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New Zealand declares climate emergency

December 2, 2020

The government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said New Zealand's public sector will need to be carbon neutral in five years in a "commitment to leadership on climate change."

Jacinda Ardern declares a climate emergency
Image: Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP/picture alliance

The government of New Zealand declared a climate emergency on Wednesday, a symbolic step recognizing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predictions ofsubstantial global warming if emissions do not fall.

Alongside the declaration, New Zealand announced it would require its public sector to become carbon neutral by 2025. Government agencies would need to measure, report and offset emissions.

"The public sector needs to be and will be an exemplar that sets the standard we all need to achieve by 2050," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament in Wellington. 

Read moreAre international pledges bold enough to stop global warming?

New Zealand going green

"This is a declaration of science," Ardern told said, adding the move is "an acknowledgement of the next generation … of the burden they will carry if we do not take action now."

New Zealand's decarbonization program is supported by a NZ$200 million (€117 million) state fund and includes a phase-out of coal, a requirement for government agencies to use electric vehicles and a green standard for public buildings, according to Radio New Zealand.  

Declaring a climate emergency, however, comes without any new statutory powers or money, making the move purely symbolic

Read moreBiodiversity blooms in cities when green spaces go wild

Thirty-two other countries, including Japan, Canada, France and the United Kingdom, have already declared a climate emergency. Doing so indicates that governments recognize climate change as an existential threat that requires urgent action in response.  

Climate activists and scientists continue to warn that not enough is being done by governments to meet the Paris Agreement target of cubing emissions to keep global temperature levels withing 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels.

Rising temperatures

wmr/aw (dpa, AP)