Last Wednesday, the government set a global precedent with its Climate Change Response Bill, also referred to as the Zero Carbon bill, which aims to help limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius over the next 30 years.
This goal, set out in the bill, seeks to “strike a balance between flexibility and prescription in New Zealand’s long-term transition”.
Its “split gases approach” treats long-lived gases (such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) differently to short-lived gases (e.g. methane).
All greenhouse gas emissions, aside from methane, will need to be reduced to net zero by January 1, 2050. The reduction target for methane, which primarily comes from the agricultural industry, is 10% by 2030.
Climate change professor David Frame said that New Zealand is world-leading in its split gases approach.
“Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide continue to warm as long as you’re omitting any of them, but if methane emissions decline then they’re cooling the climate. So they’re undoing previous warming.”
Spokespeople from organisations like Federated Farmers and Beef + Lamb New Zealand are calling the methane goals unfair and unreasonable.
Frame agrees that the farmers have a good point, “We haven’t really had a public burden-sharing conversation, so farmers will be asked not just to stop their warming from methane, […] but they’re going to be asked to mask everyone else’s’ warming, while everyone else is still driving cars and flying airplanes.”
Jason Young, Political Science and International Relations Professor, said that it’s important for advocates of the bill to continue pressuring these sanctions on individual industries.
“If the regulatory framework is robust and has teeth, New Zealand business will adapt and seize the domestic and international opportunities sustainable business presents.”
“There is a legitimate conversation to be had about what the sea of balance is between sectoral efforts to combat climate change,” said Frame.