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Student welcomes decision in landmark climate lawsuit

New Zealand student welcome’s decision in landmark climate lawsuit

Thursday, November 2 - The Hamilton law student who took the Government to court over its climate emissions targets has welcomed a judgment released today, which puts the onus on the new Minister for Climate Change to go back to the drawing board.

In June, Sarah Thomson, then a 26 year-old law student, took the National-led Government’s Climate Minister to court over the targets, which she said were unambitious and failed to reflect scientific consensus on climate change. The case was the first of its kind in New Zealand.

The Court has found that the prior Minister for Climate Change, Tim Grosser, acted unlawfully by failing to review New Zealand’s climate change targets under the Climate Change Response Act, after publication of an updated UN report on climate change (AR5).

The Court has not however made a formal order requiring the target to be reviewed by the new Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw, because of his indications that a new target is going to be set.

But Thomson says the 2030 target she was challenging still needs to be urgently amended.

She’s now asking Shaw whether he’s prepared to defend his predecessor’s approach when she appeals.

“The new Government’s net zero carbon ambitions for 2050 are great, but time is not on our side. What we really need now is rapid action - we need to know when we’re going to change the 2030 target and how we’re going to get there,” she says.

“Now is the time for the Government to act. We will be appealing this High Court decision, and I’d like to know whether or not Climate Minister James Shaw is prepared to go in front of a judge and defend the emissions targets and faulty reasoning of his predecessor.

“We need to put tangible steps in place, including a far more ambitious 2030 target, to transform into an emissions-free country in the next 30 years.

“This means aligning our target with the best climate science, so we become a world leader on climate action.

“The ball is in the new Minister’s court.”

ENDS

Notes:

The Sarah Thomson case challenged two targets - the target under the Climate Change Response Act and the target under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The Government tried to stop the Court reviewing the Paris targets, but Thomson has been successful in arguing that climate change targets are able to be judicially reviewed.

Although the Court ruled that the Paris targets were not unlawfully set, Thomson remains of the view that the prior Minister’s approach was irrational and that the principles and issues at stake are too important to allow the Paris targets to stand.

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