International Case Studies

The Zero Carbon Act is based on a proven concept: the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act. Since the UK Act was created, many other countries have introduced similar laws.

The trend is clear - the world is moving towards a zero carbon future, and climate laws have a key role to play.

Which other countries are doing this?

Laws similar to the UK Act have been introduced in a range of countries. This includes Denmark, Finland, Mexico and Ireland, as well as states and provinces in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Here are three recent developments:

  • Australia: The state of Victoria recently passed a Climate Change Act 2017, committing Victoria to net zero emissions by 2050.

  • Sweden: The Swedish Government has announced it will introduce a new law in 2017, committing Sweden to net zero emissions by 2045.

  • Scotland: The Scottish Government is planning to update its Climate Change Act target, from an 80% reduction by 2050 to a more ambitious target. One option is a 90% reduction of all greenhouse gases, including a net zero carbon target, by 2050.  

Is the UK Climate Change Act working?

Yes. Since the Climate Change Act was introduced in 2008, the UK has met its carbon budgets. UK’s CO2 emissions have fallen 28% in this period, and are now at their lowest levels since 1894.

The UK Act sets a 2050 target of reducing emissions by 80%, below 1990 levels. The UK met its first carbon budget (2008 to 2012) and is on track to outperform on the second (2013 to 2017) and third (2018 to 2022), according to the UK Committee on Climate Change.  

To date, the UK Government has accepted all of the carbon budgets recommended by the UK Committee on Climate Change. The most recent is the fifth carbon budget (2028 to 2032), which requires emission reductions of 57% below 1990 levels. The UK Government is due to release a policy plan in 2017, which will put the country on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

For more information on the UK Act, read our International Case Studies paper.

Does the UK Act have cross-party support?

Yes. It was passed in 2008 with only three MPs voting against it, and maintains support from all parties except for UKIP. The UK Act was passed following widespread public demand for action on climate change.

A draft Climate Change Bill was first developed by the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth UK in 2005. This Bill was widely promoted in a public campaign called The Big Ask. At the height of The Big Ask campaign in 2007, over 60,000 UK citizens had called or written to their local MP asking them to support the Bill — this equated to one person contacting an MP every 8 minutes.

The Bill was championed by David Cameron and the Conservative Party while they were in opposition, and proceeded through Parliament with overwhelming cross-party support.

For more details about how the UK Act was created, read our International Case Studies paper here.



Will the UK Act work in New Zealand?

The UK Act is a useful starting point. It is a proven framework with strong features. The Zero Carbon Act blueprint is based on the UK Act, but we have made changes to better suit New Zealand’s circumstances.

A Zero Carbon Act based on the UK Act will drive meaningful climate change action in New Zealand. It will give teeth to our targets, provide greater certainty for businesses and other stakeholders, enhance transparency and accountability, ensure the availability of expert advice, and help to safeguard our transition to net zero carbon from the fluctuating whims of politics.

However, we propose multiple changes to the UK Act to suit New Zealand’s circumstances. Two major changes include:

  • The Two Baskets Approach: The Zero Carbon Act will set separate targets and pathways for long-lived greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) and short-lived greenhouse gases (mainly methane). Long-lived gases must go to net zero by 2050 or sooner (accounting for carbon sinks). Short-lived gases must be significantly reduced to sustainable levels, but not zero.

  • The Firewall Principle: The targets in the Zero Carbon Act will apply to New Zealand’s domestic emissions only. This will create a ‘firewall’ between domestic action and international carbon trading, to ensure our own zero carbon transition is on track.

Read our international case studies paper

As part of the process of developing the Zero Carbon Act blueprint, we have reviewed climate change laws from other countries. Our international case studies paper contains detailed descriptions of the Climate Change Acts from the UK, Victoria (Australia) and Ireland, and highlights the lessons for New Zealand.  

You can download the paper here.