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Explained: What is New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Law, what does it aim to achieve?

According to the New Zealand government, this is the first legislation in the world to make a legally binding commitment to living within 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming.

Written by Mehr Gill , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: November 10, 2019 5:24:48 pm
New Zealand, New Zealand Zero Carbon law, The Zero-Carbon Act, Jacinda Ardern on Climate Change, New Zealand Climate change, indian express explained New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks in Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. New Zealand lawmakers joined forces across the aisle to pass a bill aimed at combating climate change. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

On Thursday, New Zealand’s Parliament passed The Zero-Carbon Act, which will commit New Zealand to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, as part of the country’s attempts to meet its Paris climate accord commitments.

The Act is not a separate legislation but is an amendment to the existing Climate Change Responses Act, 2002.

According to the New Zealand government, this is the first legislation in the world to make a legally binding commitment to living within 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming.

The legislation was supported by parties on both sides of the political divide.

“I absolutely believe and continue to stand by the statement that climate change is the biggest challenge of our time,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Parliament.

“In April this year, tens of thousands of New Zealand school students went on strike to protest the failure of adults to take decisive action over the last 30 years. This Bill presents our plan for how we act over the next 30 years, to safeguard their future – and that of their children,” Climate Change Minister James Shaw said in a statement earlier.

The Bill was introduced in May 2019.

Context of the law

According to New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment, the country is well positioned to undertake steps to mitigate climate change. Its capacity to generate electricity from renewable resources is at 80 per cent, and it is working towards phasing out the use of offshore oil and gas.

Additionally, the government is working towards investing over $14.5 billion to better its public transport system and walking and cycling infrastructure over the next 10 years.

The government anticipates that GDP and household incomes in New Zealand will continue to rise, minimising the cost of adapting to climate change for the citizens.

The law

The idea for the bill was first proposed by the youth-led climate organisation Generation Zero, who proposed and popularised the Bill before the 2017 New Zealand general elections.

The Act is titled Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act, and provides a framework by which New Zealand will be able to develop and implement climate change policies in line with the Paris Agreement to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius.

Originally, the idea was to propose a separate legislation under The Zero Carbon Bill, but the country’s government decided to introduce an amendment to the existing Climate Change Responses Act 2002 such that all climate change legislation remains under one Act.

The key aims of the Act include: reduce all greenhouse gases (except methane) to net zero by 2050, reduce emissions of biogenic methane (produced from biological sources) up to 24-47 percent below 2017 levels by 2050 and to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030, establish an independent Climate Change Commission and establish a system of emissions budget.

The Act proposes separate targets for biogenic methane because methane is a short-lived gas and degrades into the atmosphere over the decades even though it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, according to the Ministry for the Environment. Biogenic methane is emitted by livestock, waste treatment and wetlands.

Climate change Legislation around the world

According to Carbon Brief, there has been a 20-fold increase in the number of global climate change laws since 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was signed.

Globally, there are over 1500 laws on climate change, over 100 of which were introduced after the introduction of the Paris Agreement and over 28 of them explicitly reference the agreement.

The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment include the phase 2 of India’s Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme, incentives to which were mentioned in the Union Budget 2019-2020.

As per a policy brief released by the institute in May 2018, all 197 signatories to the Paris Agreement have at least one law or policy on climate change. The focus of most of this legislation includes energy, followed by climate change/low carbon transitions.

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