New Zealand climate emergency declared after Ardern tells House to 'be on the right side of history'

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Parliament has declared a climate emergency in New Zealand. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a motion to declare a climate emergency, alongside a promise for Government to be carbon neutral by 2025. 

Labour, Greens and the Māori Party voted in favour, while National and ACT opposed. 

"As a nation, it is not in our nature to turn our back on a problem and it is certainly not in our DNA to ignore a sense of responsibility and obligation," she said before Parliament debated the declaration.

"In climate change we will only make progress if we absolutely accept that collective action is required. "

"If any nation falls short, we all fall short," Ardern told Parliament. "It acts as a catalyst for change."

She described the declaration as an acknowledgment of the next generation - "an acknowledgment of the burden they will carry if we do not get this right and if we do not take action now".

"Be on the right side of history," she told the House. "Be part of the solution we must collectively deliver for the next generation."

National's climate change spokesperson Stuart Smith said declaring a climate emergency was "nothing but a hollow symbolic gesture", with ACT's Simon Court saying it was a "triumph of politics over practical solutions, slogans over substance". 

National MP Nicola Willis said they should be straight with New Zealanders. 

"This declaration will have no measurable impact on global climate change. I know it. The Prime Minister knows it. And I reckon even Chlöe Swarbrick knows it. 

"It is unfortunately just another collection of words of the sincere policy and concerted action New Zealand must take to drive down our emissions," she said. 

"When our kids look back on this moment in history, they won’t judge who was on the right side or the wrong side by what words were spoken. They will judge us by our actions."

Earlier, Smith asked Climate Change Minister James Shaw if it was a "last gasp attempt to be invited to the UN top table on climate in Glasgow".

"We have been given an invitation and the Prime Minister is considering a response," Shaw said. 

The Green Party attempted to declare a climate emergency last year but was blocked. 

The Government says it is taking 'immediate action' - promising the public sector will reduce emissions and offset any to ensure it is carbon neutral by 2025. 

All coal boilers are to be phased out, agencies will have to reduce the number of cars in fleets, require the purchasing of hybrids and EVs as well as an energy emission building standard that must be met. 

It would include entities such as Fire and Emergency NZ, Education NZ and in principle includes Kainga Ora, school Boards of Trustees, District Health Boards and tertiary providers.

Departments and Ministries are also included. 

"The public sector needs to be and will be an exemplar that sets the standard we all need to achieve by 2050," Ardern said. 

"This policy, alongside today’s declaration of a climate emergency, serves as a message to the public sector to get our own house in order," Ardern said.

"It’s also a call to action for the private sector and it’s great to see so many examples of businesses taking steps to reduce their emissions."