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On Tuesday 21 May, the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament with just one vote against it. The fact it had such wide support doesn’t mean the path ahead will be smooth. As a caucus, National Members agreed to vote for the bill; I voted for the bill in the first reading because I wanted to see it to go to select committee stage for further debate, and for every member of my electorate to be able to have their say by way of public submission.

Unlike other bills which come before Parliament, this one is not so easy to brush off with a claim of irrelevance; climate change really is global, in that its effects affect every living thing through soil, water and air.

The bill will set into legislation New Zealand’s commitment to take actions consistent with keeping warming to no more than 1.5deg, establish a climate commission, and set targets of net-zero emissions by 2050 for all greenhouse gases except biogenic methane (methane from livestock and waste).

My background in agriculture means that my biggest concern is the proposed emissions reduction target for biogenic methane. Interestingly, even the bill’s mover, James Shaw, says the Environment Select Committee has some difficult considerations to make around emission reduction targets, the inclusion of international shipping and aviation, the Treaty of Waitangi, and legal liabilities.

I hosted my colleague Todd Muller in the electorate late last year holding two public meetings on climate change. Like him I agree that climate change is best approached through the principles of being informed by broad science, seeing technology as an enabler, moving at the pace of our trading partners, and above all being acutely conscious of the economic impacts. 

The proposed climate commission can be a useful independent advisory institution but I am concerned that the targets being suggested for 2050 – particularly for methane – appear weighty and without sufficient scientific backing.  The National Caucus will pursue this further through the select committee process, and I encourage you to consider your own input, which most definitely has the power to shape this legislation.

Submissions are open now, and will close on 16 July, so please make sure your perspective is heard. The Environment Select Committee is expected to report back to the House in late October.

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