On December 2, New Zealand declared a climate-change emergency and committed to a carbon-neutral government by 2025. A motion tabled in the country’s Parliament recognised ‘the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders, on our primary industries, water availability, and public health through flooding, sea level rise, and wildfire,’ with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calling climate change ‘one of the greatest challenges of our time.’ The motion passed Parliament by 76 votes to 43.

The commitment to become carbon-neutral is applicable to its public sector. Government agencies will have to measure and report emissions and offset any that they cannot cut by 2025. They will be required to buy only electric or hybrid vehicles, with the fleet reduced over time by 20 per cent, and all 200 coal-fired boilers used in the public service’s buildings will be phased out. The programme will be backed by a NZD 200 million ($141M) fund to finance replacing the boilers and help purchase electric or hybrid vehicles.

New Zealand now joins 32 other countries that have declared a climate emergency, including Japan, Canada, France and the United Kingdom. In a statement, Ardern said this: ‘This declaration is an acknowledgement of the next generation. An acknowledgement of the burden that they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now. It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope.’ 

The Zero Carbon Act 2019, which set up a Climate Change Commission that was responsible for putting the country on a path to net zero emissions by 2050, made New Zealand one of the few countries to have a zero-emissions goal enshrined in law. However, of the 43 industrialised countries, New Zealand is among 12 that have seen net emissions increase between 1990 and 2018. It is to be seen what specific policies are taken up by Ardern’s government to cut carbon emissions significantly.