New Zealand passed legislation to bring carbon emissions to zero by 2050 on Thursday, putting the country at the forefront of climate action around the world.
The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill includes a vast range of initiatives covering all facets of society. The country will pursue 100% renewable energy by 2035, overhaul public transportation, invest in electric cars, plant 1 trillion trees, and stop permitting oil and gas exploration. The country will also put $100 million in a green investment fund to help the transition to a more sustainable society.
“This is a historic piece of legislation and is the centerpiece for meaningful climate change action in New Zealand,” James Shaw, New Zealand’s Minister for Climate Change, said in a statement.
“Climate change is the defining long-term issue of our generation that successive governments have failed to address,” he added. “Today we take a significant step forward in our plan to reduce New Zealand’s emissions.”
The new law recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis facing the planet. Unless all countries adopt reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, the planet will warm beyond the 1.5 degrees mark set by the Paris climate agreement, which would set in motion catastrophic environmental disruptions.
At least 15 other countries have vowed to eliminate carbon emissions. Bhutan and Suriname having already phased out greenhouse gas emissions, while Norway plans to reach this target by 2030.
New Zealand’s new climate plan only covers carbon emissions, which is the gas primarily responsible for climate change, but other emissions like methane and nitrous oxide also need to be phased out to prevent extreme global warming.
Reaching zero emissions means more than replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. It involves fundamental changes to what people eat, how they get around, and where they live.
New Zealand’s climate plan considers the full scope of the problem and could set an important precedent for the world. It’s part of the country’s broader shift toward measuring success by human welfare rather than economic growth. Although achieving a sustainable society would force polluting companies to go out of business, it would also open up countless economic opportunities. On the flip side, continuing down the current path of high emissions and relentless resource extraction could cost the global economy trillions in adaptation and recovery costs in the decades ahead.
“This bill belongs to New Zealand, and together we have ensured law that ensures we shift toward a low emissions country that keeps us all safe,” Shaw said
“The budgets provide the pathway toward the 2050 target, and confidence for New Zealanders that we are moving toward a more climate-resilient future,” he added.