New Zealand has declared a climate change emergency and committed to a carbon-neutral government by 2025, in what prime minister Jacinda Ardern calls “one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
This week, a motion tabled in parliament recognised 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.” It also acknowledged the “alarming trend in species decline and global biodiversity.”
- After the introduction of the motion, Ardern said that the country must “act with urgency,” adding that “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. It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope.”
- As part of the plan, the government sector will be required to buy only electric or hybrid vehicles, the fleet will be reduced over time by 20% and all 200 coal-fired boilers used in the public service’s buildings will be phased out. Currently, the government has a fleet of more than 15 000 vehicles, of which about 10% are electric.
- While the country also passed the Zero Carbon Act 2019, which commits it to reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, experts say that the country is behind on changes needed. Robert McLachlan, a professor of applied mathematics at Massey University, said that New Zealand was yet to make emissions reductions, pointing to the fact that its emissions have risen by 60% in the last 20 years. Further, the government is yet to introduce carbon-cutting policies that would put the country on the path to decarbonisation.
- New Zealand contributes 0.17% of global emissions but this is high for its size. The country’s biggest source of CO2 emissions is road transport but most greenhouse gases come from agriculture.
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Besides New Zealand, 32 other nations have declared a climate emergency.
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