Call for government to partner with Māori following harrowing climate report

By Jessica Tyson

This week the United Nations Climate Panel issued a code red for humanity, saying global warming is dangerously close to spiralling out of control and humans are unequivocally to blame.

The report from the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that emissions are already compounded enough, which means decades of climate disruption as well as weather extremes such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and the thinning of glaciers.

Māori climate commissioner Donna Awatere Huata says the key of the report is that the damage already done is irreversible.

“The icecaps are melting. We can’t do anything about it and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of years before we can reverse it, so you’re really looking at extinction.”

The report says that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above the normal range. Rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions could limit some impacts but others are now locked in.

“Unless we take this seriously and change the way we do business, change the way that our economy runs, we really are contributing to the mess that the world is now facing so it really is a wake-up call to government."

Partnering with Māori

Huata says the government and all agencies urgently need to start partnering with Māoridom “because unless we do, they’ve got no answers.”

“Every report that comes out shows that we are going to be hit the hardest, in particular our rural sector, unemployment, displacement from our papakainga areas."

All of that has already started, she says.

“Already we are seeing urupā and marae falling into the ocean, falling into the rivers so I can only call on the Māori caucus to really give this Labour government and the Greens some backbone to deal with this.”

National and ACT 'disappointing'

Huata says she’s disappointed by the behaviour of the National and ACT parties.

“National and ACT are running a campaign that is almost borderline climate-denying. It really is a recipe for disaster.  I just say, 'white people going mad', and it is Māoridom and indigenous people around the world who are going to have to carry this," she says.

“The stupidity of putting profits above the planet must end and I call on the Māori Labour caucus to really band together and to get behind James Shaw, get behind David Parker, get behind Jacinda Ardern, to take a much stronger stance.”

Mātauranga Māori solutions

Huata says there are solutions that can be adapted from mātauranga Māori to help address the climate crisis.

“The first thing that we have to offer is to really put forward our view of the interconnectedness of humans and nature. It is really about saying that nature and people are one, rather than this business model, which is that people are superior and can do whatever we please to the environment," she says.

“Our whakapapa is the environment and, if we hold to that first tenet, then we can start dealing with this in a sensible way.”

Another way to offset emissions is through planting trees and forestry, she says.

“We have the land. There is huge wealth in forestry, in pine forests. But you can transition those pines into natives over regenerative forestry and in 50 years have a fully formed native forest and at the same time get a huge profit off those trees in the meantime and we need that money to get through the catastrophe that is coming our way. Whatever we do, it is coming.”