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New Zealand: Zero Carbon Bill Introduced

(May 14, 2019) On May 8, 2019, New Zealand’s Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, introduced the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill in the Parliament. (Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, NEW ZEALAND PARLIAMENT (last visited May 8, 2019); Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, New Zealand Legislation website.) The explanatory note accompanying the bill states that its purpose is “to provide a framework by which New Zealand can develop and implement clear and stable climate change policies that contribute to the global effort under the Paris Agreement to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” (Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill: Explanatory Note, New Zealand Legislation website).

The proposed bill was subject to a six-week public consultation process in 2018, with more than 15,000 submissions received by the government during that period. (Ministry for the Environment, Our Climate Your Say!: Summary of Submissions 6 (Oct. 2018). See also Ministry for the Environment, Our Climate Your Say!: Discussion Document (June 2018).)

The Ministry for the Environment states that the bill, referred to as the “Zero Carbon Bill,” will do four key things:

  • Set a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to:
    • reduce all greenhouse gases (except biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050
    • reduce emissions of biogenic methane within the range of 24–47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050 including to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030.
  • Set a series of emissions budgets to act as stepping stones towards the long-term target.
  • Require the Government to develop and implement policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
  • Establish a new, independent Climate Change Commission to provide expert advice and monitoring to help keep successive governments on track to meeting long-term goals. (Proposed Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, MINISTRY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (last updated May 8, 2019).)

In a press release, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern further explains that

“[c]arbon dioxide is the most important thing we need to tackle – that’s why we’ve taken a net zero carbon approach.

“Agriculture is incredibly important to New Zealand, but it also needs to be part of the solution. That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane.

“The split gases approach we’ve agreed on is consistent with that commitment.

“The Bill sets a target for 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050.

“That provisional range will be subject to review by the independent Climate Change Commission in 2024, to take account of changes in scientific knowledge and other developments.

“The independent Climate Change Commission, established by the Bill, will support our emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly “emissions budgets”.

“The Bill also creates a legal obligation on the Government to plan for how it will support New Zealand towns and cities, business, farmers and Iwi to adapt to the increasingly severe storms, floods, fires and droughts we are experiencing as a result of climate change. (Press Release, Jacinda Ardern, Landmark Climate Change Bill Goes to Parliament (May 8, 2019), official New Zealand Government website.)

The Prime Minister invited the public to participate in the parliamentary select committee process for the bill and indicated that it would be passed in 2019. (Id.)

New Zealand has an existing emissions trading system—the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS). The bill’s explanatory note states that this will be “a key tool in meeting emissions budgets and achieving the 2050 target” and that a number of improvements to the NZ ETS will be progressed through the bill, including price-control measures. (Explanatory Note, supra. See also About the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, MINISTRY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (last updated Aug. 13, 2018).)