Appearing at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told world leaders that they mustn’t let fear of political consequences prevent them from acknowledging and working to combat climate change before it results in irreversible environmental damage and dire economic consequences worldwide.
Speaking on a panel featuring famed naturalist David Attenborough and hosted by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Ardern told leaders that public awareness of the growing environmental crisis was such that acting to combat climate change could no longer be treated as a potentially politically damaging policy.
Asked by Gore to imagine what she would say to another head of state who doesn’t want to have “anything to do with the climate crisis, who doesn’t think it’s real, or pretends to think it’s not real and is hostile to any efforts to do anything about it.”
“You don’t have to cede power by acting on climate change,” she responded immediately. “There’s nothing to fear about your individual political status. Actually, this is about being on the right side of history. Do you want to be a leader that you 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, I think.”
As recently as 10 years ago, Ardern continued, she herself faced boos from other politicians — and even her own family — when she tried to speak about the importance of acknowledging humankind’s impact on the environment. But since then, she said, she witnessed a significant swing in public opinion as extreme weather events, strange shifts in longstanding climate patterns, mass deaths in ocean and bug populations, and other disturbing signs became increasingly impossible to ignore — and took a larger and larger yearly toll on global economics. To have “future proof” sustainable economic growth, she argued, the “only option” was to ensure that the world maintains a stable environment for economies to grow in.
Ahead of her trip to Davos, Ardern also fielded some dubious and decidedly gendered questions from the BBC about her relationship with partner Clarke Gayford. Asked by interviewer Victoria Derbyshire whether she was planning to propose to Gayford, Ardern said, “No, I would not ask, no.”
Derbyshire followed up by demanding whether Ardern was a feminist — apparently implying that Ardern’s response disqualified her from believing that women merit equal treatment with men.
“Absolutely I am a feminist,” replied Ardern, unperturbed. “But no, I want to put him through the pain and torture of having to agonize about that question himself, that’s letting him off the hook, absolutely not.”
Watch video of Ardern’s remarks at the World Economic Forum below: