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June 4, 2019 | by  | in News |
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How it Works: On the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill

Generation Zero is a grassroots, youth-led, non-partisan climate activist group who decided in 2016 that there had been enough talk; it was time for action. Since then, we’ve been campaigning for Aotearoa to implement a Zero Carbon Act. On the May 8, 2019, this momentous Bill was announced under the name of Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, and on May 21, the Bill passed its first reading 119–1.

 

Currently, Aotearoa’s greenhouse gas emissions are forecast to continue rising, with no plan to stop. Last year, the IPCC gave us all a massive shock when they said we have just over a decade to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial era levels.

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There are four main aspects to the Bill:

 

Net Zero by 2050:

Commits Aotearoa NZ to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  A split gases approach will be taken, so that gases which tend to stay in the atmosphere longer, like carbon and nitrous oxide, will have separate reduction targets to shorter-lived gases like methane.

 

Carbon Budgets:

To ensure this transition to zero carbon is a smooth one, the Bill requires the government to meet five-year interim targets called “carbon budgets”. These are like stepping stones to the 2050 target and are legally binding.

 

The targets will only apply to Aotearoa’s domestic emissions, not our international carbon trading. The Ministry for the Environment says that this will make it easier to monitor our own progress and verify that our transition is on track.

 

Policy Plans:

The government is to develop two policy plans:

  1. A plan to reduce emissions to achieve the carbon budgets and 2050 target.
  2. A plan to address the impacts of climate change such as storms, droughts, floods, and sea level rise. Plans regarding adaptation are really important—the Ministry for the Environment says that “preparedness is crucial to minimising the cost and grief of extreme climate events”.  

 

Climate Commission:

Creates an independent Climate Commission, composed of seven parliament-appointed experts to advise and hold the government to account on targets, policies, and climate risks.

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So here’s a quick rundown on the positives and negatives of the Bill:

 

Positives:

The Bill is written in reference to the 2018 IPCC report that states 1.5 degrees of warming as being our absolute max. (However, in order to fully align with this target, the government will need to create a mitigation plan that would halve Aotearoa’s carbon emissions by 2030).

 

Treating methane as separate from other greenhouse gases is awesome. Not all gases are equal, so we shouldn’t treat them all the same.

 

The targets are ‘kinda’ legally binding. Let’s say that in 20 years, the government has failed to meet the set carbon budgets or the overall net-zero target. The courts are able to review those failures and  make a declaration of that, if they think it’s appropriate. This calls the government out, but is otherwise pretty ineffective. The court can also “award costs” for any breach. But that’s pretty much it.

 

Negatives:

We need a Bill that ensures a transition to a net-zero economy that does not disproportionately affect vulnerable communities. Despite this, the Bill doesn’t address how such communities will be protected.

 

Although there is a clause concerning the Treaty of Waitangi, it’s extremely weak. Under the Treaty, Māori are supposed to be partners in governance with the Crown. The Treaty section of the Bill does not provide for partnership—it’s all about consultation, and “giving consideration” to Māori, which doesn’t come anywhere close. The Treaty of Waitangi should be embedded in the Bill, not sidelined in one paragraph as an afterthought.

 

The methane reduction target should be higher, and be given an exact value. The target set in the Bill is a 24–47% reduction by 2050. This large range creates unwanted uncertainty, especially for those in the agriculture sector. Transitioning to a more sustainable agriculture sector will also be beneficial to Aotearoa’s biodiversity and waterways.

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Overall, the proposed Bill is good, but there’s definitely room for improvement. If we want a piece of legislation that will be effective, enduring, and fair, we all need to submit to the Select Committee about the parts of the Bill we are and aren’t so keen on. And because climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue, support across the political spectrum is vital.

 

So what the HECK is the Select Committee?

 

If you’re not too clued up on the legislative process/didn’t take LAWS 121/took LAWS 121 but didn’t pay attention—don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

 

A Select Committee consists of MPs from all political parties, and is arguably one of the most important parts of the legislative journey. It’s the point at which the public can submit their opinion on the Bill. If the Bill passes through after the first reading, a specialised committee (the Select Committee) accepts oral and written submissions and recommends amendments to the House based on these submissions. The committee usually has six months to hear submissions and issue their report. Once the committee has presented their report, the Bill will progress to its second reading, where the main debate occurs.

 

The Select Committee process opened for submissions on the May 23 and closes on July 16. The Select Committee will report back to Parliament on October 21, 2019.

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How to get involved:

At the Select Committee stage

Your voice is important! The biggest obstacle to the Bill standing the test of time is lack of cross-party support. Some say the methane target is too high (despite it being a science-based approach), and that this Bill would be detrimental to the economy and GDP (despite the effects of climate change being MUCH more costly than the cost of implementing the Bill).

 

The ZCB is inherently public; it will affect society in many different ways and impact on future generations massively, so the Bill needs to reflect all communities. Submissions can be made individually, or through an organisation, like Generation Zero.

 

Elbow your Elders campaign

The voting demographic of the main opponents to the Bill are much older than us, and thus quite dissonant from us. To help fix this, Gen Zero launched a campaign last Friday called ‘Elbow your Elders’. It’s a youth movement that asks us younger people to pester the older people in our lives to care about climate change, to care about this Bill, and to do something about it, so they can help secure our future.

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So that’s our short-but-sweet guide to the Zero Carbon Bill. Hopefully, it’s cleared up any confusion you may have surrounding the Bill and what you can do to help shape it. Visit Generation Zero’s Facebook page to keep updated on the Bill, ask any questions, and find out more about what we’ve mentioned above!

 

Generation Zero Submissions

Email Generation Zero at generationzeroatvic@gmail.com.

There will also be a submission party on June 4, 4–6 p.m. in the Hub, where submissions can be made.

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