By David Yockney
The Government introduced the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to Parliament in May and is now accepting submissions from the public.
The purpose of this legislation is “to provide a framework by which New Zealand can develop and implement clear and stable climate change policies that contribute to the global effort under the Paris Agreement”.
The bill will, amongst other things:
- Create a target of reducing all greenhouse gases, except biogenic (agricultural) methane, to net zero by 2050
- Create a separate target to reduce emissions of biogenic methane by 10% by 2030, and 24-47% by 2050 (relative to 2017 levels)
- Establish a new, independent climate commission to provide emissions budgets, expert advice, and monitoring to help keep successive governments on track
- Require government to implement policies for climate change risk assessment, a national adaptation plan, and progress reporting on implementation of the plan.
This is an incredibly important piece of legislation and it needs to be as ambitious as possible if we are to make an impact on our emissions. New Zealand must play its role. At 18 tonnes of CO2equivalent per capita, we are the fifth highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the OECD. New Zealand also needs to acknowledge its historical responsibility for accumulated emissions and the benefits they have bought to this country. We must do our fair share.
To ensure a strong Act, people need to make submissions. Submissions close at midnight on 16 July, 2019.
To ensure a strong Act, people need to make submissions. Submissions close at midnight on 16 July, 2019. The more submissions, the better!
Make an individual submission to Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill by going to the Environment Select Committee website here.
It is also possible to make a submission through interest groups such as:
1) Generation Zero – A comprehensive guideline with good ideas. Cut and paste content into the Environment Select Committee website and customise it as much as you like.
2) Forest and Bird– a quick ‘all in one’ option for those in a hurry.
3) Oxfam – provides guidelines and a link to the Environment Select Committee website.
The two areas which seem to be causing the most concern are:
- Lack of teeth. James Shaw claims that it is the first legislation in the world “to make a legally binding commitment to living within 1.5ᴼ C of global warming”. However, section 5ZJ on the effect of failure to meet 2050 target and emissions budgets states: “No remedy or relief is available for failure to meet the 2050 target or an emissions budget, and the 2050 target and emissions budgets are not enforceable in a court of law, except as set out in this section.”
Generation Zero suggests the Bill needs “stronger remedies if targets are not met. If the government fails to meet a target, section 5ZJ of the Bill says a court may only issue a declaration of breach. No other remedy is permitted. Section 5ZJ must be removed to allow the court to take other steps.” Russell Norman of Greenpeace argues that this section “negates” everything the Bill sets out to do – if targets are not reached, public pressure is the only compulsion.
- Methane. 91% of the people who made submissions in the initial round 10 months ago asked for a net zero all gases target by 2050. However, in the new bill, biogenic (that is agricultural) methane emissions have been given separate status. They will only have to be reduced to 24-47% by 2050, with an interim target of 10% by 2030. The farming lobby is arguing that this is still too much and puts unfair demands on the farming sector. On the other hand Russell Norman calls these cuts “miserly”. If the farming sector, perhaps the “dirtiest industry” in New Zealand, does not do it its bit, then other sectors will have to do more.
The rationale for this separate status is that methane is a short term greenhouse gas – its impact will diminish. However, it is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. The initial warming from methane is 120 times greater than a similar quantity of CO2. It has a half-life of 8.6 years with three-quarters of its warming potential occurring in the first 17 years. According to Jeannette Fitzsimmons, methane, even with its short life, currently contributes one third of our warming. She argues that the two basket approach is only viable if methane is cut now, both rapidly and deeply, and only then should stabilisation occur. At this point there is no clear scientific indication of an appropriate stabilisation level, but it needs to be far greater than the 5% followed by stabilisation asked for by Federated Farmers – this would be disastrous. Student Strike for Climate are asking for 47% cuts by 2050
There are a number of other issues that have been raised by various groups. You can comment on any of these, depending on your own personal viewpoint, interests or inclinations. Examples are:
- Stronger targets. Gen Zero wants several stronger targets, such as a 2050 target consistent with 1.5ᴼC of warming, an interim target of 50% by 2030 for non-methane gases, etc. Some find 2050 too distant and want the targets brought closer, this meaning less carbon overall in the atmosphere. SS4C wants zero carbon by 2040 and a halving of all emissions by 2030
- Climate Commission. Needs to be fully independent.
- Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty should be embedded, not added as an afterthought.
- Some of the mechanisms could be strengthened. For example, it should have stronger remedies if targets are not met. Also, section 5ZK should be changed so that government bodies must take targets and budgets into account.
- Restriction of Forestry Offsets. It is better to actually stop carbon emissions rather than offset them. Also, forests can be destroyed, buy forest fire, felling, disease etc, and in this case the gains would be lost.
- Prohibition of International Credits. The use of these has been abused in the past and once again it allows us to avoid actually cutting our carbon emissions and lets other countries do it for us.
- Inclusion of international aviation and shipping, as in the UK act.
- Protection of vulnerable communities needed.
Low Carbon Kapiti will also be putting in a submission. All comments welcome! Comment on this post or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall, it is very heartening to see this bill progressing through Parliament. However, there is still room for improvement so if you want legislation that is strong, effective, enduring and fair, then start submitting!