New Zealand has declared a climate emergency, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern telling parliament the symbolic gesture is “an acknowledgement of the next generation”.
Members of parliament voted 76-43 in favour of the motion on Wednesday afternoon, joining 32 other countries that have previously declared a climate emergency.
The pledge reaffirms New Zealand’s commitment to reducing emissions in order to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees, and recognises “the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders, on our primary industries, water availability and public health through flooding, sea level rise and wildfire damage.”
Speaking in parliament, Jacinda Ardern said for the next generation, the climate crisis is “instinctual, it is tangible, it is real”.
“It is about the country they will inherit. And it’s about the burden of debt they will inherit unless we make sure that we demonstrate leadership on this issue,” she said.
“I’m often struck by how deeply personal the climate crisis is to them. We cannot underestimate a generation in angst and full of anxiety over the reality of climate change for them and their generation.
“It is up to us to demonstrate there is a pathway, there is a plan for action and there is a reason for hope.”
Ardern said the declaration was based on science, and was also grounded in a deep sense of responsibility as a member of the Pacific, of which many island nations are under threat from rising sea levels.
As part of the declaration, New Zealand has also committed to making the public sector carbon neutral by 2025. There will be a focus on buying electric vehicles and phasing out the use of coal-fired boilers in public service buildings.
“Requiring the public sector to be carbon neutral within five years highlights the Government’s commitment to leadership on climate change and the urgency of the action required,” Ardern said.
“It’s an important step forward in our plan for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050. The public sector needs to be and will be an exemplar that sets the standard we all need to achieve by 2050.”
“It’s also a call to action for the private sector and it’s great to see so many examples of businesses taking steps to reduce their emissions,” Ardern said.