Two countries have already declared themselves carbon negative: Suriname and Bhutan. Image: Paula May/Unsplash
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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.
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.
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.”
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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.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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