Zero Carbon Act 1

PoliticsApril 12, 2017

Vague policies aren’t working. We need a Zero Carbon Act to force real climate change progress

Zero Carbon Act 1

The increasing impact of South Pacific cyclones on our own weather systems are the latest evidence that ‘kick the can down the road’ global warming policies aren’t enough. Lisa McLaren of youth-led climate change organisation Generation Zero explains why they’re campaigning for a legally binding target of net zero carbon by 2050.

New Zealanders are renowned for our number eight wire approach to life. Having grown up on a farm, I’ve dealt with my share of the stuff! Whether from the country or a city, we are a creative, hard-working and resilient bunch. When there’s a problem in front of us, it’s part of who we are to roll up our sleeves and get on with solving it the best way we can.

That’s the story we tell ourselves. And it’s true, mostly. But we’re also notoriously good at avoiding long term planning and solutions, “she’ll be right” is our way of sweeping problems under the carpet. The challenge posed by climate change can’t be dismissed so easily. If we don’t act now, “she won’t be right”.

And it isn’t just a problem for later, it’s already affecting our own backyard. We’ve just come through flooding caused by cyclone activity, and in about a week we will most likely be hit by another cyclone. Just as we are getting to grips with the terrible mess in Edgecombe, we have to brace ourselves for more of the same. If we don’t tackle climate change right now, this will be the new normal, and “she’ll” be anything but “right”.

It’s time we took our number eight wire, can do, innovative mindset, and applied it towards solutions to the most pressing problem of our time – climate change. On Monday, Generation Zero launched a blueprint for a powerful new law that will do exactly that: the Zero Carbon Act.

Generation Zero launch their Zero Carbon Act campaign at Parliament on Monday

We’ve been working on this for the last nine months – squeezed in around our day jobs – with support from several other organisations and experts. We have taken the very successful UK Climate Change Act and modified it to work for New Zealand’s distinct circumstances. We are DIYing it, because we are tired of waiting for politicians to get on with the job.

For the last 20 years in New Zealand, our governments have basically failed to do anything effective on climate change. And we still don’t have a plan. The Zero Carbon Act will drive New Zealand’s action on climate change by locking in a legally binding target – net zero carbon by 2050 – and requiring governments to come up with a plan to get us there. It will also create an independent body to keep tabs on everything, to make sure the plan adds up.

The Act doesn’t prescribe specific policies for cutting carbon pollution – it focuses on the outcomes we need to achieve. It works by requiring future governments to set a series of five year ‘carbon budgets’ on track to the zero carbon target, and then make plans to meet these. It’s up to each government to decide how they want to go about reducing our carbon pollution.

This means that parties across the political spectrum can come together, start thinking beyond election cycles and stop using climate change as a political football. This will mean they have the greatest opportunity to solve our carbon pollution problem. We are asking the next Parliament – not any single party, but the entire lot – to come together to pass the Zero Carbon Act.

Climate change is not going away, unless we do something about it. This is not a “she’ll be right” situation. I’m making a choice – to me this isn’t just scary, it is unacceptable. I’m not going to put my head in the sand and hope it will all go away.

All of us need to let our politicians know that we aren’t going to wait around. We aren’t going to be apathetic, and we are going to demand that they work together to pass the Zero Carbon Act.

Find out more about the Zero Carbon Act and sign our petition to the next Parliament at

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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