Sarah Thomson - Hero of the Week | The Jackal

18 Jun 2017

Sarah Thomson - Hero of the Week

People living in coastal areas throughout New Zealand know it, even farmers experiencing unprecedented flooding and droughts each year know it… so why isn’t the government taking climate change seriously?

The signs that Mother Nature isn’t happy with our current levels of pollution are clearly evident for all to see. But despite the increasing severe weather events, the National party is dragging its heels when it comes to implementing any type of adequate climate change policy.

That’s why it’s great to see concerned citizens like Sarah Thomson take the initiative and challenge the government on its woeful environmental track record.

On Friday, the Spinoff reported:

Why I’m taking the NZ government to court

I realised that politicians can’t always be trusted to act in the best interests of the people or the planet, and felt compelled by an irresistible force to do something, writes Sarah Thomson, ahead of a date at the High Court in Wellington this month

The day it really hit home was when I listened to James Hansen – the man who warned the world about climate change in the 1980s and whom NASA tried to silence – give a talk comparing climate change to an asteroid speeding towards Earth. The longer we delay taking action, the harder it will become to divert.

Fantastic! Here’s a James Hansen TED talk speech on climate change:

That’s some pretty sobering facts there. I can see why Sarah was inspired to take on the National led government on its climate change inaction and support of fossil fuel industries.

Most of us feel that the only power we have to change the laws that govern our lives and the world around us is the piece of paper we put in the ballot box every three years. But there is one last line of defence where ordinary people can use the laws already in place to create change: the courts.

I wish I shared Sarah’s confidence in the court process. The trick here will be to show that the government’s climate change policy is all hot air. National have in fact done nothing to build resiliency or curb our CO2 emissions in New Zealand. After nine long hard years, we still have one of the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world.

In November 2015, inspired by climate change litigation overseas including a case in the Netherlands where 900 Dutch citizens filed as plaintiffs, and in the US where 21 kids are taking a lawsuit against the Federal Government, I filed a legal action challenging the New Zealand government’s inadequate response to climate change. The case was the first of its kind here.

I was a student at the time, still in the midst of preparing for university exams, and with no experience in litigation. But I found a team of lawyers who shared my concern and who were ready to fight a battle all the way to the highest court. I was fortunate to also receive support from leading climate change experts, including New Zealand Professor James Renwick, and the very man who opened my eyes to climate change: James Hansen.

This is going to make for a very interesting court battle. It will also serve to keep the most important topic of our generation, climate change, in the media spotlight.

Only through public pressure can we hope to make governments favour clean energy production over polluting industries. It’s an incredibly important issue, being that our survival as a species depends on the powers that be changing their polluting ways.

That’s why Sarah wins this week’s Hero award. She is undoubtedly a fine upstanding Kiwi.