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Youth message on Zero Carbon Act: 'Don't mess this up'

Craig McCulloch, Political Reporter

The young New Zealanders credited with driving momentum for a Zero Carbon Act have implored MPs not to mess it up in the final stages.

James Shaw,
Generation Zero. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Youth-movement Generation Zero last night formally handed over their submission on the proposed law to MPs from the Labour, Green and National parties.

Roughly two years ago, the group began campaigning for legislation to set the country on a path to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Spokesperson Laura Somerset recounted the moment, as she spoke to MPs at the Backbencher pub across from Parliament.

"Two years ago, I was skipping high school to attend the launch ... and praying my parents didn't see my face in the media!"

Since then volunteers had poured "every bit of energy and knowledge and sanity" into calling for the legislation and exploring what it could look like, she said.

Fellow spokesperson Victor Komarovsky said New Zealand had dramatically changed from the divisive landscape just two years ago.

"Look at us here now!" he said.

"We have everyone engaging with this discussion - from businesses of all sizes to the primary industries to engaged citizens and the government."

Generation Zero wanted a bold Zero Carbon Act which covered all greenhouse gases including methane, the advocacy group's submission said.

Ms Somerset called on the MPs to come together and pass the legislation unanimously to ensure it lasted.

"The climate action movement has been driven by young people because we have the most at stake," she said.

"And candidly we ask of politicians - don't mess this up for us!" Mr Komarovsky said. "This is our best shot."

Climate Change Minister James Shaw accepted the submission and said he would personally read it.

The legislation was "directly the brainchild" of Generation Zero, he said.

The government had received more than 9000 submissions on the bill, about 17 times more than usual.

"The vast majority of people think that we need to be much more ambitious on climate change ... we're hearing that message loud and clear."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson noted the need for MPs to work together across the political divide.

"We absolutely have to do that and at the same time, stay ambitious. That'll be the trick for politicians - that we get to a 2050 goal that is meaningful and keep ourselves all together."

National leader Simon Bridges last month pledged to take a bipartisan approach to climate change policy, promising to work with the government to make meaningful progress.

National MP Nicola Willis said she was very hopeful Parliament could find consensus over the bill.

"There is no doubt - and the National Party agrees - that climate change is the biggest environmental challenge of our time.

"It's not a National Party problem. It's not a Labour Party problem. It's not a Green Party problem. It's all of our problem and we need to work together to solve it."

Public consultation closes on Thursday at which point the government will consider the feedback and begin drafting the legislation.

The government hopes to pass the Zero Carbon Bill by the middle of 2019.


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