A landmark bill that would set a target of zero carbon emissions for New Zealand by 2050 was tabled in the country’s parliament last month. The bill requires the government to reduce biological methane by at least 10 per cent by 2030 and between 24 and 47 per cent by 2050. All other emissions would be reduced to ‘net zero’ by 2050 to limit global warming increases to 1.5 degrees C.

The bill would enshrine greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets into law and force future governments to come up with their own five-yearly plans to meet ‘stepping stone’ targets on the way to the end goal of net zero ‘long-lived’ emissions in 2050. It would also require governments to publish plans on how they will deal with the effects of climate change, such as increased extreme weather, droughts, and sea-level rise. An independent Climate Change Commission would advise the government on future targets.

The main enforcement mechanism envisioned is the Emissions Trading Scheme. However, the bill in its current form does not have an enforcement regime for individual industries.

This bill treats biological methane (whose source is mainly agriculture) differently from all other GHG emissions, a clause for which it has been criticised. While some like the opposition National Party say that the biological methane targets are too high, environmentalists want the country to aim for an overall net-zero emissions without any special treatment for the agriculture industry. New Zealand is a food-producing nation.

According to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the bill was aimed at addressing the ‘long-term challenge of climate change’– the biggest single challenge facing the world.