New Zealand Law Society - Majority recommends passage of Climate Change bill

Majority recommends passage of Climate Change bill

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Parliament's Environment Committee has released a report on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill and has recommended by a majority that it be passed with amendments.

The bill would amend the Climate Change Response Act 2002 with the purpose of establishing a framework that New Zealand can use to develop clear and stable policies which contribute to the effort to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels under the Paris Agreement.

As introduced, the bill would set a new greenhouse gas reduction target which would require:

  • Gross emissions of biogenic methane to be reduced to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030;
  • Gross emissions of biogenic methane to be reduced to at least between 24 percent and 47 percent below 2017 levels by 2050;
  • Net emissions of all other greenhouse gases to be reduced to zero by 2050.

The bill would also set up a Climate Change Commission, an independent body which would advise and support successive Governments to reach the 2050 target. It would require the Government to set emissions budgets every 5 years that would act as stepping stones towards the 2050 target. The bill would also establish a range of measures to help New Zealand adapt to climate change.

The committee recommends amending the purpose of the bill to include adaptation in the purpose statement. It says this would reflect the bill's adaptation requirements and clearly signal that adaptation is a crucial part of New Zealand's climate change effort.

It also recommends amending the clause on the role of the Climate Change Commission to clarify that its role is to provide advice on "mitigating climate change" rather than "mitigating the effects of climate change".

Other proposed amendments include:

  • Making the consultation requirements for emission budgets stronger and clearer;
  • Giving the Commission the power to request information about climate change adaptation from listed reporting organisations;
  • Tightening the rules around public disclosure of information obtained through adaptation reporting powers;
  • Clarifying that the target for biogenic methane and all other greenhouse gases would be met if emissions reductions meet or exceed what is required by the target, and allowing the Commission to recommend a change to the form of the target;
  • Constraining the use of offshore mitigation to better prioritise domestic emissions reductions;
  • Requiring the Commission to undertake a target review in 2024 to advise on whether emissions from international aviation and shipping should be included in the 2050 target and future emissions budgets;
  • Including a reference to New Zealand's obligations under the Paris Agreement in the section setting out the purpose of emissions budgets, with the objective of strengthening the obligation to consider the global response to climate change;
  • Clearly stating timeframes for preparation and publication of an emissions reduction plan by the Minister;
  • Requiring Parliament to consider whether it agrees that emissions budgets are policy documents that warrant parliamentary scrutiny. If it does agree, requiring it to consider the most appropriate and effective means by which Parliament could hold the Government accountable for the content of an emissions budget;
  • Repealing section 224 of the Climate Change Response Act.

A minority view from the National Party specifies the changes it seeks to the bill.