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Govt to kick off zero carbon law consultation

Govt to kick off zero carbon law consultation with view to have bill ready by October

By Paul McBeth

Dec. 18 (BusinessDesk) - The government will kick off a consultation on proposed legislation setting a net zero carbon emissions target for 2050 and establish an independent Climate Commission next year, and wants a bill before the House in October.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw today announced the move at today's post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington, describing it as the "first step towards a zero carbon act". Cabinet today agreed on the process developing the framework, which formed the governing agreement to introduce the new law and set up an independent Climate Commission.

"By the end of this Parliament our goal is to have put in place the framework that will guide our economy towards a net zero emission economy by the year 2050," Shaw said. "We've got a pretty steep curve if we want to hit net zero by 2050, but that's true of the whole planet, right.

"We've been talking about this for a number of decades - I think everyone, not just New Zealand, all around the world, it's time for a little less conversation, a little more action."

The announcement follows the release of several reports last week showing the cost of climate change is still a big unknown, but that it will probably be cheaper to cut emissions rather than adapt to those changes.

Ardern said today's steps tick off the Labour-led administration's goal of setting the zero carbon goal and establishing the commission in its 100-day plan.

The government wants widespread buy-in from all stakeholders, including business, unions, and communities, recognising that the target is a long-term one and requires a transition, rather than an immediate shock.

"For the last couple of decades there's been real lack of clarity there, and it's meant people have been in an unstable environment in which to invest," Shaw said. "We'll be able to provide that level of clarity for industry."

The government will set up an interim commission in March or April next year, which will do much of the background work for when the new climate watchdog is formally established, meaning it can hit the ground running once the legislation is passed in 2019, Shaw said.

That commission will ultimately decide on whether to include agriculture in the emissions trading scheme. It will be tasked with holding the sitting government's to account with five-yearly emissions budgets and offer policy ideas on how to meet those goals.

"The point of the commission is actually there will be an accountability mechanism for government to operate," Shaw said.

Ardern said she will seek support from the Opposition on the bill, saying climate change, like child poverty, shouldn't be bound by the changing political cycle.

"It's got to be less around target setting and moving on to what our action plan is and sticking to it," Ardern said.


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