New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has named two Greens in her new ministry, including the re-appointment of James Shaw as climate and biodiversity minister, despite her party’s landslide win in last month’s election that gave Labour a majority government.
Labour and the Greens signed a co-operation agreement this week that will see co-leader Shaw reappointed to the climate and biodiversity portfolio he held in the previous minority Labour government, with co-leader Marama Davidson to hold the family violence portfolio.
The co-operation agreement is similar to the deal struck in the Australian Capital Territory, where Labor and The Greens on Monday struck an agreement that will prioritise the developement of electric vehicles and battery storage and the phasing out of gas appliances in buildings.
That deal, however, was borne out of necessity because Labor does not have a majority position in the ACT legislative assembly, and the resurgent Greens have boosted their numbers to six.
It’s in stark contrast to the position elsewhere in Australia, where Labor politicians are at pains to differentiate themselves from the Greens, often declaring – as they did in Queensland – that they would refuse to entertain a deal with the Greens if they failed to win a majority.
Labor achieved a majority in Queensland, thanks to the collapse of One Nation and the failure of LNP to win votes with its anti-renewable, and its older-people-should-lock-themselves-away-while-the-rest-of-the-population-get-on-with-their- lives approach to Covid-19.
The deals in NZ and the ACT are also a reminder of how constructive a climate and energy policy can be developed when Labor and the Greens decide to co-operate, as they did in the Gillard government that delivered the carbon price, and key institutions such as the Clean Energy Finance Corp, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Authority.
“We have the numbers that we need, but equally that isn’t a reason not to work (together) in areas where we agree,” Ardern said on Monday.
“The Green Party can make it clear where they don’t agree while we get on with things – but it doesn’t stop our ability to work together. That is what makes this a unique agreement. We’re both agreeing that we don’t actually need to agree.”
New Zealand has made little progress on emissions in the last three years, largely because the other member of the minority government, the NZ First party led by maverick conservative Winston Peters, acted as a handbrake on progressive policies.
Ardern and Shaw share a common interest in electric vehicles, both driving a Hyundai Ioniq as their private vehicles, although Ardern is reportedly also changing her ministerial car to an electric Audi e-Tron.
New Zealand already has a net zero emissions target for 2050, passed into law last November in a bipartisan and near unanimous vote (see photo above). That resulted in the creation of the Climate Commission.
Labour has since pledged to reach a 100 per cent renewables grid by 2030, introduce a mandate for all new public bus purchases to be all-electric by 2025, and to phase out the use of fossil fuels in process heat sector, and has promised to undertake further work to ensure a just transition is provided to communities impacted by the phase out of fossil fuel use.
The Greens want to go “further and faster” on climate, with Shaw saying that New Zealand can be a world leader in transitioning to a high-value, clean-tech, post-carbon economy that works for everyone.
The Greens advocate ending coal used industrial boilers by 2030, and immediately banning any new additions, upgrade all 63,000 community and social housing with solar and battery storage, introduce grants to cut the price of solar for privately owned homes, and establish a $NZ250 million clean energy fun, and a clean industry training plan, and simplify planning rules for wind farms.