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Aspects of Climate Change Response Bill could be improved, lawyer group says

23 July 2019

A lawyer climate action group says while it supports the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, there are some aspects which could be improved.

Lawyers for Climate Action NZ Inc has released its submission on the bill.

It says the bill responds to the need for urgent action to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

"But we consider there are some aspects of the bill that could be improved to strengthen New Zealand’s climate change response and provide greater clarity in the operation of the bill."

The group divides its submission into what it says the bill gets right, how it could be improved, and what is missing that ought to be included.

It supports the central pillars of the bill, with a long term (2050) target, five-year budgets, an emissions reduction plan, and an independent and expert Climate Change Commission which has an advisory, not decision-making, role. Framing separate 2050 targets for biogenic methane and other greenhouse gas is also supported.

However, the group says in its current form the bill stifles the potential for the 2050 target and emissions budget to influence decision making under other legislation. Concerns with section 52K are identified.

Inconsistencies with legislation such as the Resource Management Act 1991 and Exclusive Environmental Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 are also noted.

Lawyers for Climate Action NZ say the bill goes too far in excluding the development of judicial remedies for failures to meet the 2050 target or emissions budgets. It recommends deleting proposed new section 52J.

Other proposals include an explicit statement on the consequences of any banking or borrowing, and safeguarding the independence of the Climate Change Commission.

Looking at provisions that should be added to strengthen the bill, the submission says the Commission and Minister should be required to consider international aviation and shipping emissions when preparing emissions reduction plans. The Commission's annual report should record the level of these emissions.

"The bill should provide that the Minister and the Commission must take a precautionary approach to the exercise of their functions, powers and duties," it says.

The group also says the bill should require the Minister to provide a report to Parliament on the introduction of any bill that appears to make the 2050 target or an emissions budget more difficult to achieve. The National Adaptation Plan should also be given the status of a National Policy Statement prepared under the RMA.

Other submissions

The New Zealand Law Society has also prepared a submission on the bill. The Law Society says its submission comments on drafting and technical matters, with the aim of improving the clarity, certainty and practical workability of the bill.

The Human Rights Commission's submission calls for the Government to incorporate a human-rights based approach to its response to climate change through the Zero Carbon Bill.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019