WelCom October 2020
Members of Wellington Archdiocese’s Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission organised a pre-election forum about climate change last month, where young people from the Archdiocese questioned political party representatives about their environmental and climate-change policies.
The forum was held at St Mary’s College Hall, Thorndon, 1 September. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a limited number of people attended and the forum was live streamed for others to watch live online or later.
Much of the preparation and all the questions to the politicians were in the hands of Wellington Catholic students Xyryll Gayagoy, Joel Tebbs, Lewis Johnson, Morgyn Jakob, Aurélie Bray, and Sithmi Sathruwani.
Representing the political parties were Taylor Arneil, New Zealand First; Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Māori Party; James Shaw, The Greens; Geoff Simmons, The Opportunities Party; Scott Simpson, National Party; and Angie Warren-Clark, Labour Party.
Cardinal John Dew delivered the opening address, supported by a St Mary’s College waiata group. Dr Areti Metuamate, CEO of Te Kupenga – Catholic Leadership Institute, chaired the discussion.
Cardinal John reminded everyone that climate change has the most impact on those who do least to cause it, and stressed the importance of thinking beyond a three-year electoral cycle. He urged everyone listening, to bear young people’s commitment in mind on voting day.
The students questioned party representatives on their commitment to:
- education on climate change;
- reducing agricultural emissions;
- policies shaped by the Māori values of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga;
- supporting the economically disadvantaged;
- drastically reducing plastic waste; and
- reforming transport policy.
The discussion was thoughtful throughout. James Shaw observed that the student strikes for climate last year were instrumental in the Zero Carbon Act being passed in its final form, and Scott Simpson stressed that young people were educating their elders. Science and ethics met constructively; and there was general agreement about the need to engage people and build consensus, while encouraging significant social and economic change.
The students noted that climate change is an urgent problem and that there is no shortage of information, nor of understanding about what needs to happen. They cited comprehensive reports from entities like the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Productivity Commission.
In closing, Cardinal John, urged politicians to listen to ‘the active, urgent voices of today’s young people…to be very bold’.
The livestreamed election forum is available to view on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpog-Gva3_M&feature=youtu.be
Jim McAloon is a member of the Archdiocese Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission and Convenor of its Integral Ecology Committee.