New Zealand’s Prime Minister has officially launched a ‘zero carbon bill’ that aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from sectors other than farming in the next three decades, and the UK has flagged similar action.
The New Zealand bill includes two targets: a goal of net-zero emissions for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide by 2050; and a gradual phase out of biogenic methane from livestock and landfill.
According to the Guardian, agriculture accounts for 48 per cent of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
During the launch of the bill, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said agriculture is incredibly important to the country, but it also needs to be part of the solution.
“That is why we have listened to the science and also heard from industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane,” Ardern said.
To this end, the New Zealand Government has proposed a 10 per cent drop in emissions of biogenic methane by 2030, and 24 to 47 per cent by 2050, relative to 2017 levels.
Ardern’s government has sought bipartisan political support for the bill, which is due to be presented to Parliament later this year.
Will the UK follow suit?
The UK is also taking a strong bipartisan stance on climate change action, recently becoming the first national government to declare an environment and climate emergency. In 2008, the UK made a legislated commitment to cut greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent (from 1990 levels) by 2050, but there are moves to up the ante.
The UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has announced that the UK government aims to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, but would not adopt the new target until 2045.
Engineering and Technology reported that the CCC’s zero emissions target was based on changes to every part of the economy. Measures include quadrupling the supply of low-carbon electricity by 2050, efficient buildings and low-carbon heating, fully electric vehicles by 2035, carbon capture and storage, and low-carbon hydrogen.
Other proposals are preventing landfill disposal of biodegradable waste, phasing out fluorinated gases, increasing tree planting and reducing agricultural emissions.
The UK’s energy sector is making strides towards this goal, and it recently recorded the first full week since 1882 where coal was not used to generate electricity.
How do Australian policies stack up?
Australia has lacked bipartisan agreement on emissions policy for over a decade, and the major parties have quite different takes on how we should tackle emissions.
The Coalition is aiming to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement target of a 26 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve this, they have committed to fund a $3.5 billion emissions reduction package over 15 years if elected.
Of this funding, $2 billion will be used to pay farmers and other emitters to reduce their greenhouse gas output. Another $1.38 billion will be spent on the massive Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project.
Labor, if elected, will set a higher target of 45 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030, and will adopt the Coalition’s discarded National Energy Guarantee emissions legislation, incorporating this higher target. They are also aiming for 50 per cent renewables by 2030, will subsidise households to install batteries to store solar power, and have set a target for 50 per cent of all vehicles sold to be electric by 2030.
Both major parties support a national hydrogen plan, with Labor pledging $1.14 billion to this end.
One emissions-cutting measure that does have bipartisan political support is writing “substantially updated” energy efficiency standards for buildings into the National Construction Code (NCC).
According to a report by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), actions to reduce emissions from new and existing building could deliver 28 per cent of Australia’s 2030 Paris Agreement emissions reduction target.