New Zealand Sets The Bar

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New Zealand parliament has passed legislation to pass its commitments to the Paris Agreement into law. This sets a target for the country to achieve zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

The news establishes New Zealand as one of the few countries in the world with a legislated commitment to the goals of the agreement.

Near neighbour Australia (despite suffering from devastating fires, heat-wave temperatures and drought) addresses climate and energy policy with toxic debate and scare campaigns from the far right factions that dominates the Coalition government. By contrast, the New Zealand bill was passed with bipartisan support, including from the centre right Nationals.

“This is a historic piece of legislation and is the centrepiece for meaningful climate change action in New Zealand”, New Zealand climate minister James Shaw said following the passage of the bill.

“Climate change is the defining long-term issue of our generation that successive Governments have failed to address. Today we take a significant step forward in our plan to reduce New Zealand’s emissions.”

The bill sets a roadmap for reducing emissions and defines the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission to advise the NZ government on reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change, as well as determining emissions budgets.

The Ardern government has also established a $100M Green Investment Fund, which will invest public funds in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, serving a similar role to that of the Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

It is a further step that will cement New Zealand’s position as a climate leader in the Pacific region, a position that has effectively been abdicated by the Australian government.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said that the passage of the bill sent a meaningful message to the Pacific region that New Zealand took the threats of climate change seriously.

“Now that the Zero Carbon Act is passed, the Government can get to work on introducing policies to cut climate pollution.”

While the bill enshrines a target of achieving zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, the bill has taken a softer approach on biomethane, a potent greenhouse gas that is predominantly produced by New Zealand’s agricultural emissions.

Given the significant portion of New Zealand’s economy that is reliant on the agricultural sector, the NZ government opted to set ambitious methane reduction targets, but stopped short of mandating zero methane emissions by 2050.

Approximately half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the agricultural sector, and the zero carbon bill establishes a target of reducing methane emissions by 24% to 47% from 2017 levels by 2050.

The softer target was justified by a desire to protect agricultural producers from stricter targets and acknowledges the difficulties of completely eliminating emissions from the agricultural sector.

New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra announced in July that it would phase the practice of using thermal coal to process and dry milk. The practice had been labelled “insane” by the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance Michael Liebriech.

The New Zealand government is pursuing a range of initiatives towards meeting these emissions reduction targets, including the planning of one billion new trees by 2028, strengthening its emissions trading scheme and stopping the exploration for new oil and gas reserves.

The original article is available here.

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