The New Zealand Parliament earned worldwide praise Thursday for its near-unanimous passage of the “historic” Zero Carbon Act, which aims to combat the global climate crisis by reducing net carbon emissions to zero and drastically cutting methane pollution by 2050.
Although spearheaded by the leftist government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the bill was backed by the country’s various political parties and passed 119-to-1. “Today, we have made a choice that I am proud of, that will leave a legacy, and that I hope means the next generation will see that we, in New Zealand, were on the right side of history,” Ardern told Parliament.
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The Zero Carbon Act was crafted to help New Zealand meet the main goal of the 2015 Paris climate accord: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The legislation will create an independent Climate Change Commission to advise the government on meeting its reduction targets, which include slashing methane emissions 24-47% by 2050.
“This is a historic piece of legislation and is the centerpiece for meaningful climate change action in New Zealand,” declared James Shaw, the country’s climate minister. “Climate change is the defining long-term issue of our generation that successive governments have failed to address.”
“We’ve led the world before in nuclear disarmament and in votes for women, now we are leading again,” Shaw said. “The budgets provide the pathway towards the 2050 target, and confidence for New Zealanders that we are moving towards a more climate-resilient future.”
In a series of tweets, Oxfam New Zealand campaigns coordinator Alex Johnston called the bill’s passage a “historic moment, and a huge step-up for the country.”
“Now continues the work to actually cut our pollution, and do that in a transformative and just way,” he added. “But this is a huge win for so many people that have driven this from a concept to piece of legislation.”
Johnston highlighted the work of activists and groups that fought for the legislation, including the youth wings of the Green and Labour parties, the #SchoolStrike4Climate movement, Generation Zero, Action Station, Forest & Bird, World Vision, Tearfund, ChildFund, the Church Climate Network, and WWF-New Zealand.
In a statement celebrating the vote, WWF-New Zealand climate change program manager David Tong said that “we are thrilled Parliament heard our call and passed the Zero Carbon Act. Together, they crossed party lines to unify for our environment.”
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