Elect Who was an ambitious Generation Zero initiative in which young New Zealanders all over the country interviewed their local politicians about their stance on the key issues that will affect our generation’s future.
We interviewed more than 100 politicians over the course of just over a month, and empowered young people from all over New Zealand to engage with their politicians. The results were put up on the Elect Who website, which was designed to help young people vote for a safe and thriving future.
The carefully selected questions we asked covered the candidate’s stances on renewable energy, investment in low carbon technologies, fossil fuel extraction, the ETS, and targets for reducing carbon emissions. We also analysed general party policies and created a policy scorecard.
The responses from politicians were varied, but many were impressed to see young people so engaged with politics, and urged us to continue articulating our demands for a safe climate future. Labour MP Jacinda Arden encouraged us, saying,
“Keep doing what you’re doing Generation Zero! Climate change is everyone’s challenge, but the role of young people in this battle is incredibly important.”
And her colleague Brendon Burns said
“It is organizations like Generation Zero that keep a focus on politicians, I applaud you for that.”
Similarly Kennedy Graham from the Green Party told us to keep fighting for intergenerational justice, saying
“The extent to which the establishment is going to move in the next five years.. is highly correlated with the extent to which your generation groups together and demands things of the government. The more effectively you can articulate your voice and hold politicians to account the more the government will change and faster”
Some responses were not so positive, such as Peter Osborne from the Libertarianz who told us that climate change is a tax scam and that we “should get out more.” Dominic Costello from the ACT Party suggested that “Perhaps we could use taxpayer funds to work out a way to plug volcanoes.”
However the greatest disappointment of all was that the majority of the National Party politicians declined to talk to us, referring us instead to the party line or to Chris Tremain’s response. Chris Tremain answered for the entire National Party, telling us that he believes that New Zealand does its “fair share,” on taking action on climate change. However, many of the Labour candidates, and all of the Green party candidates, refuted this view, saying that the ETS in particular is not effective in reducing carbon emissions.
Many politicians expressed concern about New Zealand’s reliance on fossil fuels and Green and Labour Party MPs told us their parties would stop the lignite mining project in Southland. Labour MP Chris Hipkins told us that
“In the longer term I would like to see much less of a focus on extracting minerals and a much greater focus on renewables. Coal and Lignite are fuels of the past. We need to catch up!”
Green Party candidate Joseph Burston even wrote a poem for the occasion!
“Leave the coal in the hole
Keep the oil in the soil
Reasons are bound
To leave fossil fuels in the ground
Your Kids will love you for it”
Elect Who was a learning curve for everyone involved – but we were successful in making politicians aware of youth concerns about climate change, in empowering young New Zealanders to engage with politics, and in reaching thousands of voters through the Elect Who website.
But the action does not stop here.
In the year to come Generation Zero will continue to engage with politicians and the government, and to make the voices of our generation, and our call for action on climate change, heard. Watch out for new initiatives and campaigns coming up this year, and don’t forget to sign up to receive email updates from us.
We are Generation Zero, and together we can reclaim our future.