in mind, it feels somewhat irresponsible to burden us with another ‘emergency’.”

If we don’t deal with emergency number one – Covid-19 and the damage it is doing to health, the economy, and our general well-being – the rest might be academic, he says.

“Covid-19 has done a lot of psychological damage. We remain locked in New Zealand with our border now closed for some eight months, and no end in sight. People have just submitted to this inevitability and no one even questions it anymore.

“It feels like raising another emergency is a way of avoiding dealing with the very real one right in front of us, right now. It also feels a bit like lip service, or playing to the crowd, from a Government that has had ample opportunity to address climate change in its first term, but really hasn’t.”

Farmers and transport operators get picked on when it comes to the ‘climate emergency’ but where’s the viable and affordable public transport system to encourage New Zealanders out of their cars, asks Nick.

“The Government and its central Wellington-dwelling policy makers need to be aware that many New Zealanders cannot walk or cycle to work. A large family trying to get around, say Auckland, would find it cheaper and more reliable to load everyone into the car than to try and navigate public transport.

“Covid-19 has, if anything, increased road traffic. People don’t trust public transport and a boost in online sales and people working from home means more trucks on the road out there delivering door-to-door.”

The road freight transport industry wants to play our part in addressing climate change. But there needs to be some realism and an actual “emergency response plan”.

“Realistically, despite Government rhetoric, if New Zealanders want to continue buying food and other goods, fossil fuel powered trucks will be around for some time to come.”

ACT Leader David Seymour called the climate emergency; “a triumph for post-rational politics with feelings rather than facts driving the Government’s response to climate change,” and a triumph of politics over practical solutions, and of slogans over substance.”

If the Government has a sound climate change policy, it doesn’t need to declare an emergency, he says. “The declaration of a so-called emergency stretches the meaning of that word to the point that it’s almost meaningless. Debasing our language like this makes it harder for us to communicate and reason with each other and solve the most pressing issues of our time.”


Image source: Andre Adams

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