Sharing a panel with Al Gore at the World Economic Forum, the New Zealand PM put out a statement to leaders that, “You don’t have to cede power by acting on climate change.”
“There’s nothing to fear about your individual political status. Actually this is about being on the right side of history,” Ardern said.
“Do you want to be a leader and look back in time and say that you were on the wrong side of the argument when the world was crying out for a solution? It’s as simple as that.”
In Australia, of course, you may have to cede power to a couple of outspoken right-wing commentators dominating certain parts of the airwaves and the ‘after dark’ segments of Sky News, but at least you may be able to then look your children in the eye.
As David Attenborough noted, when asked by Gore what he would say during a heart-to-heart with world leaders on the issue: “Think of the children.”
“Think of your children and your children’s children and what we are doing to the planet at the moment, and could you look them in the eye and say, ‘I knew what could be done to stop the degradation of the environment and the climate, but it was too difficult. I failed to do it and you are not going to deal with the consequences.”
Ardern, in saying climate change is the greatest threat to the wellbeing of New Zealanders, also noted that one of the biggest challenges of dealing with it is the short-term, three-year political cycle.
And we know about that all too well in Australia — not just in terms of frequent elections, but then also leadership spills within political parties.
Ardern said the solution to such short terms cycles is to try and embed the infrastructure required for long-term change in a short amount of time. Such change needs to “endure beyond us as individuals”, she said.
“We have a chance here to transition and future-proof our economies as well. That might be jarring if we do it quickly, but if we take a longer term it can be something we prepare our people for.”
Ardern added that in politics, when you do the right thing, you can surprise everyone.
A well-being budget
Ardern also announced at the World Economic Forum that New Zealand will soon have a “well being budget”.
“We need to address the societal well-being of our nation, not just the economic well-being,” she said during the discussion on More than GDP.
This means that from 2019, her government will present a “well-being budget” to gauge the long-term impact of policy on the quality of people’s lives.
She declared politics needs be more long-term, more altruistic, and able to better address engrained challenges.
“The Wellbeing Budget will broaden the Budget’s focus beyond economic and fiscal policy by using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to inform the Government’s investment priorities and funding decisions. The Government will measure and report against a broader set of indicators to show a more rounded measure of success, as a country and as a Government.”
Watch the full panel discussion on climate change below.