Zero Carbon Act campaign receives UNESCO Award for Global Citizenship Education

Generation Zero is honoured to be a recipient of the UNESCO inaugural Award in Global Citizenship Education in the Community category, for our Zero Carbon Act campaign. Members of the campaign team attended the prizegiving at Parliament today, and below is the acceptance speech given by our National Convener, Lisa McLaren.


Kia ora koutou,


My name is Lisa McLaren and I have the privilege of being the National Convener of the Zero Carbon Act campaign for Generation Zero. Quite a few of our crew are here today as well – give us a wave!


Firstly, a massive thank you to everyone that made this awards ceremony happen, including the UNESCO team and the Minister.


When you start a campaign like ours you certainly do not do it for the awards, but this one has acted as a welcome reminder of just how far we have come in two short years.


I would like to quickly reflect on our campaign and leave you with one take-home message that we would like you to action.


Two years ago in a café in Wellington, a small group of young people from the youth climate organisation Generation Zero were trying to work out what to campaign on next. Someone said, what we really need is a climate change law like they have in the UK, why don’t we just write one ourselves?! So we took the idea nationwide and the Zero Carbon Act campaign was born.


Since that day we have developed and launched a policy blueprint for the proposed Act, as well as running countless community events and collecting thousands of petition signatures. Our volunteers have become skilled in media relations, public presenting, event coordination, communications, to name but a few. We have partnered with environmental and development NGOs and gained backing from businesses and all the youth political parties.


When we created our Zero Carbon Act blueprint, we adapted it from the UKs Climate Change Act to be fit for the New Zealand context:


  • for honouring Te Tiriti;
  • for acknowledging our place of privilege in the South Pacific amongst Island nations that are already feeling severe impacts of climate change;
  • to take into account our high rates of agricultural emissions, and for our need to act quickly and provide a just transition for those impacted by the changes needed to make this shift.


 All of this effort has been for one ask – for Parliament to come together and pass a Zero Carbon Act. To pass the law that will get us to net zero emissions by the year 2050, and to pass it with cross-party support – because action on climate change is too urgent to remain caught up in the bickering and mud-slinging of a 3-year government cycle.


Hundreds of volunteers have put in huge amount of time, energy and heart into trying to secure a safe climate future for Aotearoa New Zealand. That’s what this campaign is all about. It is about climate change. It is about the fact that the world's climate is changing at an unprecedented rate due to humans burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, as well as unsustainable land use changes.  


For young people it has been incredibly frustrating to see the lack of action from successive governments on this issue, and it is beginning to affect our ability to plan for the future, our communities and our mental health.


I have found this quote from 16 year old Jamie Margolin who was featured on CNN this morning:

I'm growing up in the early 21st century, a time when the world and all its life systems are falling apart. Climate change has loomed over my every life decision, every time I try to plan for the future. When I think of the future, I can't assume stability or safety. When I think of adulthood, I see my home being flooded, I see deathly heat waves, droughts, famine and intense, deadly storms.

I see insects, allergens, and diseases spreading to places where they shouldn't naturally be. I see countless people dying from toxic drinking water, food full of chemicals, and air thick with pollutants. I see millions upon millions of refugees fleeing homes in regions that have become uninhabitable. I see wars and conflict over dwindling resources... You are leaving my generation with a world that is unlivable.


I think you will agree that this is pretty powerful stuff.


If we had enacted a law like the Zero Carbon Act ten, twenty years ago, then we would already have a plan to make this transition, to tackle the big problems, and make the most of new opportunities.


We are very lucky that the new government has agreed to pass a Zero Carbon Act. They are going out to communities during June and July to ask what New Zealanders want out of a climate change law and what type of safe climate future people envision.


So, our challenge to you… talk to your local MP, write them a letter, get out to the public meetings during the consultation period, sign our petition on the Zero Carbon Act website – have your say! Show our officials that you care about the future of our country. Ask that all our politicians back the Zero Carbon Act when it goes before Parliament later this year.


This proposed law is now New Zealands law – and we need you to take it and run with it.


Thank you.