The Zero Carbon Bill is an interesting piece of legislation that has recently been introduced with the goal of it going to a Select Committee in the latter half of this year and becomes law by the end of the year. As with any significant change in law that will have very real and far-reaching effects in society and industry, it is important to understand its fine-print and how it will play out in life now and in the future.

Perhaps the first admirable notion of the Bill is its development to promote bipartisan support that depoliticises its goals so the torch can be borne by future governments, regardless of political agenda or voter bias. It is a national issue that we all face, regardless of belief, background or bias.

The Zero Carbon Bill sets out to describe what “greenhouse gases” are culpable in climate change and to distinguish between them when drafting targets to optimise actions so progress is realistic, achievable and sustainable. The Bill recognises that nearly half the country’s emissions derive from agriculture which is dominated by methane (a short-lived gas that lasts decades). The other gases of concern, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, are long-lived (lasting centuries). Due to the variable natures of these gases, what they result from and the effects of omission on the economy, it is exceedingly important to carefully consider any actions and ensure they do not harm any local or national industries and the welfare of residents.

The goal of the Zero Carbon Bill is to set very clear emissions targets for New Zealand and its businesses that will see our environmental obligations met and effects sustained, will align our targets with those of the Paris Agreement constructed in 2015. The Bill’s targets seek to replace New Zealand’s current emissions goal, which is similar to other OECD countries, being to reduce emissions to less than 50% of those in 1990 by 2050.

It has not all been smooth-sailing however with opinions rife both for and against the Bill. It seems the general consensus is one of overwhelming support for drastic change to promote a brighter environmental future. However, as Jon Jarman one of our Director’s stated, the devil is in the detail, and industries are affected differently by this detail.

DairyNZ agrees with the scientific approach the Bill takes regarding gases, however proposes that the recommended 10-22% methane reduction by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment would be far more appropriate. They have concerns about the impact of a 24-47% reduction target, claiming it is not reflective of New Zealand’s industry and goes beyond what is required to reach the maximum global warming target of 1.5°C.

It is plain to see that this is an issue that needs consideration from all NZ residents as the effects of it, both positive and negative, impact us all and can no longer be denied. As timely and refreshing as this legislation is, its details will affect industries differently and need to be communicated, addressed and dealt with appropriately and in a transparent manner. We encourage everyone to take ownership and make submissions to be part of the process determining our national future.