Leading the world to Net Zero

The opportunities and challenges of New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act

New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act could make it one of the first advanced economies in the world to commit itself to net zero emissions — and the first with such a large agricultural sector. Like any pioneer entering uncharted waters, there are challenges to be overcome as well as first-mover opportunities. New Zealand’s decisions in 2019 could help frame the global climate agenda for many decades to come. Stopping global warming requires net carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced to zero, permanently. Decisions about other warming gases, like methane, could make a few tenths of a degree difference to the peak warming level reached, but they don’t change that all-important fact. And a permanent net zero world cannot rely indefinitely on forestry to offset continued use of fossil fuels in sectors like aviation.

A successful pathway to net zero needs clarity in the destination, and fairness and transparency in the transition. In this talk, Myles Allen will argue that the simplest way of designing fairness and transparency into the Zero Carbon Act is to focus on the long-term temperature goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. This means treating all sectors equally in terms of their impact on global temperature. Traditional farmers who are not contributing to ongoing global warming would not be penalised as if they are, while an agribusiness initiative that would cause a large increase in methane emissions, with a correspondingly disproportionate impact on global temperature, would be treated accordingly. Get this right, and New Zealand could show the way for many larger countries who have yet to think seriously about bringing extractive industries and agricultural emissions into climate policy. Treating all sectors fairly means all sectors pulling together. He waka eke noa.

This event is cohosted by the IGPS and the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute.

Event Type
Date and time
Friday 22 Mar 2019
Time: 5.00 - 6.30 pm
Venue and Location
Victoria University of Wellington

Old Government Building Lecture Theatre 1 (GBLT1)

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