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New Zealand passes landmark climate bill, sets zero-carbon goal

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This past May, New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister James Shaw introduced a landmark climate bill. And this week, the country’s Parliament finally signed the bill into law, with unwavering support from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The Zero Carbon Bill passed 119 votes to one, with lawmakers across every side of the political aisle throwing their support behind the bill. The bill cements New Zealand as a leading nation in the fight against the climate crisis (which a group of 11,000 scientists just dubbed a “climate emergency”) — here’s what the Zero Carbon Bill means for the country of 5 million people.

As reported by The Guardian, the legislation sets official goals for New Zealand to produce zero carbon emissions by 2050, and to help keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as dictated by the Paris agreement. The bill also dictates that New Zealand will form a Climate Change Commission that will "establish the targets that we need across the spectrum, and will provide for us advice on issues like methane,” as per News Hub.

Arden is determined to make New Zealand a climate leader, and to set an example for New Zealand’s Pacific neighbors, according to News Hub. 

“We’re here because our world is warming. Undeniably, it is warming,” Ardern said during the debate on the Parliament floor. “And I’m proud, at least, that 10 years on from when I first sat right over there,” she continued, pointing to where the MPs sit,” we're no longer having the debate over whether or not that is the case — we're merely debating what it is we do about it.” 

She continued her speech by pointing out that it’s undeniable that the climate emergency is affecting not only ecosystems across the Earth, but also public health matters such as the spread of diseases and clean water sources. “What side of history will we choose to sit on in that moment in time?” she posed. “Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time … this is our nuclear moment.”

What’s interesting is that Shaw was confident that the bill would pass — what he wasn’t so confident about was getting near-unanimous approval. As reported by the New Zealand Herald, Shaw worked hard to attain bipartisan support, especially from the National Party, the country’s political party on the center-right. At the eleventh hour, the party’s leader Simon Bridges announced that his party was supporting the bill.

However, after the vote, Bridges posted a video to the National Party’s Twitter page, listing seven changes his party intends to make to the bill in the first 100 days. Some of the things he listed are already included in the bill, Ardern said — for example, deferring to scientists and the Climate Change Commission rather than politicians when it comes to climate knowledge, noted News Hub.

It’s refreshing to see the leader and climate leader of a country take strong political action to protect the planet. The next step will be for other countries to follow New Zealand’s example and start taking the climate crisis seriously — hopefully we will see more of that in the near future.

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