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Exciting times for New Zealand's Zero Carbon Bill

July 30, 2018

Exciting times for New Zealand's Zero Carbon Bill

The Zero Carbon Bill, a piece of legislation to bring New Zealand’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 is on its way. A public submission process closed on 19th July and saw thousands of New Zealanders make their voices heard on how the Bill should come into law. Just before the close of the submission process, Sustainability Trust hosted an event for WWF NZ to give people information on the Bill — and encourage everyone to make a submission on the Bill. Speakers from WWF NZ, Generation Zero, Forest and Bird, Meridian Energy and Hon. James Shaw (Minister for Climate Change) spoke about the Bill and consultation process. Especially heartening to hear was that a number of sizeable businesses (making up half of NZ’s total greenhouse gas emissions) have pledged to report and meet targets in the Paris Agreement. A consensus appears to have been reached across the community, government and business sectors — that we need to do something — and do it fast.

The shape of the Zero Carbon Act, when passed into law, is likely to include regular carbon budgets as stepping stones to reach net zero emissions. And establishing an independent Climate Change Commission. The Commission will provide expert advice on setting targets, reducing emissions and climate risk. It will also act as independent watchdog and publish progress reports every year, highlighting progress and challenges. While the Act will provide the framework, funding, and law to get Kiwi’s moving — it will continue to be up to us individually and communally to reduce the amount of carbon we burn.

There will be some hard choices to make. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to totally tree plant our way out of our responsibilities to reduce emissions. Some sectors, such as agriculture and transport, need to continue firm action to limit their carbon dioxide and methane emissions. We may all feel the effects of financial levers (such as carbon taxes or higher fuel prices). Over the medium term, these levers will drive our choices to low-carbon alternatives. Government as a levelling force to curb some behaviour has a huge role to play — we won’t all reduce our air miles and trade-in our gas guzzlers without some encouragement! But as individuals, we have tremendous power. Government and business will only act when the public and consumers demand change. With the Bill now progressing into law, it appears the public have spoken. But we need to keep speaking until 2050 and beyond.

There’s no magic involved in reducing the majority of our individual emissions. And for many of us, the most obvious is getting those travel km’s down. Carbon calculators (such as from our partners Ekos) help us work out our household or individual carbon footprint. Often it becomes clear that switching to public transport or Shanks’s pony — and minimising air travel— give the biggest carbon reductions. Reducing energy consumption at home (by insulating, installing efficient heating and lighting), reducing meat intake, and minimising waste are also important. For those emissions that can’t be reduced, offsetting with New Zealand-based tree planting is the final step.

The Zero Carbon Bill is now being discussed internally in Government and will soon go to Select Committee, where the public will also have a chance to speak directly to MP’s. Following this process, the Bill will likely become law by April 2019. The new Zero Carbon Act is a ground-breaking piece of legislation for New Zealand and the result of a tremendous amount of lobbying and hard work by Generation Zero, WWF, Forest and Bird and their many NGO, community, government, and business partners. It is up to us now — to follow through and keep the Government, businesses and ourselves to account.

Phil Squire, Sustainability Trust Chief Executive.





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