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Resolutions: Sudhvir Singh

Thursday 9th January 2014

We asked high-profile young New Zealanders about their reflections of 2013, and their hopes and resolutions for the New Year.

Auckland doctor and spokesperson for Generation Zero, Sudhvir Singh.

Like many of us, I’ve been spending as much time out in the sun as possible this summer in the sweltering heat. What you might not know is that in 2013 we experienced record hot temperatures on both sides of the Tasman. Unsurprisingly, the international scientific community released another major report concluding that temperatures are going to continue to rise this century, and that humans burning fossil fuels are “extremely likely” to be the underlying cause.

Despite all the opportunities to reduce emissions and avoid the unstable future created by climate change, the Government's own reports show that New Zealand’s carbon pollution will continue to increase by nearly 50 per cent over the next 30 years.

Because ultimately, it’s our generation who will suffer the impacts of inaction on climate change, and we can’t afford to live in that future.

Why? Because we’re missing our opportunities to move towards a low carbon future, despite the overwhelming co-benefits of doing so. New Zealand continues to have a weak price on carbon pollution, our national transport funds are almost completely dedicated to building roads and encouraging car dependency at the expense of other transport options, and we lack ambition to pursue cleaner, renewable energy.

Two years ago, I was fortunate to be with a group of young New Zealanders at the international climate negotiations. Frustrated by the lack of political progress despite the win-win solutions available to us back home, we launched Generation Zero. As we enter the New Year, we’re now an organisation of thousands with members in towns and cities across New Zealand working to cut carbon pollution through smarter transport, liveable cities and independence from fossil fuels.

Looking back, 2013 was an important year for us. We received considerable support for our public transport and cycling plans for both Auckland and Wellington that will reduce both congestion and carbon pollution at a lower cost than the existing plans. We helped pilot The Chateau housing project as an innovative way to address unhealthy, energy inefficient, run down housing. We called on councils to avoid relentless and expensive sprawl and instead develop visions for liveable cities with greater housing and transport choices that keep the best and brightest talent in New Zealand.

We presented our nationwide speaking tour to over 2300 people in 14 locations across New Zealand asking Kiwis “What’s the holdup?” to action on climate change. We rated local body election candidates in major cities, grading them on their commitment to solutions for a liveable low carbon future. We took to this information to voters online and offline, including over 50,000 flyers, to keep our elected representatives accountable. To cap off the year, Metro Magazine awarded us ‘the best new political force’ in the country.

But as we look forward, 2014 is going to be exciting both at a local and national level. We’ll continue to push our transport and housing plans, and make it easy for Kiwis to get involved, like with our quick online submission forms for the Auckland Unitary Plan and the Wellington Transport Plan.

"This year is also an election year. This is a tremendous opportunity to get our issues on the map and steer our country towards a prosperous low-carbon future. "

In February we’ll be presenting the Congestion-Free Network to the Board of Auckland Transport. Later in the year Aucklanders will for the first time get to experience electric trains. The increased investment in cycling by the Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin councils will start to bear fruit.

This year is also an election year. This is a tremendous opportunity to get our issues on the map and steer our country towards a prosperous low-carbon future. We know the election will be close and that young people can play a crucial role. Last time around, one million eligible Kiwis didn’t vote, and we’re starting this year with tens of thousands of young people not even enrolled. We’re determined to change that, through distributing clear information on issues relevant to our generation prior to the election.

We look forward to launching our own policy manifesto, focussed on a stronger price on pollution, a clean energy action plan, support for comprehensive smart transport networks with integrated housing plans in our towns and cities, and highlighting New Zealand’s role in negotiating a stronger international agreement. Because ultimately, it’s our generation who will suffer the impacts of inaction on climate change, and we can’t afford to live in that future.