Eventually, all of us
will have to confront the fact we have to act on climate change. In Taranaki,
they’re doing that sooner than most. For months, the community has been
encouraged to take part in hui to debate what a pathway to a low-emissions
economy might look like.
It’s a radical change
and no easy ask in a province prosperous from oil and gas, and another key carbon
emitter, dairying. Agricultural chemical production is a big local industry. These
industries under-pin thousands of jobs and hundreds of firms.
Taranaki is the pilot
for how the rest of the country responds as we re-gear our economy to reduce
emissions and combat global warming.
The Just Transition
Summit in New Plymouth this week will explore how we get from here to there,
built around the korero all over Taranaki this year on practical responses to
this challenge. E tū has been proud to be a part of this, with our delegates
joining other workers, local businesses, councils, iwi and the wider community
in this work, which must be among the most
comprehensive consultation exercises in recent times. But then there’s a lot at
The pathway mapped
out for Taranaki will be the pilot that guides similar initiatives nationally.
It will be a bellwether for how the country manages the change from a
carbon-driven to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
E tū has an 8-strong team
of delegates attending and despite the huge challenges, the delegates say the
mood in Taranaki is positive.
“The local community
is embracing the Just Transition message,” says Toni Kelsen, E tū delegate and
energy consultant. “Oil and gas have been good to Taranaki. It’s been good in
terms of work. Now it’s about providing a good future for our kids. It’s about
my grandchildren, that’s where I’m coming from.”
Tyrell Crean, local
delegate and Central Region Representative for E tū’s Youth Network, also
reports a positive mood in the pre-Summit workshops and community hui: “They
all want change to happen and it’s good to see all the positivity. There are
young people involved and there will be heaps of support for this to continue.
There are a lot of good ideas about what should change.
“People are thinking
about the future,” he says. “As mentors, we’re the ones who have to drive it
for the next generation. I want it to turn out well for my kids.”
Protecting the future
and securing decent work in their region are key priorities for our delegates.
Changing energy use and farming practices mean the future of work is about new
kinds of jobs and constant upskilling.
Tyrell Crean says
there’s been a lot of exciting ideas ahead of the Summit about improving access
to the on-the-job experience, education and training that people will need to
adapt to the new world of work.
He says one workshop
explored the idea of companies offering workers the chance to try a new job and
learn a new skill. He says inter-linked companies was one idea for expanding
job options and experience. But he says there are obstacles to that kind of
flexibility and cost remains a huge barrier.
“Why not have a
system where instead of one job, you can work in a different part of the
company; where you can switch over, get trained and not lose money. Because at
the moment if you want a new pathway, your job only pays a training wage and
that stops people. With training and education, it comes down to money and if
it’s affordable, people will do it.”
Toni, Tyrell and
Balance Nutrients delegate, Sean Hindson also support better public transport. It’s an obvious way to cut traffic but Sean
says a good network would link the wealthy job-rich hubs of Taranaki with other
parts of the region, so people had access to good jobs and training. He says
it’s about reducing inequality.
“If you had decent
infrastructure to allow youth and people in their 20s and 30s to commute
around, and to connect those hubs of learning by trains, you could see the
wealth shared around. So, I would say dream big.”
Indeed, some big
ideas and cutting-edge science have emerged during the workshops ahead of the
Summit. Sean says the debate has unlocked people’s imaginations. “This Just
Transition thing, I love it. I love being part of it,” he says.
there will be many sceptics about what the Summit will achieve.
“People are always
wary about that – you see a lot of sitting down and talking, people just
chewing the fat. But I’m looking forward to some substance coming out of that.
For now, we’re still in a talking phase but I’d be interested to see some solid
data come out. I’m hoping all of our work will be taken on board.
“Wouldn’t it be
amazing if we were trail-blazers globally and people took this and ran with it?
“It’d be brilliant.”