Climate change: NGOs demand zero carbon act in open letter to all MPs

New Zealand may not have factories billowing smoke all over the country, but a group of aid groups see we need to ...
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New Zealand may not have factories billowing smoke all over the country, but a group of aid groups see we need to immediately do more to fight climate change.

A group of 14 NGOs have written an open letter to every member of Parliament calling for a Zero Carbon Act to fight climate change.

The group of charities, including heavy hitters like Oxfam, VSA, Unicef, and Amnesty International, believe the New Zealand government is not doing enough to reach its current climate targets, and should be aiming to exceed them.

They point to a recent bump in extreme weather events and describe the Pacific as a "canary in a coal mine" for the rest of the planet.

"In our work with vulnerable communities, particularly in the Pacific, we are already seeing the negative impacts of more extreme weather events, temperature changes, rising sea levels and disease outbreaks associated with climate change," they wrote in the letter.

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"For the sake of these vulnerable women, men and children, we – as a well-resourced developed nation – have a responsibility to act in a bold and meaningful manner."

The proposed law would set a target of zero net emissions of harmful greenhouse gases by 2050 into law, binding future Governments to act decisively to reduce emissions.

It would also set up an independent body to make recommendations to government on how to enact greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Greenhouse gases are the primary cause of human-influenced climate change, which is likely to cause drastic damage to food production, coastlines, and weather in coming decades.

A similar regime exists in the UK and has garnered bipartisan support, and the recommendations of outgoing Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright.

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Oxfam NZ executive director Rachael Le Mesurier said getting consensus between aid agencies was very tough - but on this issue they spoke as one.

She said much of the work in the Pacific that the aid agencies had done with New Zealand taxpayer and charity money would be undone by climate change if things didn't change.

"We're seeing the work we have done being undone by climate change," Le Mesurier said.

"Legislation like a Zero Carbon Act would hold our government accountable. We've got to start now if we're going to have any hope," she said.

She pointed out that between 1990 and 2015 the the UK has reduced its net emissions by 28 per cent while New Zealand's had gone up 64 per cent.

"We need to see concrete plans shows us that that hard stuff - like agriculture - is being talked about."

New Zealand has a somewhat unique emissions profile in that much of the harmful come from farm animals - particularly cows - belching, rather than energy production.

Prime Minister Bill English said he had seen the letter but was happy with how New Zealand was getting on fighting climate change.

"We're happy with where we are on climate change," English said, but said some other policies to fight climate change might emerge before the election. There would not be a major shift from current policy.

"We've signed up to the Paris Accord - that's pretty clear cut, the measurements are published, we have the Emissions Trading System, which is one of most advanced carbon trading systems in the world."

The Paris target, signed up to by the current Government in 2015, commits New Zealand to reducing its net emissions of harmful gases to 57.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. 

"We do understand there is quite a challenge for New Zealand to meet those targets," English said.

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 - Stuff

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