New Zealand has joined an elite group of countries that has enacted emissions-target legislation, aiming to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.

The new law commits the country of 4.9 million people to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It also legislated for a reduction in methane emissions in the range of 24% to 47% in the same timeframe.

In addition, it will create an independent climate change commission to advise the government on the action that should be taken to meet environmental commitments.

New Zealand is the fifth country pass laws to curtail carbon emissions. The others are Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, and Scotland, which passed its own law pledging to reach net-zero five years sooner than the rest of the UK. And two countries have already declared themselves carbon negative: Suriname and Bhutan.

New Zealand passed a law to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The emissions omission

Between 1850 and 1999, 1,010 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions were released due to man-made activity. Since 2000, approximately half as much has been released, emphasizing the urgent need to curtail carbon emissions.

Chile and Fiji have proposed legislation similar to the law passed in New Zealand. In Fiji, a bill has already been outlined and is expected to come into force soon. If it does, it will also ban single-use plastic bags from 2020.

How much carbon dioxide have we released to date?
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But more support needed

Although the climate crisis routinely makes headlines, the international response has been mixed. Apart from the countries already mentioned, nine others have stated their climate commitments in policy documents, and about 15 have a government minister with responsibility for climate concerns.

Activist Greta Thunberg railed at members of the United Nations in a speech during September’s Climate Summit: “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

But currently, fewer than half the world’s countries stand behind that line. In addition to the small number of nations that have enacted or proposed legislation, developed policies or appointed government ministers, around 50 nations are still discussing their targets.

New Zealand’s legislation is based on the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, with two significant changes. The first: the act only applies to New Zealand’s domestic emissions. It will not take into account any carbon trading initiatives, for example. The second: it will operate separate targets for long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, and short-lived gases such as methane.