New Zealand Declares Climate Emergency as Ardern Pledges Action

Source: By Tracy Withers, Bloomberg • Posted: Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern Photographer: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand’s parliament declared a climate emergency Wednesday, passing a motion tabled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that calls on the nation to take responsibility for future generations and its South Pacific neighbors.

While the declaration is a symbolic statement, it shows that tackling the climate crisis is an important part of the government’s agenda. It records “our intent as a nation” and “acts as a catalyst for change,” Ardern said in a speech in parliament.

A number of countries have already declared climate emergencies, including the U.K. and Japan. Ardern was unable to persuade her coalition partner in her previous administration to support the idea, but now has an outright majority following her landslide election victory in October.

Ardern warned Wednesday of the threat that rising sea levels pose to small Pacific nations, saying the declaration is grounded in a sense of responsibility to those countries. Failure to respond “means consigning our region to a devastating reality,” she said.

She also said young people are “full of anxiety” over climate change and “it is up to us to demonstrate there is a pathway, a plan for action and that there is a reason for hope.”

The government announced today that all public-sector organizations must become carbon neutral by 2025. Measures to assist in attaining the goal will include purchases of electric or hybrid cars to replace the existing government fleet.

In Ardern’s previous term her government passed the Zero Carbon Act, which targets net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and banned offshore oil and gas exploration.