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How Is New Zealand Taming The Climate Change Beast?

Summary

  • New Zealand has been taking active and innovative steps to transition the country towards a lower emissions future.
  • The recently introduced climate change law for banks, ban on new coal-fired boilers and the launch of the first zero-carbon travel itinerary reflect NZ’s efforts to combat climate change.
  • The country intends to make its public sector carbon neutral by 2025 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Of late, climate change has emerged as a hot topic in New Zealand, with the nation accelerating its pace to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Recognising the security threats posed by climate change, policymakers have been pulling out all the stops to transition the country towards a lower emissions future.

Climate change is a long-standing problem in Aotearoa, which is becoming more pronounced with an alteration in precipitation patterns, a surge in sea levels, fall in glacier volumes and ocean acidity. A recently released report from the Environment Ministry found that the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased by 2 per cent in 2019, marking one of the larger annual rises in this century.

However, the rise pre-dates coronavirus lockdowns and associated border closures in 2020, which stimulated a fall in the country’s overall GHG emissions. Stats NZ’s latest data suggests a decline of 4.8 per cent in GHG emissions over 2020, backed by a drop in transport emissions amid COVID-19.

Although gross emissions dropped substantially in 2020, the impact of coronavirus is likely to remain short-lived. This calls for effective implementation of new mitigation measures by policymakers to phase out fossil fuels and tackle climate change difficulties.

Having said that, let us browse through three prominent changes recently announced by the government and other regulatory authorities to help combat climate change:

Climate Change Law for Banks

In a first of its kind in the world, New Zealand plans to bring a new law that will require banks, investment managers and insurers to report the effect of climate change on their businesses. The law aims to ensure that financial firms disclose and eventually act against risks and opportunities associated with climate.

The bill has already been introduced to the parliament and is anticipated to receive the first reading soon. If passed, it will make climate reporting mandatory for financial firms by 2023. The entities that will need to make disclosures under the new law include banks with total assets surpassing NZD 1 billion; equity and debt issuers listed on the nation’s stock exchange; and insurers with total assets under management of over NZD1 billion.

The world’s first legislation intends to make the environmental record of the financial firms transparent, allowing the public to assess their performance. Besides, the law seeks to bring climate resilience and risks into the heart of the business and financial decision making.

Ban on New Coal-Fired Boilers

In order to induce transition away from fossil fuels, the government has recently banned the installation of new coal-fired boilers after the end of 2021. Notably, coal-fired boilers are the second-largest source of energy-related emissions in New Zealand after transport.

The ban has been imposed on new medium and low-temperature coal-fired boilers, which are usually used for heating in horticulture and for tasks like drying milk powder and wood. However, the ban excludes high-temperature coil boilers which are commonly used in the steel industry. The government is further proposing to remove existing coal boilers by 2037 and phase out the use of other novel fossil fuel boilers.

The recent ban on coal-fired boilers has evolved as a significant boost to the clean energy sector and is expected to make a real difference to the country’s emissions profile. Besides, these coal-boiler initiatives have placed Kiwi Land in good stead to attain the objective of a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025.

First Zero-Carbon Travel Itinerary

Giving a chance to visitors to have a ‘holiday from guilt’, Kiwi Land’s first zero-carbon travel itinerary has been introduced in the Nelson Tasman region. Launched by Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA), the four-day itinerary brings together delectable cuisine, extraordinary experiences, spectacular scenery, and comfortable accommodation in one place.

Interestingly, the 14 businesses on the travel itinerary had been provided with the zero-carbon seal of approval. These committed zero-carbon business operators will take responsibility for carbon emissions on travellers’ behalf, helping them have a guilt-free holiday.

In a nation where every small carbon footprint counts, the move is a great way to embrace conscious travel through responsible business operators.

No doubt, New Zealand is taking unique and innovative measures to address climate change difficulties, in line with its zero-carbon goals. However, these policy actions are unlikely to return favourable results in the short run owing to the slow reaction process. Thus, the current scenario calls for the implementation of more radical, rapid actions on the part of policymakers to manage risks around climate change.

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