Zero Carbon Bill: Select Committee submission

 

We are so excited that the Zero Carbon Bill is now in Select Committee! Here is the executive summary of our submission to the Environment Select Committee on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Bill. Full submission here!

 

 

Summary 

Thank you for the opportunity to submit on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill (“the Bill”). 

 

Generation Zero:

  • Strongly supports the Bill’s intent of ensuring that Aotearoa New Zealand’s mitigation contributions are consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C; and

  • Strongly supports the effort to introduce long-term certainty, transparency, accountability and policy coherence to Aotearoa New Zealand’s mitigation and adaptation strategy, in order to drive a transition to a safe, just and thriving zero carbon future. 

 

Generation Zero is concerned that the Bill, as it is currently drafted, will not fulfil these outcomes. We submit that the Bill should be amended as follows:

Honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi:

  • The Bill should affirm the centrality of tikanga Māori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and Māori interests to Aotearoa New Zealand’s mitigation and adaptation strategy. 

 

Align targets with 1.5°C: The Bill should:

  • Require the Commission to determine Aotearoa New Zealand’s 2022-2050 cumulative budget by 2021.

  • Explicitly align the 2050 target(s) and emission budgets with the 1.5ºC purpose.

  • Set a 2030 interim target of a 50% net reduction of non-methane emissions.

  • Set a clear 2050 methane target that aligns with the 1.5ºC purpose.

  • Require negative emissions post-2050.  

 

Eliminate loopholes: The Bill should: 

  • Include international aviation and shipping emissions.

  • Require a gross emissions target, or an offset cap, to be set for each budget.

  • Prohibit or clarify the limit on international credits.

 

Promote accountability and coherence: The Bill should:

  • Be converted into a standalone law with more accessible legislative form.

  • Require that policy plans capable of meeting budgets are prepared at least 5-8 years before the budget begins.

  • Enable the courts to impose remedies on a case-by-case basis (cl 5ZJ).

  • Require government bodies to take targets and budgets into account when undertaking public functions (cl 5ZK).

  • Ensure the transition to a zero carbon economy reflects principles of justice.  

 

Establish an effective Climate Commission: The Bill should:

  • Require the Commission to report to Parliament, not the Minister.

  • Safeguard the Commission’s remuneration and funding.

  • Enshrine the Commission’s right to access government greenhouse gas data.

  • Provide the Commission with a public education mandate. 

  • Require the government to be responsible for publishing the National Climate Risk Assessment, rather than the Commission.

 

Generation Zero and the Zero Carbon Act 

Generation Zero is a non-partisan, youth-led climate organisation that champions solutions towards a carbon neutral Aotearoa New Zealand. We started developing the Zero Carbon Act concept back in 2016. After a year of research and input from climate change experts, Generation Zero released a Zero Carbon Act policy blueprint in 2017. Since then, the Zero Carbon Act concept has gained widespread support across Aotearoa New Zealand. 

 

Climate change is bigger than politics. We need political parties to work together and look beyond election cycles. We need a framework which promotes long-term certainty, transparency, accountability and policy coherence. Generation Zero believes that an effective Zero Carbon Act, backed by cross-party support, is the most important law our current Parliament could legislate.

 

Strengthening the Bill

The Select Committee process is an opportune moment to critically reconsider (a) the Bill’s ambition, and (b) how it can more effectively promote long-term certainty, transparency, accountability and policy coherence. Our submission contains recommendations with respect to both points. 

 

We note that the UK Climate Change Act 2008 (“UK Act”), which passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons by 463 Ayes to 3 Noes, and which has served as a starting point for our Bill, was significantly strengthened as it made its final passage through the Parliamentary process. Sustained demands from both MPs and the wider public for a more effective law, combined with expert advice from the “shadow” UK Committee on Climate Change (analogous to our Interim Climate Committee), resulted in two significant last-minute changes to the UK Bill: 

 

  • Stronger 2050 target: The 2050 long-term target of a 60% all-gas emission reduction by 2050 (from 1990 levels) was increased to an 80% emission reduction target.

  • International aviation and shipping emissions: The UK Bill was amended to take into account the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions.

 

In June 2019, the UK Act was further strengthened by Theresa May’s Government. The UK’s 80% emission reduction target by 2050 was increased to a net zero 2050 all-gas target. 

 

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, more than a decade after the UK first introduced their Climate Change Act, we have a long-overdue opportunity to ensure that our equivalent legislative framework is sufficiently ambitious, as effective as possible, and robust enough to stand the test of time.