Youth lead­ing cli­mate change ac­tion

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - GORD STE­WART

If you want some­thing pro­foundly im­por­tant ac­com­plished, here’s a recipe for suc­cess: Get young peo­ple to do it. And don’t pay them.

That seems to be the case with cli­mate change ac­tion and the pro­posal for a Zero Car­bon Act. Per­haps it’s enough for them just to know their fu­ture de­pends on it.

Gen­er­a­tion Zero launched its blueprint for a Zero Car­bon Act at Par­lia­ment in early April. Es­tab­lished in 2011, Gen­er­a­tion Zero is a na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion of young peo­ple com­mit­ted to rais­ing aware­ness about cli­mate change is­sues and propos­ing prac­ti­cal solutions.

Their Zero Car­bon Act is a re­sponse to the Paris Cli­mate Ac­cord, an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment to limit warm­ing to be­low 2°C above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els. This will re­quire global CO2 emis­sions to reach net zero by early in the sec­ond half of the cen­tury, along with deep cuts in other green­house gas emis­sions.

The UK Cli­mate Change Act, passed in 2008, is proof that such an ap­proach can work. It al­lows politi­cians of all par­ties to think be­yond elec­tion cy­cles and work to­gether for a com­mon cause. CO2 emis­sions have fallen 28 per cent since the act was passed, to a level last ob­served in 1894.

Sim­i­lar le­gal frame­works are now in place in Fin­land, Den­mark and Ire­land, and in sev­eral ju­ris­dic­tions in the US, Aus­tralia and Canada. Swe­den will soon join in.

What would the pro­posed Zero Car­bon Act en­tail? It would com­mit New Zealand to zero car­bon by 2050, set a legally bind­ing path­way to reach the tar­get, and re­quire the Gov­ern­ment to make a plan.

It would set sep­a­rate tar­gets for long-lived green­house gases (like car­bon diox­ide and ni­trous ox­ide) and short-lived ones (mainly meth­ane). Sen­si­tive to the par­tic­u­lar im­pacts on agri­cul­ture, short-lived gases would have to be re­duced to sus­tain­able lev­els, but not zero.

The Act would re­quire the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­de­pen­dent Cli­mate Com­mis­sion which would pro­vide the Gov­ern­ment with ad­vice on tar­gets and po­lices – and hold it ac­count­able. This last point is cru­cial as the Ac­cord al­lows for vol­un­tary na­tional emis­sion re­duc­tion tar­gets.

New Zealand’s cur­rent re­duc­tion tar­get would see global warm­ing likely ex­ceed a cat­a­strophic 3-4°C if all other coun­tries had a sim­i­lar level of com­mit­ment. In spite of this, Min­is­ter of Cli­mate Change Is­sues Paula Ben­nett has called our re­duc­tion tar­get ‘‘fair and am­bi­tious’’.

Ben­nett has also said that an in­de­pen­dent Cli­mate Com­mis­sion – which would en­sure ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency – isn’t nec­es­sary. She has trot­ted out cur­rent and planned Gov­ern­ment ac­tions in re­sponse to a cli­mate change law­suit be­ing taken against the Gov­ern­ment by Hamil­ton stu­dent Sarah Thomson.

It would be great if the stated ac­tions ac­tu­ally worked. Nine years un­der a Na­tional Gov­ern­ment and our green­house gas emis­sions only con­tinue to rise.

I’m all for the Zero Car­bon Act. Cli­mate change ac­tion is too im­por­tant to leave to whether the Gov­ern­ment-of-the-day cares or not.

Gord Ste­wart.

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