By Robert Hickson 25/05/2021

Several significant statements or declarations have been made recently. Some are signals of change, others are just signalling.

The International Energy Agency has long been criticised for misreading renewable energy trends. Last week though, in their report Net Zero by 2050 they made a recommendation:

There is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net zero pathway

That is a major shift. The report makes it seem like they are one of the first to come to this conclusion. But it’s a major change from an agency known to stick closely to the status quo.


Good intentions?

In a similar vein, the CEO of Shell stated that half of the company’s energy mix will be “clean” later this decade.

If we do not make that type of process by the middle of this decade, we have a problem not just as a company but as a society.

They leave out what happens and when to the other half.

And BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, has indicated that it will push companies it invests in to improve their efforts to protect the environment from deforestation, biodiversity loss and pollution of the oceans and freshwater resources.

Good intentions, but as the company’s former head of sustainable investment, Tariq Fancy, has indicated the free market can’t solve the climate crisis. Its incentives are to make profits, so he thinks companies more often look to avoid investing where they risk having lower profits, rather than address climate change directly.

Fancy argues that it is governments that need to lead change in relation to the climate. There are systemic causes that individual companies can’t or won’t address.

This is illustrated by Ford motor company. Their electric F-150 Lightning truck has received good coverage over the last week. Big points of discussion have been the number of electric outlets it has (11!), and the ability to act as a backup power source for the home. Ford’s Executive Chairman said the truck

will fulfill our promise to our children and our grandchildren that our generation is committed to leaving them a cleaner planet.

This is more spin than substance. Ford’s vision (and many other vehicle companies) seems to be we can keep building oversized vehicles, just make them electric. It ignores the resources required to manufacture them, and assumes that life can go on pretty much as usual, sans sacrifice.

Sure, there will be some need for utility vehicles, but seeing the future as the same as today, just electrified, isn’t fulfilling any promise to future generations.

recent study found that the emission savings from replacing internal combustion engines with zero-carbon alternatives will not occur fast enough. A greater focus on active transport, such as cycling, in cities is required.

Rethinking the system, not the technology, is critical.


 “A judgement for the century”

A quite different context and quote signalling change, comes from our own justice system. Kennedy Warne has highlighted what he calls “a judgment for the century”, which grants customary marine title to hapū from Te Whakatōhea in the Bay of Plenty.

This placed tikanga (the belief systems, values and life experience of the tangata whenua), rather than at the heart of the decision. Property rights were interpreted through the tikanga lens, rather than tikanga being considered through a property lens.

The judgement states

Whether or not an applicant group has established that they held an area in accordance with tikanga is to be determined by focusing on the evidence of tikanga, and the lived experience of that applicant group. The exercise involves looking outward from the applicant’s perspective rather than inward from the European perspective and trying to fit the applicant’s entitlements around European legal concepts.

As Warne notes, that “outward perspective” is significant, especially in legal decisions. He highlights that judges have been taking the lead on incorporating Māori tikanga into decision making.

That’s a subtle, but definite, sign of change.


Featured photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash