Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says The Zero Carbon Amendment Bill has no ability to enforce its climate change targets.
The Bill, released today, aims to outline a framework for New Zealand to develop climate change policies that contribute to the effort under the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees by 2050.
But Norman says the Bill will have little direct effect because it has specifically written out any mechanism that would hold any person or body to account for not adhering to it.
“What we’ve got here is a reasonably ambitious piece of legislation that’s then had the teeth ripped out of it. There’s bark, but there’s no bite,” he says.
“The Bill sends some good signals until you get to the section at the end that negates everything else you’ve just read. This section states there is no remedy or relief for failure to meet the 2050 target, meaning there’s no legal compulsion for anyone to take any notice.
“The most anyone can do is get a court to make a ‘declaration’ that the Government isn’t achieving its climate goals, but this declaration doesn’t make the Government actually do anything.”
Norman says without a legal mechanism to enforce targets, the only way the Bill could achieve its targets in practise is through public pressure.
“We’re living through a climate emergency and New Zealanders are more prepared now than ever to fight for action on it,” he says.
“We’ve seen a new wave of climate protests taking the world by storm. Millions of students are regularly going on strike from school to pressure their governments to act. Thousands of people have just been arrested after taking part mass civil disobedience in London.
“I think if the New Zealand Government doesn’t get on with stopping polluting activities and backing clean energy, then we’ll see more public protest and civil resistance.”
Regarding the numbers themselves, Norman says the Bill has been watered down by vested interests like the agricultural sector and their allies in National and New Zealand First.
“With a miserly ambition of 10% cuts in methane by 2030 – the gas from our dirtiest industry, dairy – the Zero Carbon Bill is watered-down medicine that lacks the potency to cure the actual ailment we have,” he says.
“We’d hope that the rest of this year would not be spent passing this framework into legislation at the expense of passing meaningful laws to back solar and wind energy, stop the importation of polluting vehicles, reduce cow numbers, end all new oil exploration, and ban synthetic nitrogen.”
Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is added to grass to make it grow faster. More grass means more cows – that means more climate and river pollution.