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Zero Carbon Bill: an opportunity for political courage

Youth climate change campaigners Generation Zero are calling for Members of Parliament to show political courage as the Zero Carbon Bill goes through the crucial Select Committee process.

“The changes made in Parliament over the next few months could make or break the law” said Lisa McLaren, Zero Carbon Act national campaign convener.

“In the face of an escalating climate crisis, the Select Committee must be looking to strengthen the Bill. We need an ambitious and effective law to limit global warming to safe levels, and to protect New Zealand communities from the impacts of climate change.”

Generation Zero, who developed the Zero Carbon Act policy blueprint in 2016, submitted 32 pages of recommended changes to the Environment Select Committee on Friday (https://zerocarbonact.nz/assets/Uploads/ZCB-Select-Committee-submission-July-2019.pdf).

“The Bill reflects many of the core elements of our Zero Carbon Act proposal” said James Young-Drew, Zero Carbon Act policy lead. “It sets science-based targets, establishes an independent Climate Commission, and requires the Government to prepare comprehensive plans to cut emissions and protect communities from hazards like sea level rise.”

“But the Bill is still half-baked in many ways” said Young-Drew. “It contains a number of big loopholes, such as a lack of legal enforceability, and the exclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions.”

“Most concerningly, the Bill fails to match the urgency and scale of the climate crisis,” said Young-Drew. “Long-term thinking is important. But the Zero Carbon Bill needs to drive immediate, transformative change. The next decade is the most crucial part of the journey to a zero carbon economy.”

“New Zealand’s carbon emissions are currently forecast to continue increasing until the mid-2020s. This is utterly unacceptable.”

“The Zero Carbon Bill is a symbol of whether or not this Parliament takes climate change seriously” said Young-Drew. “It’s also a symbol of whether New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, can trust that our political leaders are capable of working together on the biggest issue of our time.”

The Zero Carbon Bill is based on the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008, which passed its Third Reading by 463 votes to 3 against. Widespread public and political support for a more effective law resulted in the UK Bill being strengthened in the final stages of the Parliamentary process. The 2050 emission reduction target was strengthened from 60% to 80%, and the Bill was amended to include international aviation and shipping emissions.

Last month, Theresa May’s Government further strengthened the UK Climate Change Act’s 80% emission reduction target to a net zero 2050 target, covering all greenhouse gases.

“It is imperative that all political parties support a stronger Bill” McLaren said. “Overseas experience shows that cross-party support is vital to the success of a law like this.”

“This is a climate crisis. The Zero Carbon Bill is an opportunity for our elected representatives to show political courage, for the sake of young and future generations”.

The Zero Carbon Bill is expected to be passed into law before the end of 2019. The Bill passed its First Reading by 119 votes in favour to 1 against.

The Zero Carbon Bill is currently before the Environment Select Committee. Generation Zero encourages all New Zealanders to submit for a more effective Zero Carbon Bill before public submissions close tomorrow, Tuesday 16 July 2019.

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