Green parties from as far afield as Iraq and Mongolia have been comparing notes with their New Zealand counterparts at a rare gathering today.
The Asia Pacific Greens Federation congress is being held in New Zealand for the first time, and has brought together Green politicians from 16 countries.
The congress in Upper Hutt was focusing on the impacts of climate change on the Asia Pacific region.
But it was also an opportunity for more established Green parties (Australia, New Zealand) to compare ideas and strategies with fledging Green movements (India, South Korea).
In countries where Green politics was relatively new, some parties had grown quickly.
Green Party Korea co-representative Yujin Lee said her party had registered more than 6000 members since establishing in 2013 – a number equivalent to the New Zealand Greens, which marked its 25th anniversary this year.
Other parties spoke of the difficulty in getting a foothold in the traditional political landscape.
Nepali Greens international secretary Ballav Timalsina said his party treated climate change as its top priority, but no other political party had a single line about climate change in their manifestos.
In a panel session this morning, the politicians outlined the various impacts of climate change on their countries and their attempts to get the issue on the political radar.
New Australian Greens co-leader Richard di Natale said that for a few years, his country had led the world on climate change policy, with a fixed price on carbon and ambitious renewable energy targets.
“It is one of the great tragedies that after the election of the Abbott Government we saw the repeal of the carbon price,” he said.
Dr di Natale said his party, which has a total of 11 elected members, was now attempting to spell out to Australians the everyday impacts of a warming world – on the economy and on people’s health.
The former GP and public health official said a warmer climate was encouraging the spread of viral diseases because insects and bugs were migrating to the southern parts of the country.
New Zealand’s Green Party co-leader James Shaw also said New Zealanders too often thought of climate change as a distant thing which happened elsewhere.
He said people only paid attention to the issue when it started seriously hurting the economy – such as when drought in 2013, made more severe by climate change, wiped $1.5 billion off agriculture exports.
“In New Zealand culture, gross domestic product is more important than God,” Mr Shaw said.
The impacts on New Zealand, however, appeared relatively small when compared when some countries in the region.
Pakistan Green Party chair Liaquat Ali Sheikh said that in 2010 an area the size of the United Kingdom had flooded in his country, displacing 1 million people. Severe drought in 2013 displaced another 1 million people, but climate change was still considered “an illusion” in Pakistan, he said.
Asian Green representatives spoke about the complexities of campaigning for climate change action in their countries.
Korean and Japanese representatives said their governments were expanding nuclear facilities, and defended this move by saying that the nuclear plants created fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
But the Green parties opposed nuclear power, so they had to fight for action on two fronts.
The New Zealand Green Party released a “climate snapshot” report at the conference.
Foreign affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham said it showed that not only were Asia-Pacific countries increasingly responsible for the global share of carbon emissions, but these countries were also bearing the brunt of the impacts of rising global temperatures.
Of the ten most at-risk countries, six of them were within the Asia-Pacific region.
06/13/2015 – 20:00