As we begin 2018, I have a request to my counterpart, Minister James Shaw, to ensure the significant climate change discussions that await both parliament and communities all across New Zealand this year are anchored in sound evidence and supported by considered reflection, not adversarial rhetoric.
As opposition spokesperson I accept climate change is one of the most significant challenges confronting the globe over the next 50 years and will likely be a high-profile domestic issue over the course of the next 12 months - particularly as the government embarks on consultation regarding both our current emissions targets and the establishment of an independent climate commission.
But it is crucial that these discussions are characterised by respect for differing views and proven evidence.
The government does not enter this debate with a blank sheet, but rather a detailed series of commitments and actions already committed to by the previous government.
Incoming governments have a tendency to try and frame up their agenda and priorities in the context of previous government neglect.
Climate change is not one of these areas.
The National government had a raft of actions underway in the climate change space – not least its commitment to the Paris Accord and an early commitment to a 2030 target as a major step to our demanding 2050 target of 50 per cent less emissions than our 1990 levels.
Even more important though, in my view, is how the wider climate change debate is framed up during this year.
An informed discussion on further ambition to current targets may well have some merit, but it must be characterised by acknowledgement of the progress already made, and a dispassionate evidence-based assessment on how change will impact the day-to-day lives of our people.
I am concerned at how binary the language had become towards the end of last year around climate change.
The incoming government is quite within its rights to promote climate change as an area of its focus, but it does itself a disservice by framing its ambition as a stark contrast to the previous National government’s record.
We will not progress a useful nationwide discussion if politicians quickly move to partisan defence of either their record or their ambition and cloaking their respective arguments with the perceived failures of each other’s visions.