Government announces Zero Carbon Bill details for fighting climate change

The Government has announced details on how it will combat climate change.

On Wednesday, the Government will introduce the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill into Parliament to address the long-term challenges of climate change.

Billing it as "landmark action" that acts as a plan for the next 30 years, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Bill provides certainty to industries affected by climate change or which may be contributing to emissions.

"The Government is today delivering landmark action on climate change  the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand," she said.

The Bill will create a legally binding objective to limit global warming to no more than 1.5degC with a net zero carbon approach.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said Government needs to work with the agriculture industry to manage emissions and subsequently has created a specific target for biogenic methane.

A 10 percent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030 is the target set out in the Bill, with a provisional reduction ranging from 24 percent to 47 percent the aim by 2050.

Cow in field on hill above smoking factory, Hexham, Northumberland, NE England UK. (Photo by: Photofusion/UIG via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

An independent Climate Change Commission will be established to "support our emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly 'emissions budgets'," Shaw said.

The 2050 provisional reduction range for biogenic methane will be subject to review by the Commission in 2024 to account for changes in scientific knowledge.

Methane emissions large come from livestock belching while carbon dioxide can come from transport. 

Planting more forests will help offset any carbon emissions. 

The Bill also requires the Government to plan for how it will support Kiwi towns, cities, businesses, farmers and iwi adapt to the results of climate change on the environment.

"New Zealanders have made it clear they want leadership and consensus on climate change legislation," said Shaw.

The Climate Change Stocktake Report for 2017/18 notes that by 2040 New Zealand's air temperature is forecast to increase by 0.7-1degC, and 3degC higher by 2090.

As a result of warming temperatures, sea levels are projected to rise by 0.3-1 metre by 2100. But the threat of Antarctic sheets collapsing could mean this range substantially increases.

In 2015, New Zealand signed up to the Paris Agreement, agreeing to keep global average temperatures below 2degC and pursuing efforts to limit to 1.5degC.

The Bill is similar to the United Kingdom's Climate Change Act which also requires five-yearly carbon budgets with key targets set.

The collapse of more Antarctic sheet will mean sea levels rise quicker.
The collapse of more Antarctic sheet will mean sea levels rise quicker. Photo credit: Getty.

Parties react

Shaw acknowledged National Party leader Simon Bridges and National Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller for "setting politics to one side" while working on the Bill.

"We're delighted that the three Government partners have reached an agreement over such a significant piece of legislation after lengthy consultation."

"The fact that, across Parliament, all parties have engaged constructively in this process signals mutual interest in creating enduring climate change legislation that will stand the test of time and deliver long-lasting commitment to action on climate change for future generations," said Shaw.

But Bridges said that while the parties had found common ground on the Commission, net zero targets for long lived gases. and the seperate treatment of methane, National has resevations about the expected rate of reduction for methane.

"We are not convinced that the proposed 24-47 per cent reduction for methane meets our test in terms of science, economic impact or global response," Bridges said.

"We're committed to taking short term politics out of climate change policy, by having an enduring Commission which will give science-based advice for successive governments."

The ACT Party will oppose the legislation, saying action in New Zealand will do little to change the climate.

"We account for just 0.17 percent of global emissions," said leader David Seymour.

"As with her Government’s positions on oil and gas exploration, gun laws, and social media, the Prime Minister is more concerned about a global audience than good policymaking.

"But the idea that the United States, China, India and others large emitters will follow our lead on climate change is naïve."

He said cutting emissions will severely damage New Zealand's economy.

Shaw encourages the public to submit on the Bill as it works its way through the select committee process and for everyone to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Government announces Zero Carbon Bill details for fighting climate change
Photo credit: Getty

Path to the Bill

The Government intends to have the Zero Carbon Bill become law by the end of the year, but it's been a long journey for the legislation.

Before the 2017 election, Shaw said he wanted to pass a form of the Bill within the Government's first 100 days. Ardern also called it this generation's nuclear free moment.

Introducing a Zero Carbon Act and establishing an Independent Climate Commission to make progess towards a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050 was a key part of Labour and the Green Party's confidence and supply agreement.

This was also in the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.

More than 15,000 people submitted on the Bill during its consultation stage in 2018, with 91 percent supporting net zero emissions for all greenhouse gases by 2050.

In January, it was revealed that some local councils wanted more evidence proving man-made climate change before they supported the legislation.

Throughout the process farmers have been nervous about the implications for their industry, but environmentalists say it is vital New Zealand takes action now in order to safeguard the planet for future generations.

James Shaw speaking during the climate change rallies on March 15.
James Shaw speaking during the climate change rallies on March 15. Photo credit: Newshub.

On March 15, thousands of New Zealand school students protested a lack of action on climate change, with Government and Opposition MPs hearing their concern and committing to change.