New Zealand aims to go green with electricity, tree planting

New Zealand's Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern
Updated 24 October 2017

New Zealand aims to go green with electricity, tree planting

WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s incoming government is hoping to make the nation greener by planting 100 million trees each year, ensuring the electricity grid runs entirely from renewable energy, and spending more money on cycle ways and rail transport.
Jacinda Ardern, who takes over as prime minister this week, on Tuesday outlined agreements her Labour Party reached with other political parties joining them in the new government.
In addition to the environmental initiatives, Ardern also outlined plans to raise the minimum wage, stop foreigners from buying existing homes, and possibly change how New Zealand’s Reserve Bank operates.
The 37-year-old will be New Zealand’s youngest leader in more than 150 years and hopes to take the country on a more liberal path following nine years of rule by the conservative National Party.
“I don’t need to be influenced on climate change,” she said. “It will sit at the heart of what this government does.”
Ardern’s plan is for New Zealand to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2050.
Some of the targets will require only incremental changes. New Zealand already generates about 85 percent of its electricity from renewable sources including hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. Ardern plans to increase that to 100 percent by 2035, in part by investigating whether solar panels can be used atop schools.
She said the country will need to double the amount of trees it plants each year, a goal she said was “absolutely achievable” by using land that was marginal for farming animals. Her plans also call for the government’s vehicle fleet to be green within a decade.
Not everybody is happy with the plans. Many farmers are worried they will be required to pay more if they are absorbed into an emissions trading scheme.
“There is concern that if this should happen, New Zealand will become less competitive with other food-producing nations,” said Katie Milne, the president of advocacy group Federated Farmers.
The government also plans to raise the minimum wage to 20 New Zealand dollars ($14) per hour over the next few years, a 27 percent increase over its current level. And Ardern said a review of the way the Reserve Bank operates would take into account factors such as employment levels and price stability. Currently the bank primarily considers inflation when setting interest rates.
Ardern also outlined a plan to spend 1 billion New Zealand dollars ($693 million) a year on the country’s smaller towns and regions to improve rail and other infrastructure.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a region that hasn’t experienced neglect,” she said.
Ardern said she had spoken to President Donald Trump for about five minutes on Monday after he called to congratulate her on her election win. She said Trump told her the election had received quite a bit of coverage in Washington D.C. and on the East Coast, and that she had talked to him about New Zealand’s important role in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Our relationship with the US is incredibly important,” Ardern said when asked about Trump. “That has not changed and it will not change.”


“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 31 May 2020

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.