New Zealand has declared a climate change emergency committing to a carbon-neutral government by 2025. This was announced in what Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister said was “one of the greatest challenges of our time”.
The motion was tabled in parliament to recognise “the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders, on our primary industries, water availability, and public health through flooding, sea level rise, and wildfire”.
The motion also acknowledged the “alarming trend in species decline and global biodiversity” including the decline in New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity.
This climate declaration was supported by the Māori Party and Green Party, opposed by the National and Act parties.
PM Ardern spoke in parliament after the declaration’s introduction that the nation had to “act with urgency”.
“This declaration is an acknowledgement of the next generation. An acknowledgement of the burden that they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now,” she stated.
“It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope.”
Ardern said moving forward that the government sector would be required to purchase only hybrid or electric vehicles, with the fleet being reduced by 20% over time. Additionally, all 200 coal fired boilers currently operating in the public service’s buildings will be phased out.
The declaration also calls for the recognition of the “significant progress on meeting the challenge” by the country through signing the Paris Agreement and passing the Zero Carbon Act 2019, which commits New Zealand to reducing emissions.
This legislation enables the set up of a Climate Change Commission which would be tasked with placing the nation on a path to being carbon neutral by 2060. It also makes New Zealand one of a handful of countries to have a zero-emissions goal enshrined in law.
However, experts state that the nation has fallen behind on the changes it has to make. This dearth of action was not only “embarrassing” but had also become “untenable” according to University of Canterbury political science professor Bronwyn Hayward. “The irony is, even under [President] Trump, the US is going to have made better per-capita reductions than we have.”
Writing in The Conversation, Robert McLachlan, a professor of applied mathematics at Massey University, stated that New Zealand was yet to make any emissions reductions.Out of 43 industrialised nations, New Zealand was among the 12 that had seen their net emissions rise between 1990 and 2018.
The declaration on wednesday also stated that the government would “demonstrate what is possible to other sectors of the economy by reducing the government’s own emissions and becoming a carbon-neutral government by 2025”.
However, opposition parties have claimed the move to be a publicity stunt, with the leader of the National Party, Judith Collins, calling it “virtue signalling”.
“We think it’s all very well to declare an emergency but there’s no proper plan in place as to how to deal with it,” Collins told Radio New Zealand.
She pointed to the government’s fleet of over 15,000 vehicles as an example. Given aht just 10% of those vehicles are electric.
New Zealand contributes just 0.17% of global emissions, however, that is a high percentage for a country of its size, ranking it 17th out of 32 OECD nations. It has seen its net emissions rise by 60% over the past 2 decades.
The country’s largest source of CO2 emissions is road transport, however, the second largest source of emissions come from agriculture.
As reported by The Guardian