A climate change “lens” will now be applied to all major decision made by the government, New Zealand’s climate change minister has said, as floods and bushfires wreck havoc around the country in the first week of summer.
Minister James Shaw said cabinet “routinely” considers the effects of its decisions on human rights, the Treaty of Waitangi, rural communities, the disability community, and gender.
Now climate change will become a standard part of cabinet’s decision-making too, in a week in which the country has being battered by extreme weather events in both the North and South islands.
“Decisions we take now and in the future about everything from the places we live, to how we get around, to public health, to how we relate to one another will be impacted one way or another by climate change. It’s crucial therefore that when we’re making big decisions climate change is at the forefront of our minds,” Shaw said in a statement.
He said a ‘climate impacts assessment’ will be mandatory for proposals that are designed to reduce emissions, or which are likely to have an impact on greenhouse emissions greater than 250,000 tonnes a year.
The Ministry for the Environment has developed a tool that can be used to estimate emissions impacts, and its effectiveness will be reviewed in mid-2020, Shaw said.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has called the climate emergency her generation’s “nuclear free moment” and made tackling it a priority for her coalition government.
Last month cabinet passed the zero-carbon bill, committing to reduce emission to net-zero by 2050. The government has also banned new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, committed to planting a billion trees by 2028, and told farmers to cut emissions by 2025 or face higher taxes.
The opposition climate change spokesperson, Scott Simpson, said the announcement was a “well-meaning initiative” but how it was implemented would be the real test. “It shouldn’t just be another level of bureaucracy for decisions to go through,” he said.
The environment ministry said the effects climate change were already being recorded in New Zealand, including sea-level rise, warming ocean temperatures and hotter summers.
Longer-term, the ministry said the country will experience hotter annual temperatures nationwide, more severe weather, coastal erosion due to sea-level rise, increasingly frequent flooding and higher levels of human and animal mortality.