New Zealand declares Climate Emergency with reform measures

Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, December 2, 2020

                    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moving the Climate Emergency Declaration in Parliament                on December 2, 2020 (TVNZ Screenshot)

 The New Zealand government has declared that the country is now in a state of emergency on Climate, vowing to reduce carbon neutrality over the next five years.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern introduced the ‘Climate Emergency Declaration,’ in Parliament today (Wednesday, December 2, 2020), which was carried by majority.

Labour has a full majority of 60 seats in the 120-member house, and with the Greens (ten seats) and Maori Party (two seats) supporting the Declaration, the emergency measure was easily carried.

Major initiative towards 2025

Ms Ardern outlined a major new initiative to combat climate change that will require the public sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

“The Carbon Neutral Government Programme will require public sector agencies to measure and publicly report on their emissions and to offset any they can’t cut by 2025,” she said.

She said that the government will provide $200 million from the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund to finance the replacement of public sector coal boilers, with the largest and most active the immediate focus, and support the immediate purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles to start replacing the Government’s petrol car fleet.

Target for public sector

“Requiring the public sector to be carbon neutral within five-years, highlights the government’s commitment to leadership on climate change and the urgency of the action required. Government agencies will have to measure and reduce their emissions and offset what they cannot in order to achieve carbon neutrality. It is an important step forward in our plan for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050,” she said.

Ms Ardern set year 2050 as the target for the public sector to achieve the Declaration objective.

“This policy, alongside the declaration of a Climate Emergency, serves as a message to the public sector to get our own house in order. It is also a call to action for the private sector and it is great to see so many examples of businesses taking steps to reduce their emissions,” she said.

She said that action on Climate Change is a priority for the Labour government and forms an integral part of the national Covid Recovery Plan.

“We need to seize the advantages of a climate-focused recovery and the economic prosperity such a strategy offers,” she said.


Climate Change Minister James Shaw speaking on the Motion in Parliament on December 2, 2020 (RNZ Picture by VNP Daniela)

 Ambitious plans coming

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said that the Climate Emergency Declaration will be backed with ambitious plans to reduce emissions.

“Our Government has put New Zealand at the forefront of climate action over the last three years. Declaring a climate emergency and backing this with long-term action to reduce emissions shows that we intend to stay there,” he said.

Next year, the Government will agree the first three emissions budgets required under the Zero Carbon Act, publish an emissions reduction plan to meet these budgets, consider updating New Zealand’s target under the Paris Agreement, and adopt a plan to meet our international obligations for the period 2021-2030.

Work underway

Work on each of these is already underway.

Earlier this year, Mr Shaw tasked the independent Climate Change Commission with developing advice on whether New Zealand’s international commitment is sufficiently ambitious, advising the government on the scope and extent of the first three domestic emissions budgets.

“The immediate steps that are being taken to deliver on the Climate Emergency Declaration will show the government leading by example. Then, next year, we will act on the Climate Change Commission’s independent, expert advice and set out how we will cut global warming emissions across the rest of the economy. This will ensure we are playing our part to cut global emissions in half by 2030, which will be particularly crucial in the run up to the Global Climate Summit in Glasgow next year,” Mr Shaw said.

The steps that will be taken next year are possible only because during the last term, the government put in place the policy and institutional architecture necessary to take long-term, meaningful action to cut emissions, he said.


From Green Party (Twitter)

According to Mr Shaw, this included passing the Zero Carbon Act, making New Zealand one of the few countries in the world to put the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels into law. 

“Our priority this term is to put these mechanisms to work to build a zero carbon New Zealand that meets the needs of people, communities and the planet. As we accelerate our economic response to Covid-19, this will not only create a better future for our children and grandchildren but help bring new economic opportunities in low carbon industries, and create good, well-paid jobs across the country,” he said.

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