New Zealand Makes Big Carbon Neutral Pledge

New Zealand lawmakers have approved a bill that commits the country to being carbon neutral in the next three decades. The bill would require nearly all greenhouse gases to be reduced to net-zero by 2050. The bill had sweeping support and passed by a count of 119 to 1.

The new law, called the Zero Carbon bill, provides New Zealand’s government with a foundation for the creation of new climate policies that work towards the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. The international effort under the Paris Agreement aims to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius above preindustrial levels. The pact was signed by 200 nations in 2015.

A big part of New Zealand’s plan is to move away from the use of fossil fuels. The country already generates 80 percent of its electricity from renewables, and that number will climb by 2035 as offshore oil and gas are phased out. The government has already begun shifting its fleet to electric vehicles and is attempting to find ways to transition other vehicles to electric, too.

The plan also includes other greenhouse gas reducing measures. New Zealand has committed to planting 1 billion trees by 2028 and will invest $14.5 billion over the next 10 years into transit, biking and walking infrastructure. The government also has restarted a program to subsidize home insulation. A new Climate Change Commission will advise the government on how to reach its targets.

The Zero Carbon bill gives some leeway to farmers. Agriculture is key to the economy of New Zealand, but it is also the country’s largest single source of greenhouse emissions, accounting for 48 percent of the country’s total in 2017. The country aims to reduce methane emissions from farm animals by 10 percent by 2030 and by between about one-quarter and one-half by 2050.