On October 5, you may have seen New Zealand’s ratification of the Paris Agreement making a few headlines. The European Union and Canada promptly followed our lead, and the agreement will now come into force on 4th November. However you may, as many have, wondered exactly what that means.
The Paris Agreement is the most comprehensive agreement on climate change ever reached. 197 countries have committed to reducing their emissions to keep the earth’s temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.
New Zealand is playing our part. Ratifying early means we contribute to the 55 per cent of global emissions needed to bring this incredibly important climate change agreement into force. While we only make up 0.16 per cent of global emissions, one of the best things we’ve done as a global citizen is helping ensure the Paris Agreement gets over the line.
New Zealand’s first target under the Paris Agreement, to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, is both fair and ambitious.
It will not be easy. Our target will be met through a combination reducing emissions, planting more trees and trading in high integrity international carbon markets.
This government has a plan. Agriculture is responsible for almost half of our greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we are a leading member of the 46 country Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and invest $20 million per year in research on reducing agricultural emissions. Ag Research and other government agencies have also been working on boosting our emerging sheep dairy industry exports, an exciting sustainable alternative.
We are also focused on increasing the uptake of electric vehicles, record levels of spending on public transport, and a programme of urban cycleways throughout the country.
We have a target of 90 per cent renewable electricity by 2025, and are well on our way with 81 percent currently. That means that 81% of all the energy we produce comes from sources that keep renewing themselves (hydro power from our rivers, power from wind farms, steam from our geothermal stations).
New Zealanders might not always agree on issues such as what level our targets should be, or how best to include things such as agriculture, however I think we can all agree that as a country, we can and must do more.
Ratifying the Paris Agreement is a good way to show our strong commitment internationally, but the real work happens at home. I think we’re on the right track to finding better ways to live and leave this world for future generations.