This election, we’re looking at the key issues affecting young voters, breaking down stats on the reality of the situation, what young voters think about it, and later, once they’re all announced, the policies from different parties on the issue.

Let’s look at climate change.

In December 2020, the New Zealand government declared a climate change emergency.

But are we acting like we’re in an emergency?

The short answer is no.

International science and policy analysts Climate Action Tracker rated New Zealand’s current climate actions and policies as “highly insufficient”. 

Its analysis shows if every country acted as we are, we are on track to see a 4˚C temperature rise - far surpassing the goal of limiting it to the 1.5˚C needed to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.

Extreme weather events like Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods have shown us what that can look like, and there are larger climate-based threats on the horizon that will impact everything from food security, to housing, and the economy.

What has the government done?

The most significant action in the last decade was the current government passing the Zero Carbon Act in 2019, which committed New Zealand to reach net zero by 2050. 

Net zero means New Zealand would only produce as many greenhouse gas emissions as we can remove, mostly through planting trees that absorb carbon dioxide.

Currently, we’re nowhere near removing 100% of the emissions we produce: In 2020, New Zealand only absorbed 29% of its greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, the Act doesn’t actually promise net zero, because it gives an exemption to methane produced by agriculture. 

Over a third of all emissions in New Zealand come from methane produced by animals, primarily dairy cows. 

The Zero Carbon Act only requires a 24 to 47% reduction in methane from animals by 2050, rather than net zero.

What action has been taken?

Last year the government announced its first of three plans towards meeting the 2050 net zero goal.

This included a $2.9 billion fund to tackle emissions in a range of ways, such as reducing emissions from industry power use and reducing emissions in transport by bolstering cycling and public transport and introducing lower-emission freight and bus options, and a subsidy on electric vehicles.

In August this year the government announced a $2 billion fund aimed at having New Zealand be one of the first countries in the world to reach 100% renewable energy - like solar, wind and hydroelectric.

 However it's still not looking like we'll meet our goals.

In fact, we’re on track to fail a significant milestone as part of the Paris Agreement - an international climate action treaty we signed in 2015.

As part of this, by 2030 we need to reduce our emissions by half of what they were in 2005. The Ministry for the Environment’s most optimistic projections show we are on track to miss our target by 9%.

What would an emergency response look like?

Usually the Government handles emergencies by declaring a state of emergency.

This allows the Government to exercise extra rules and powers so they can do what must be done to protect the public.

We’ve experienced this recently with events like the pandemic and Cyclone Gabrielle, and seen the rapid action and change it allows them to make - such as our border protections through Covid, and military deployment during the Cyclone.

But the climate change emergency declaration is different. Unlike a state of emergency it was simply a symbolic acknowledgement of the threat of climate change.

There is still a long way to go in tackling this climate emergency. What climate policies would you like to see from parties this election?

Keep an eye on Re: News in the weeks before the election - we’ll wrap up all of the parties’ policies on how they propose to deal with climate change.

And check out our other election coverage:

On trans rights, here’s stats on the situation, and what young voters think.

And cost of living, here’s stats on the situation, and what young voters think.

More stories:

‘The final warning’: the new climate report’s big takeaways

Cyclone Gabrielle is just the beginning.

We need a new way to talk about extreme weather

Climate change means discussing weather as “one-in-100-year events” doesn’t work anymore

Four ways NZ will meet its emission targets by 2050

The Government has released its $2.9 billion plan to get Aotearoa to zero carbon emissions by 2050.