These last three years have been a huge time of upheaval for educators, with multiple waves of COVID-19 and many other struggles to be fought and won on the industrial front. We are also now beginning to deal with the very real impacts of climate change, as the recent floods in Tairawhiti illustrated so starkly.

The news is not great: the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report tells us that the planet has warmed by 1.2 degrees over the last century, and that on current policy settings we are headed for over 2 degrees warming. Our mission is to work together to reduce emissions so we can stay below 1.5 degrees and avoid the knock on effects of increased global warming.

What’s our government doing about climate change?

Last week, ahead of the Budget, the Government released our first ever Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP). We were happy to see the continuation in the Budget of half price public transport fares and the encouragement of families to purchase low emissions vehicles. We also think it’s important, though, that the Government taps into the networks that schools provide into communities. We know that schools and kura can be valuable change agents and we think with the right level of resourcing and support, educators and schools can be a valuable conduit to helping communities transition and adapt. As educators, we all need to keep lobbying for 100% renewable energy in schools, and a more comprehensive climate change education strategy.

The partner document to the ERP is the National Adaptation Plan. This consultation closes on 3 June, and again we’ll be lobbying for 100% renewable energy and the right resourcing and PLD for educators so you can support tamariki in this climate of change we’re all in. Workers, whānau and communities all need a voice in this process.

As unionists, we all need to find our place in the climate change conversation. You can do something right now.

On 22 and 29 June, sign up to the NZEI Te Riu Roa Mātauranga Māui – Climate Action for Educators training event. These 2 x 2 hour sessions will equip you to better understand the impacts of climate change, how they affect you as an educator, and how you can organise on climate change in your workplace and community.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, we can find hope and direction. As educators, you can be a power for good in your work with tamariki and as respected members of your community. In Murihiku/Invercargill, the government has announced a Just Transition process around the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter. Regardless of if or when the smelter closes, the four Rūnaka have come together to launch Murihiku Regeneration. At the heart of that plan is a recognition that education – and tapping into the imagination of tamariki – is key to all of our futures.

On that note I will finish with the whakataukī from the Murihiku Regeneration website: My strength is not as an individual, but as a collective.

E hara taku toa
I te toa takitahi
He toa takitini

Together, we can do so much more.

Leave a Comment