Election 2023: Tips for Engaging with Parties and Candidates on Climate

POW members meet with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean.

Climate change is a global challenge that requires collective local action from all sectors of society, including political leaders. Engaging with political parties and local candidates can have a profound impact on the policies and regulations that shape our response to climate change. This month we’ve also been talking about individual actions, which are very important, but consider engaging with politicians and individual action, that can help create systemic change – and that’s what we really need!

With the general election only a couple of months away, now is the time to engage with your local candidates. Here’s how you can effectively advocate for the environment through political channels.

Understand the Issues

Before engaging with politicians, make sure you have a clear understanding of the specific climate issues that are most important to you. Whether it’s renewable energy, conservation, or emission reductions, having a strong grasp of the subject matter will make your arguments more persuasive. You can read some of POW’s newsletters to stay up to date.

Reach Out Respectfully

Politicians are often busy, so be concise and respectful in your communication. Whether through email, social media, or a letter, make sure to state your concern clearly and offer specific solutions if possible. State your concerns and ask a specific question. Send similar messages to candidates from all parties. They all need to know that people out there like you are voting based on their climate policies.

Utilize Social Media

Social media can be a powerful tool to raise awareness and engage with political leaders. Share information, tag politicians, and use relevant hashtags to create a broader conversation around climate change. Follow POW NZ on Instagram is a great way to help by amplifying our voice.

Volunteer for Campaigns

If a local candidate’s environmental policies align with your beliefs, consider volunteering for their campaign. It’s a direct way to support politicians who prioritize climate change and can provide opportunities for deeper engagement.

VOTE!!!

Perhaps the most potent way to influence political action on climate change is through voting. Support candidates and referendums that reflect your environmental values and encourage others to do the same.

Create or Sign Petitions

Online petitions can gather widespread support for specific climate initiatives. By signing or creating petitions, you can demonstrate to politicians that there is a strong public demand for action.

Build Long-Term Relationships

Engagement with political leaders on climate change is not a one-off event. Build relationships by consistently following up, attending meetings, and showing appreciation when they take positive steps.

Engaging with political parties and local candidates on climate change is a vital component of the broader movement towards a sustainable future. Remember to approach this engagement with respect, persistence, and a willingness to collaborate. By actively participating in the democratic process, we can help shape policies that preserve the planet for future generations. Together, we can foster a political environment where climate change is not a partisan issue but a shared responsibility.

With the general election coming up on October 14th, MPs and candidates often hold meetings, where they meet the public (that’s you!), talk about their plans for the election, and answer questions from anyone in the audience.

This is where we come in. As members of the voting public, it’s important that politicians know there are lots of people out there who are keen to vote for strong climate action. That’s why asking questions at a public meeting is so powerful – it gets climate action on the mind of the politician and prompts them to make a commitment (whether for or against) that’s on record. What’s more, it gets everyone else in the audience thinking about climate change too!

This has worked really well at local council meetings. Climate activists in Queenstown have been going along to the public forums at local council meetings for years, and calmly & politely reminding councilors that their decisions have a big impact on our future. This has been successful in shifting the views of the councilors over time.

Attend an election campaign meeting!

Start by choosing a local event to go to. Here are the events calendars of some political parties. We want all political parties to be supporting strong climate policies, but especially the two main parties, as they both seem to have de-prioritized climate action, and prioritized more roads.

Prep an intro

Think about how you would start your question at the meeting. Prepare a short, 2-sentence introduction about yourself, and why you care about climate change.

E.g. “My name is Joe, and I’m a shop owner living in Ohakune. I’m worried about climate change because winters have been really inconsistent lately, and that really impacts by business. I try to do what I can, I’d love to be able to take the train or bus instead of driving when I have to go to Wellington but there aren’t even any proper public transport options.”

Pick 1-2 questions

From the list of questions further down this page, pick 1-2 questions. It might be one that’s most relevant to your local area, the issues that people seem to care most about, something you’ve seen in the news recently, or just one that you like.

You can have these on your phone, scribbled down on a piece of paper, or memorised if you’re feeling confident!

On the day: bring a friend, and record!

Consider bringing a friend. It can always help to have a supporter! 

They can also record/video you asking the question and/or the party giving an answer. This puts their answer “on the record”, which can be referred back to later to make sure politicians follow through on any commitments they make.

?If asking a question is too much, it’s still impactful to show up holding a sign! It could say something like “Vote Climate”, or “Strong climate action now”. Both the party running the event, and the people in the audience, will see it.

An auditorium of mostly senior, Pākeha folks. Photoshopped on top are climate signs with slogans like "The climate is changing, why aren't we?" and "System change not climate change."
Imagine if climate action was the main topic at every community meeting! Background photo: Peter de Graaf

Let us know how you go

We’re keen to keep a record of any climate promises made by any potential leaders. Email us any photos, videos, or quotes that you get from the meeting to us at info@protectourwinters.nz or to climateclubnz@substack.com. You can also share on socials.

Question ideas

  1. Transport is one of our largest sources of emissions. Roads are better for all of us if there are fewer cars on them and more buses. Will you commit to ensuring (Your town/suburbs name) is connected to other towns and cities with public transport?
  2. We have 6 years left to at least halve our emissions if we do not want to be caught in runaway climate collapse. What is your Party’s plan to halve our emissions in the coming 6 years?
  3. Recent surveys reveal that there is a high level of concern among NZers about climate change (around 80%) so there is a mandate for more urgent and effective action to both reduce emissions and develop adaptive strategies. So far, policy and action fall well short of what is required. Question: Why isn’t your party responding at the level required to both widespread public concern, and meeting the emission reduction targets we have set ourselves? 
  4. What are your Party’s strategies for dealing with the disproportionate power of industrial and other lobbyists, e.g. the oil industry, when there is such widespread public support for effective climate change action? 
  5. What specific carbon emission reduction initiatives, not just carbon off-sets, is your Political Party planning to initiate over the next few years? How much will they reduce NZ’s emissions by, and will that be sufficient to get on track to meet what we have signed up for in the Paris agreement?
  6. Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right. Yet over the last decade, we’ve seen excessive nitrate levels – from too many cows and too much synthetic nitrogen fertiliser – pollute drinking water of rural communities, causing around 40 deaths per year, from bowel cancer alone. What will you do to protect rural drinking water from these cancer-causing nitrates?
  7. We know that homegrown, community-based energy projects are effective at cutting emissions, and giving us autonomy over our own power systems. Only a handful of homegrown energy projects have been funded so far – if elected, will you act to massively increase funding for community-based energy projects, and assist in removing regulatory barriers that are holding them back. If so, how specifically will you do this?
  8. (Insert piece on why climate change or energy prices are important to you, then) – the Generator-retailers have made billions of dollars from keeping power prices high and fossil fuels on life support – will you consider an excess profit tax on the gentailers, to redistribute those ill-gotten profits?”
  9. We’ve committed to the global methane pledge to cut New Zealand’s net greenhouse emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The science is clear that this requires cutting herd size, not just techno-fixes and incremental change. Do you commit to actually reducing methane emissions by implementing policies to reduce them by 2030?
  10. If you think the ETS is the only climate lever, will you make agriculture participate and allow the ETS price to rise to above $100NZD per NZU (carbon credit), in order for it to create the appropriate financial incentives to drive real emissions reductions? 
  11. The Climate Change Commission advised to ban the sale of petrol vehicles by 2035 at the latest and 2030 ideally. Will you follow this advice?