2 Dec 2020

Climate emergency declaration by New Zealand government includes commitment to 2025 targets

5:22 pm on 2 December 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has committed the government and the public sector to going carbon-neutral by 2025, as she declared a climate emergency.

Ardern has moved a motion in Parliament this afternoon which would see New Zealand join 32 other nations in formally acknowledging the global crisis.

The motion was passed shortly before 4pm, with Labour, the Greens and te Pāti Māori all voting in support, and National and ACT opposed.

It includes a promise to set an example by reducing its own waste and emissions.

"[Parliament will] show leadership and demonstrate what is possible to other sectors of the New Zealand economy by reducing the government's own emissions and becoming a carbon-neutral government by 2025."

Ardern also launched an initiative requiring the public sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

"Government agencies will have to measure and reduce their emissions and offset what they can't in order to achieve carbon neutrality.

"The public sector needs to be and will be an exemplar that sets the standard we all need to achieve by 2050," Ardern said.

The programme also includes an immediate focus on phasing out the largest and most active coal boilers, a requirement for government agencies to purchase electric vehicles and reduce the size of their car fleet, and for a green standard for public sector buildings.

It is backed by the $200 million State Sector Decarbonisation Fund.

"This policy, alongside today's declaration of a climate emergency, serves as a message to the public sector to get our own house in order. It's also a call to action for the private sector and it's great to see so many examples of businesses taking steps to reduce their emissions," Ardern said.

Climate Minister James Shaw said this builds on the progress the government has made over the last three years.

"In our first term, we put in place one of the world's most ambitious frameworks for reducing emissions, including becoming one of the only countries in the world to put in place a legally binding requirement to stay within the threshold of 1.5 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels.

"Now we intend to lead by example by measuring and reporting emissions across government, upgrading to cleaner sources of energy, cutting emissions from transport, and improving the efficiency of our buildings," Shaw said.

The climate emergency declaration notes the "devastating impact" that volatile weather will have on New Zealand, as well as the "alarming trend in species decline".

"Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time," the motion says.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the declaration was "long overdue".

"Tangata whenua have known long that our environment is totally out of balance and for decades have understood the urgency of dealing with climate change", she said.

She called on the government to be bolder and implement tangible policies that "reflect the urgency" of this emergency.

"We must restore balance with the natural world and regenerate our whenua, our wai, our moana and our precious indigenous taonga species.

"We look forward to working with MPs across the house to get these to get these and many more policies across the line and ensure that Aotearoa plays a leading role on the world stage in protecting papatūānuku and taking real climate action", she said.

'Hollow gesture' - National

National and ACT have dismissed the move as a marketing stunt and voted against the motion this afternoon.

Climate Change spokesperson Stuart Smith said National is committed to reducing emissions.

He said declaring a climate emergency was nothing more than "virtue signalling".

"We need to drive our emissions down. A climate emergency won't change our approach to this.

"Declaring a climate emergency is nothing but a hollow, symbolic gesture. It is not worth making if there's no intention to act in the best interests of New Zealanders."

Smith said it was possible to reduce emissions without telling New Zealanders how to live their lives.

"National believes that if we can meet our targets without changing our lives we should. And we can, if we are prepared to do what works to lower emissions," he said.

ACT Climate Change spokesperson Simon Court said the declaration was a "triumph of politics over practical solutions".

"To declare a climate emergency is nothing but a stunt, it's not a solution."

Court said if the government wanted to do something tangible it could do more than just telling civil servants to become carbon neutral.

"It could take ACT's recommendation to amend Parliament's sitting hours. Stop flying MPs all over the country wherever they like whenever they like, because MPs are the only people in the world with an unlimited travel budget," he said.

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