New Zealand declares a climate emergency

In a motion tabled in New Zealand’s parliament on 2 December 2020, the government declared a climate change emergency and committed to a carbon-neutral government by 2025, in what the prime minister Jacinda Ardern called “one of the greatest challenges of our time”. The motion quoted figures from the ICEF spreadsheet which listed the – at the time – over 1,800 jurisdictions in 32 countries that had declared a climate emergency, a figure that keeps growing.

New Zealand has just experienced its warmest winter on record. The season in 2020 was 1.14°C above average, with 17 locations setting record-breaking mean temperatures.

17 councils in New Zealand have declared a climate emergency, coving over three quarters of the population.

The United Nation’s IPCC reported that “to provide a 93% mid-value probability of not exceeding [a dangerous post industrial increase of] 2°C, the concentration (of atmospheric greenhouse gases) would need to be stabilised at, or below, 350 ppm CO2equivalent, that is, below current levels, which means no carbon budget left for 2°C.”

Reuters video

Philip Sutton from RSTI commented: “An idea that started at the local government level in Australia has just circled the globe. In 2016, Darebin City Council in Victoria was the first government in the world to recognise a climate emergency. Along the way about 1,800 governments, in 33 countries, have passed declarations or recognitions of a climate emergency, including the ACT Legislative Assembly, and the European Union. So far most of the declarations have been symbolic, ie. they haven’t triggered a shift into emergency-mode to deal with climate. But at least the idea that climate is an emergency problem has gained a huge amount of recognition. The next phase of this campaign will need to be to get governments to go into emergency-mode to create safe climate restoring economies at emergency speed.”



Government notice of motion No 1:
Declaration of climate emergency

Order Paper
Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Notices of motion

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern to move, That this House

– declare a climate emergency, following the tinding of the lntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that, to avoid a more than l.5°C rise in global warming, global emissions would need to fall by around 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050;

– recognise the advocacy of New Zealanders in calling for action to protect the environment and reduce the impact of human activity on the climate;

– join the over 1,800 jurisdictions in 32 countries to declare a climate emergency and commit to reducing emissions to avoid a more than l.5°C rise in global warming;

– recognise 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;

– note that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, that the Government has made significant progress on meeting that challenge through the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, and that New Zealand has committed to taking urgent action on greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation;

– acknowledge the core tenets of New Zealand’s response by establishing emissions budgets that set us on a path to net zero by 2050, setting a price on emissions through the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, transitioning to a low-carbon economy and planning for climate adaption;

– implement the policies required to meet the targets in the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Aet 2019, and to increase support for striving towards 100 percent renewable electricity generation, low carbon energy, and transport systems;

– seize the economic opportunities that a clean, green reputation provides;

– create green jobs in the low-carbon economy while managing risks for workers and communities currently reliant on carbon-intensive sectors;

– recognise the alarming trend in species decline and global biodiversity crisis, including the decline in Aotearoa’s indigenous biodiversity, and acknowledge New Zealand’s strategic framework for the protection and restoration of biodiversity Te Mana o te Taiao;

– note that the Government will take further steps towards reducing and eliminating waste; and

– show leadership and demonstrate what is possible to other sectors of the New Zealand economy by reducing the Government’s own emissions and becoming a carbon-neutral Government by 2025.

→ Source:


→ Reuters – 2 December 2020:
Ardern declares climate emergency, pledges carbon neutral New Zealand government
“New Zealand promised its public sector would become carbon neutral by 2025 as it declared a climate emergency on Wednesday, a symbolic move that critics said needed to be backed with greater actions to reduce emissions.”

→ The Guardian – 2 December 2020:
New Zealand declares a climate change emergency
“Jacinda Ardern calls climate change ‘one of the greatest challenges of our time’ and pledges carbon-neutral government by 2025.”

→ The Conversation – 1 December 2020:
Climate emergency or not, New Zealand needs to start doing its fair share of climate action
“Following this week’s climate emergency declaration, New Zealand will have to face up to the fact it has one of the worst climate records of industrialised nations. Of 43 industrialised countries — known as Annex 1 countries — 31 are experiencing a drop in emissions. But 12 have seen net emissions increase between 1990 and 2018, and New Zealand is near the top of this group.”
By Robert McLachlan, Professor in Applied Mathematics, Massey University

→ The Conversation – 1 December 2020:
By declaring a climate emergency Jacinda Ardern needs to inspire hope, not fear
“It is wrong to imagine a declaration will make no difference at all. Language has power. Words like “emergency” have an impact in the real world, especially when endorsed by political leaders.”
By David Hall, Senior Researcher in Politics, Auckland University of Technology; Raven Cretney, Postdoctoral fellow, University of Waikato and Sylvia Nissen, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Policy, Lincoln University

→ SBS – 27 November 2020:
New Zealand’s government will declare a climate emergency, pledging ‘immediate action’
“New Zealand will put forward a motion to declare a climate emergency, something Jacinda Ardern wasn’t able to do in her first term.”







Australia turns down motion to declare a climate emergency

Meanwhile in Australia on the same day, the Liberal Party voted against The Greens’ climate emergency declaration in House and Senate.
Labor voted against it in the Senate and for it in the House. The Greens voted for it.