New Zealand passes historic law to decarbonise economy by 2050


In what is being hailed as a historic moment for the island nation of five million people, New Zealand’s parliament has passed new legislation that commits the country to a carbon neutral economy by 2050. The bill garnered support from both sides of politics, and seeks to ensure future governments also do their bit to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5° C (2.7° F) above pre-industrial levels. First introduced back in May and passed into law on Thursday, the Zero Carbon Bill is designed to put New Zealand on a path to entirely decarbonizing its economy by 2050. Key to this strategy is the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, which will provide advice on the best way to reach this target. Moving forward, future governments of New Zealand will be required to set new emissions budgets every five years, which will serve as stepping stones toward the ultimate objective. The new legislation also requires governments to both understand and act on the risks of climate change – for example, rising sea levels or the loss of flora and fauna. “We have to start moving beyond targets, we have to stop moving beyond aspiration, we have to start moving beyond statements of hope and deliver signs of action,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament on Thursday. “That is what this government is doing, and proudly so.” In implementing what is being hailed as landmark legislation, which drew support from both Adern’s government and the opposition National party to pass 119 votes to one, New Zealand joins just a small handful of nations to commit to net-zero carbon economies through law. Bhutan and Suriname are already carbon negative, while Norway and Sweden have laws in place to work toward carbon neutrality by 2050. France and Britain, which both passed laws earlier this year, were two big additions to the list, while other large countries like Spain and Germany have proposals under consideration. Promisingly, many more have pledged to take climate action under the Paris Agreement, among which 65 countries committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the UN’s Climate Action Summit in September. The United States, the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, this week formally withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord.

New Atlas, 7 November 2019