New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given a stirring speech in parliament, declaring the world is “undeniably” warming and has committed to make the country almost entirely carbon neutral by 2050.
“We’re here because our world is warming. Undeniably it is warming,” she began.
“And I am proud at least that … we’re no longer having the debate over whether or not that is the case. We’re merely debating what it is we do about it.”
Ms Ardern went on to say she absolutely believed climate change was the “biggest challenge of our time” and the “nuclear moment” for this generation.
"Today we have made a choice that will leave a legacy... I hope means that future generations will see that we, in New Zealand, were on the right side of history." Prime Minister @jacindaardern gave her speech at the third and final reading of the Zero Carbon Bill today. pic.twitter.com/GVf3TL3dxG
“Undeniably our sea levels are rising. Undeniably we are experiencing extreme weather events, increasingly so. Undeniably the science tells us the impact that there will be on flora and fauna, and also the spread of diseases in areas where we previously haven’t seen them.
“We know as well that some island nations will have their clean water sources impacted by a rising sea level and salt water entering into them. On a daily basis they are already seeing those impacts.
“Our world is warming, and so therefore the question for all of us is what side of history will we choose to sit on?”
The speech came as New Zealand passed its historic Zero Carbon bill aimed at combating climate change.
The bill commits to reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to the point it becomes mostly carbon neutral by 2050, but gives some leeway to farmers, who bring in much of the country’s foreign income.
The bill was spearheaded by the liberal government but in the end was supported by the main conservative opposition party, which nevertheless promised changes if it wins the next election.
Ms Ardern said she sometimes despaired at the pace at which other countries were making changes to fight global warming and vowed that New Zealand would be a leader.
“Today we have made a choice that will leave a legacy … I hope future generations will see that we, in New Zealand, were on the right side of history,” she said.
The bill would require all greenhouse gases except methane from animals to be reduced to net zero by 2050. Methane emissions would be reduced by 10 per cent by 2030 and by between about one-quarter and one-half by 2050.
The bill establishes a Climate Change Commission, which will advise the government on how to reach its targets.
The government has also promised to plant 1 billion trees over 10 years and ensure that the electricity grid runs entirely from renewable energy by 2035.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the new law would help ensure a safer planet for everybody’s children and grandchildren.
“We’ve led the world before in nuclear disarmament and in votes for women, now we are leading again,” he said.
Agriculture is key to the economy of New Zealand, which is home to just under five million people but more than 10 million cows and some 28 million sheep.
Those animals burp and fart methane, resulting in an unusual greenhouse gas emission profile for the country. Almost half of total emissions come from agriculture.
The bill says the lower targets for methane reduction reflect that it stays in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than carbon dioxide, although climate scientists point out that methane is far more potent while there.
The bill also aims to fulfil New Zealand’s obligations under the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement to keep in check rising global temperatures.
Following earlier promises by President Donald Trump, the United States this week began the formal process of pulling out of the deal.
Originally published as ‘This is our nuclear moment’: Ardern