With one of the most picturesque landscapes on the planet, New Zealand understands the importance of climate action to protect its beauty. In fact, on December 2nd, the New Zealand Parliament passed their biggest ever motion regarding climate change: a formal declaration of a climate emergency and the government’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2025.
The passing of this policy has very important ramifications. Through three main points of action over the next few years, New Zealand is taking legitimate action during this climate crisis. The first goal the country is looking to achieve is the elimination of carbon emissions in the governmental sector. This would be accomplished by the government solely buying electric vehicles, and completely eliminating all 200 of the coal-fired boilers found in public service buildings. In order to guarantee that the public sector can actually implement these changes and succeed, a $141 million legislation is expected to follow up the motion that the Parliament just passed and subsidize the cost of transitioning away from coal-power.
Not only did New Zealand commit to action in its public sector, the country also made even more important nationwide declarations. They released their most impactful and progressive statement so far, by officially establishing and recognizing the global climate emergency occurring. This was a direct result of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishing that emissions need to fall to 45% of 2010 levels by 2023, and reach zero emissions by 2050 in order to avoid a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. New Zealand is not at all the first country to establish this climate emergency either, as 32 countries already have this declaration in place. However, the reason this is so important is because it generates a drive for more intense, hardline solutions to the climate crisis in the future.
In fact, the biggest benefactors of this declaration are the Paris Climate Agreement and the Zero Carbon Act of 2019. The motion passed by parliament also calls for “significant progress on meeting the challenge” listed from the Paris Agreement. The motion also calls for the recognition of the Zero Carbon Act. The reason this act separates New Zealand from almost every other country fighting climate change is that it makes New Zealand one of the first countries to have a zero-emissions goal solidified in its laws. Many of the countries taking initiatives have goals, but haven’t established them in their legislative framework.
Although it’s very important that New Zealand is making these changes and reinforcing their tracks to eliminate emissions, this action is long overdue. Prior to these declarations, New Zealand was severely lacking in any real reductions at all. In fact, out of 43 industrialized nations, New Zealand is one of twelve that have seen emissions increase from 1990 to 2018. Experts describe this negligence as embarrassing and untenable. It’s shocking that President Trump’s policies led to more reductions per-capita than New Zealand. Organization leaders such as Kate Simcock, Greenpeace agriculture and climate campaigner, is skeptical of New Zealand’s ability to maintain these promises. They state that “For Jacinda Ardern’s climate emergency declaration to be more than just words, that means tackling New Zealand’s largest source of climate pollution: agriculture.”
Agriculture comprises roughly 50 percent of New Zealand’s overall emissions, so the world is waiting to see how they can tackle climate change, reduce their emissions and maintain stability in their food production. New Zealand hasn’t been progressive in their climate policies over the last few decades. However, the actions the nation has taken this past week make it one of the most committed countries towards fighting this issue for years to come. If New Zealand progresses and commits to their changes through the Paris Agreement and Zero Emission Policy, they will see significant success in limiting emissions. When other countries see the success that New Zealand can achieve, and how they can pull off a 180 degree turn regarding their climate action, they will follow suit.
Umar Hussain is a high school junior at American Heritage School in Plantation, FL.