Climate Change in New Zealand: Protecting Natural Resources through the Zero Carbon Act
Posted On 16 April 2023
Climate change is a global issue that affects every country and community in different ways. New Zealand, located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, is no exception. The country is known for its unique flora and fauna and pristine natural resources. However, with the rise of climate change, these resources are under threat. In response to the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, New Zealand has implemented the Zero Carbon Act. This paper aims to examine the effects of climate change on New Zealand’s natural resources and how the Zero Carbon Act is addressing these challenges.
Effects of Climate Change on New Zealand’s Natural Resources
New Zealand’s natural resources, including forests, water, and marine ecosystems, are critical to the country’s economy and culture. However, climate change is affecting these resources in several ways.
New Zealand’s forests are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, and they play a critical role in mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, climate change is causing significant damage to these forests, leading to the loss of biodiversity and decreased carbon sequestration. Rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are causing more frequent and intense wildfires, which are destroying vast areas of forests. In addition, pests and diseases, such as the fungal disease kauri dieback, are proliferating due to warmer temperatures, leading to the decline of native trees and plants.
New Zealand’s freshwater resources are essential for a range of activities, including agriculture, hydroelectric power, and recreational activities. However, climate change is causing changes in precipitation patterns, resulting in more frequent and severe droughts and floods. These changes are affecting the availability and quality of freshwater resources in the country. For example, a recent report by the Ministry for the Environment found that over half of New Zealand’s monitored rivers are unfit for swimming due to pollution, which is exacerbated by drought conditions.
New Zealand’s marine ecosystems are home to a range of unique and endemic species, and they play a critical role in supporting the country’s fishing and aquaculture industries. However, climate change is causing significant damage to these ecosystems. Rising ocean temperatures are leading to coral bleaching and the loss of habitat for marine animals. Changes in ocean chemistry due to increasing carbon dioxide levels are affecting the ability of shell-forming organisms to survive, including the iconic New Zealand paua (abalone) and green-lipped mussels. In addition, more frequent and severe storms are causing damage to coastal infrastructure and erosion of shorelines.
The Zero Carbon Act: Targets and Measures
The Zero Carbon Act sets ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand. The Act requires the country to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050, with an interim target of a 10% reduction by 2030. To achieve these targets, the Act outlines specific measures for reducing emissions from various sectors, including agriculture, energy, transport, and waste.
New Zealand’s agriculture sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, accounting for around 48% of total emissions. The Zero Carbon Act requires the sector to reduce emissions and encourages the adoption of sustainable land-use practices, such as regenerative agriculture and planting of trees and other vegetation. The Act also establishes a fund to support the transition to low-emissions farming practices.
The energy sector is responsible for around 40% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Zero Carbon Act aims to increase the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and reduce the use of fossil fuels, such as coal and gas. The Act also requires the government to develop a strategy for electrifying the transport sector, which is the country’s fastest-growing source of emissions.
The transport sector is responsible for around 20% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Zero Carbon Act encourages the adoption of low-emission vehicles and public transportation, as well as measures to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, such as carpooling and cycling.
The waste sector is responsible for around 5% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Zero Carbon Act aims to reduce waste and encourage recycling and composting. The Act also requires the development of a product steward
Climate change is affecting New Zealand’s natural resources in significant ways, including forests, water, and marine ecosystems. The Zero Carbon Act is a crucial step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change. By reducing emissions and adopting sustainable practices, New Zealand can protect its unique natural resources and contribute towards global efforts to combat climate change.