Climate change bill is a step in the right direction

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Stuff.co.nz 2019-05-08 Link

EDITORIAL:  The key word is "consensus". That word took a prominent place when Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced on Wednesday that the long-awaited Zero Carbon Bill represented "the best possible political consensus across New Zealand" in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After the non-event of the Capital Gains Tax, an underwhelming report on welfare, a tough battle to come on cannabis and a growing sense that the coalition's "year of delivery" was turning into a year of disappointment, Shaw's Green Party desperately needed a win on climate change. The Zero Carbon Bill, which has the backing of all three coalition parties, is that win.  In the two years since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described climate change as her generation's nuclear-free moment, the situation has only grown darker. Six months have passed since the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said we have 12 years to keep global warming within 1.5C to avoid the worst effects of climate disaster. The UK Parliament recently declared a climate and environment emergency.  If you live in a city targeted by Extinction Rebellion's poster campaigns, you may feel the climate apocalypse has already arrived. Pessimism can easily turn into hopelessness.  READ MORE: *  Youth climate group excited their climate law brought to life *  Landmark climate change bill goes to Parliament *  Details of how the Govt will fight climate change to finally be revealed *  'Life-altering' changes needed to avoid the worst of climate change *  National Portrait: Bronwyn Hayward - Accidental Activist The Zero Carbon Bill is a positive step towards hope and a workable compromise. Political parties that do not support it risk being on the wrong side of history.  The bill sets a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The controversial exception to the rule is biological methane emitted by cows, where a target has been set of 10 per cent reductions on 2017 levels by 2030, and a provisional target of between 24 and 47 per cent by 2050.  It is understood the so-called "split gas" approach came from meetings between Shaw and NZ First, with the latter representing the concerns of farmers. A pragmatic balance has been struck between the need to respond meaningfully to the climate crisis and the need to preserve New Zealand's agricultural economy. Agriculture contributes nearly half New Zealand's emissions, 48.1 per cent. Biological methane alone is 35 per cent.  We are hearing arguments from the agricultural sector that the methane targets are too high. Federated Farmers has warned it sees the targets as "frustratingly cruel". Shaw has argued the 10 per cent drop by 2030 is indeed challenging but achievable without a cull of livestock. The billion dollar question is whether cuts of between a quarter and a half of emissions will require dramatic herd reductions or whether new technologies will come onstream to make at least some of the difference.  The numbers will be questioned and scrutinised further in coming months. The agricultural sector tends to favour 10-22 per cent as the final target, the ballpark target suggested by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton in 2018.  At the other end of the spectrum, Forest and Bird has accused the Government of offering farmers special treatment and Greenpeace worries the new legislation is "toothless" when it comes to the enforcement of targets.  There is a school of thought that being criticised from both sides means you probably have the mix about right. From the perspective of environmental activists such as Generation Zero, the bill is only a first step. The Greens would surely agree. But in terms of what is politically achievable in New Zealand in 2019, the bill is good enough for now.  © 2022 Stuff Limited