Green co-leader James Shaw came ‘very close’ to resigning as minister under Labour govt

Former climate change minister James Shaw has revealed he came “really close” to resigning his post under the previous Labour government over disagreements on climate change and biodiversity.

Shaw, who entered Parliament as a list MP in 2014, announced his resignation as Green Party co-leader in January.

He said at the time it had been the “privilege of my lifetime” to serve as climate change minister for six years and Green co-leader for nearly nine.

“I’m very proud of what the Green Party has achieved over the last eight years.”

Shaw, who also served as associate environment minister (biodiversity) during the Labour government’s second term, will give his valedictory speech on Wednesday,

In an interview aired on Sunday, he told Q+A host Jack Tame there were a “few times” that he got “really close” to resigning his ministerial portfolios over the years.

The most significant was when the government was debating whether to increase its greenhouse gas emissions target under the Paris Agreement.

“New Zealand’s target had been set by the previous National government. It really wasn’t equal to our kind of position,” he said.

“That was a really hard-fought battle. There were days there where I thought, ‘I’m not sure that I can represent the country as climate change minister’ if we don’t have a target that is, at least on average, the equivalent of other OECD countries.”

Shaw said the other instance where he nearly resigned was during discussions on the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity.

“That got really difficult and I ended up storming out of the Cabinet meeting that decided it.”

He said he had drafted his resignation letter over the issue.

Indigenous biodiversity was in “absolute crisis” at the time, he said and Aotearoa had “gone 30 years without national direction on it”.

Former conservation minister Nick Smith had started trying to tackle the problem under John Key’s National government, he said.

“I’m like, ‘If the National Party could find themselves to fix this problem, surely we can, right?’

“It just kind of outraged me that it was that hard.”

Shaw said minutes after he stormed out of the Cabinet meeting, the-environment minister David Parker “materialised” in his office to try and figure out a way forward.

The Labour government should have been more courageous on climate change, and the agricultural sector was now ahead of politicians, he told Q+A.

“You’ve got organisations like Fonterra and Silver Fern who have committed themselves to something like a 30 percent reduction by 2030 … [it’s] a very, very different position from where we were three, four, five, six or 10 years ago.”

Those businesses were being “led by their customers”, Shaw said.

“At Fieldays last year, you know, Cadbury had a tent where they were handing out leaflets saying, ‘we’re looking for 30 percent reduction, and if you don’t do it we’re going to stop buying from you’.”

The way that He Waka Eke Noa – a project to reduce agricultural emissions – had been organised under the Labour government was wrong, Shaw said, and it should have been “parked” with the Treasury.

Instead, it had been left to the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

“The kind of tensions between those agencies was a big part of the problem.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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