High Court judge agrees with group that New Zealand's climate change law lags behind global targets

A High Court judge has agreed with a group of lawyers that New Zealand's climate change law lags behind global targets.

The group, Lawyers for Climate Action, failed in its bid to sue the Climate Change Commission over what they claimed were failings in its carbon neutral plan.

But the judge agreed New Zealand is falling behind and the Climate Change Minister conceded a law change could follow.

But it was still a relief for James Shaw since the advice he gets on climate change is in line with the law.

"It is good to know that the institutions that we have built are working as they are," Minister Shaw said.

A group of high-powered lawyers sued the Government's independent climate advisory body in 2021 after it said its plan to go carbon neutral wasn't urgent enough.

"New Zealand does have a really important role to play on the world stage, people respect us as a country, they look to us for leadership," Lawyers for Climate Action NZ spokesperson KC Jenny Cooper said.

Eight months later, the judge dismissed their arguments.

"It's so important that we really get ourselves on track to reducing emissions quickly. We were really hopeful this decision would be a real push in that direction and it hasn't panned out quite the way we would've hoped," Cooper said.

But the High Court did agree with the lawyers on an important point where they said the Climate Change Commission's advice to Government "did not put NZ on track to reduce net emissions by 2030 as per the international pathway."

But the legislation did not require it.

Cooper said it was more of an aspiration.

"An aspiration rather than a legal obligation."

Minister Shaw was quick to admit New Zealand's climate law had flaws.

"Where the judge seemed to indicate she felt there was some weakness are areas where I have suspected there is some weakness for some time."

The Climate Change Minister admitted there were elements of climate legislation that add to the general level of public confusion. He said he'll be considering law change to bring New Zealand in line with global goals.

"That is something we'll be looking at," Shaw said.

The climate-concerned lawyers chalking that up as a win.