Simon Bridges, the leader of the conservative opposition in New Zealand, recently pledged non-partisan support on climate change. Bridges wrote to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offering to work with the incumbent Labour Party on an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission. The advisory body will support New Zealand’s emission reductions by suggesting government policy and holding the government to account by publishing progress reports.
Under Bridges the National Party has re-branded itself as a modernising force with “new ideas”, a move some analysts have understood as a response to the “Jacindamania” that swept Labour to victory in 2017.
Climate change has become a politically polarised issue worldwide, especially in the Anglophone world with opposition to climate action widely found to the right of the political spectrum. As such the National Party, which has been hesitant on climate action, embracing climate action is heartening. However, it is worth keeping in mind that significant differences of opinion remain on decarbonisation strategies. For instance National opposes both the agricultural sector being subjected to the national Emissions Trading Scheme and the government’s decision to stop issuing oil and gas exploration permits.
Is this a signal that climate change is becoming a less politically polarising issue? If so, how will discussions around climate change shift, as the debate becomes more pragmatic? Might we be seeing the beginning of the end of outright climate change denial and will bi-partisan politcal action on climate change become commonplace?