Oxfam Climate Change Debate

Vernon Rive . 2/11/2011 10:33:44 p.m.

My boy Caspian (8) and I navigated our way through post-rush hour traffic on the failing Vespa this evening to the Auckland Uni Business School for Oxfam’s 2011 Election Climate Change Debate. Oxfam’s always insightful (and, for my money, one of the more consistently impressive New Zealand NGO commentators on climate change issues) Barry Coates chaired the debate.  

Nick Smith flew the flag for the Nats; David Parker for Labour, and Kennedy Graham for the Greens. Around a 100 were there: numbers, a bit disappointing – apparently a few more were at the Wellington event.  

Caspian liked the ‘clickers’ – TV-remote looking devices which allowed the overwhelmingly Green-backing audience to rate the speakers at various points in the proceedings.  He confessed at the end that he had struggled to follow most of the talkfest, but he clapped enthusiastically after each round and kept himself occupied trying to skew the stats by voting 10 times whatever I had picked. (Owen Glenn's clicker-designers were onto that.) 

Playing to a home crowd, I thought Graham lacked a bit of spark, with a couple of exceptions later in the piece.  He’d obviously prepared well, but the scripted answers – at one point, an entire answer was him reading from Green’s campaign brochure – were a bit stiff and stilted. He was at his best when he departed from his notes.  Graham's almost (but not quite) fiery response to Smith’s description of the Greens as a 1-issue party gave him a chance to display some passion.  But he’s got a way to go to fill Jeanette Fitzsimon’s sandals as Green Climate Change spokesperson.

Smith came across as the battle-hardened campaigner that he is. Tonight’s debate would have been a leisurely stroll compared to some of the provincial town hall meetings he’s faced over the years.  It was nice seeing him give some credit to Parker and Labour for the groundwork laid on CC policy. But the repeated Nats mantra: ‘we’re striking a balanced approach between the environment and the economy' wore thin with the audience and your correspondent.  I’m with Graham on this one. It’s not quite a question of balancing 2 competing factors.  The environment: local and global: is integral to the economy. Our economy more than most. And as Parker chipped in, the rhetoric of ‘balance’ can mask a multitude of sins.

A bit unexpectedly for me, Parker was the standout speaker.  Caspian agreed.  Although by 8:00pm, he was quite keen to get home and finish Amazon Adventure.  Maybe Parker had the easier task as the commentator from the sidelines.  But I thought his analysis of the folly of an indefinite deferral of agriculture into the ETS was on the button.  And his exposure of the long-term disastrous consequences of dabbling in the lignite-to-liquid energy habit left Smith and the Nats looking like they were on liquefactious ground, and I thought, slightly guilty. 

The final clicker-vote had the Green’s still well ahead, Smith’s 5 votes dwindled to 2 and Parker up around 10 clicks to 15. 

Next stop, Durban.       

By Vernon Rive on 2/11/2011 10:33:44 p.m. | Comments (1) | Print |

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    I’m an Auckland based writer, researcher, lawyer and lecturer specialising in environmental, resource management and public law.  My particular interest is in the international law framework influencing domestic law and policy on climate change and biodiversity protection.  I'm the author of chapters on the International Framework, New Zealand Climate Change Regulation and Adaptation to Climate Change in the 2011 Lexis Nexis-published book Climate Change Law and Policy in New Zealand and the general editor of the Resource Management Bulletin.  I also lecture in Public, Resource Management Law and International Environmental Law at AUT Law School.

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