New Zealand passes historic zero carbon bill with near unanimous bipartisan support | RenewEconomy

New Zealand passes historic zero carbon bill with near unanimous bipartisan support

New Zealand passes landmark legislation enshrining its zero-carbon target into law with bipartisan support, although concerns linger about plans to tackle agricultural emissions.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern embraces Climate Change Minister James Shaw in Parliament. Credit: AP Photo/Nick Perry

The New Zealand parliament has passed landmark legislation that enshrines the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement into law, and will see the country achieve zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

The legislation establishes New Zealand as one of the few countries in the world with a legislated commitment to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, with the New Zealand bill committing to establishing policies consistent with limiting global warming to just 1.5°C.

The bill was passed with bipartisan support, including from the centre right Nationals, in contrast to Australia where climate and energy policy has provoked toxic debate and scare campaigns from the far right factions that dominates the Coalition government.

“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 trajectory for reducing emissions and introduces a range of complementary measures, including the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission to advise advice to 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.

“We have committed ourselves to a 1.5°C target that we are embedding in legislation, not just because of the statements of the Paris Agreement but because that is what is required if we are to show our Pacific neighbours that we understand what the impacts above 1.5°C will have on them — it is real,” Ardern told the parliament.

Shaw said that the passage of the bill had the backing of the wider New Zealand public, after consultation on the bill received a huge response from a wide diversity of stakeholders.

“We as the elected representatives of New Zealanders must take the opportunity to act on climate change before the window closes,” Shaw added.

“We’ve led the world before in nuclear disarmament and in votes for women, now we are leading again.”

“The Bill had nearly eleven thousand written and oral submissions. The Committee heard from parents, students, scientists, farmers, academics, health professionals, activists, iwi, local government and many more,” Shaw added.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, passed through the New Zealand parliament with near-unanimous support, although the National party has pledged to make amendments to the zero carbon legislation if it wins government at next year’s election.

“We have taken a bipartisan approach to climate change but we will continue to fight for the changes we think will make the law better,” NZ leader of the opposition Simon Bridges said.

The sole dissenter was David Seymour of the ACT New Zealand party, which has consistently held a position of climate change denial.

The passage of the bill was welcomed by environmental groups, along with business groups that welcomed the multi-party support passage of the bill as a strong signal of policy stability.

“We want to congratulate Generation Zero and all of the people who worked so hard to get the Zero Carbon Act across the line,” Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson said.

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

However, there was angst amongst New Zealand farming groups, which see the Bill as a potential threat to industries dependent on the raising of sheep and cattle, which are major contributors to New Zealand’s national emissions.

“They had a golden opportunity to pass a Bill that was fit for purpose, and could have taken a bipartisan approach to climate change, and could have taken farmers along as well,” NZ Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard said.

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.

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  1. juxx0r 10 months ago

    If NZ switched entirely to regen agriculture they could turn agricultural emissions negative. Also they’d have lots of veterinarians and fertiliser salespersons wandering around with nothing to do since the animals are healthier and the fertiliser isn’t required.

    • solarguy 10 months ago

      Could you allude to what your talking about JuxxOr, regen agriculture?

    • Peter Cunningham 10 months ago

      YES – I agree.
      Current dairying practices (in particular) and in particular the Canterbury plains area have destroyed the microbiology in the soils – which is a mere veneer atop basically a bed of marbles.
      It might seem ‘green’ to be pumping animal waste back over the paddocks, but the Urea itself is a bad and destructive fertiliser because it kills all the little greebies in the literally 50 to 100mm of soil there.
      Then is the pollution of the water table and even aquifers deeper down.
      I could add more comment but no time.
      THANKS for raising a VITAL issue.

  2. Alastair Leith 10 months ago

    The methane emissions target for Ag sector has been torpedoed in NZ a couple of times during past attempts, good effort getting it up. Does anybody know what index they are using for methane in their existing carbon pricing scheme (which covers methane in other non-Ag sectors IIRC)? 28x, 36x (including feedbacks) or more appropriate 86x. Any excess by farmers would presumably require purchase or provision on farm of offsets?

  3. Carl Nesbitt 10 months ago

    Zero Carbon missions????? What a joke!!!!! What about,

    New Zealand’s transport network comprises 94,000 kilometers (58,410 mi) of roads, including 199 kilometers (124 mi) of motorways,[234] and 4,128 kilometers (2,565 mi) of railway lines. Most major cities and towns are linked by bus services, although the private car is the predominant mode of transport. The railways were privatized in 1993, but were re-nationalized by the government in stages between 2004 and 2008. The state-owned enterprise KiwiRail now operates the railways, with the exception of commuter services in Auckland and Wellington which are operated by Transdev and Metlink, respectively. Railways run the length of the country, although most lines now carry freight rather than passengers. Most international visitors arrive via air and New Zealand has six international airports, but currently only the Auckland and Christchurch airports connect directly with countries other than Australia or Fiji. And, they are huge importers from China. I guess they will bring goods in on electric boats. Right?

    • Peter Cunningham 10 months ago

      As I said in my posting – UTTER GREEN LUNACY
      The average Kiwis are struggling as it is – adding this utterly pointless financial noose will destroy the nation.

  4. Peter Cunningham 10 months ago

    Jacinda really is a touchey feely extreme virtuous hugger. It must feel wonderful to be a saviour.

    But for how long?
    These fools have no idea that their green social experiment will be nationally destructive, and utterly ineffective.

    Global Population: 7,610,395,000
    NZ population: 4,700,000
    % of NZ globally: 0.06176%

    These clowns have just put a financial noose around all Kiwi taxpayers for something that can have absolutely NIL effect on the planet.

    To bring this into some perspective, and by analogy, the Kiwi parliamentarians believe that you could pay off your $761,039.50 house mortgage entirely by you paying the banks, half of one ten thousandth of a single dollar.

    I am sure the banks would relish that deal!

    But this is what the leadership on NZ has just inflicted on taxpayers – in law.

    UTTER GREEN LUNACY — the true meaning of lunacy!

  5. GoosesGeeses 10 months ago

    Um, Miss Ardern, most kids learn about photosynthesis in 8th grade. If she wants 0% she better stop breathing. JFC… CO2 is not a pollutant, you half-witted hack!

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