New Zealand’s parliament voted Wednesday to declare a climate emergency and committed the government to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.
The 76 - 43 vote fell along party lines. In passing the measure, New Zealand joins more than 30 countries in taking the largely symbolic step.
The government also launched a new initiative requiring many public agencies to become carbon neutral by 2025, in part by eliminating coal boilers and buying electric cars.
Introducing a motion to lawmakers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was based on science. She cited the determination of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that nations act with urgency to avoid a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures that could threaten “human health and livelihoods,” and cause “civil unrest, mass drought, mass disease, loss of lands and homes, increased fires, increased tropical storms, mass human displacement and globally exhausted resources.”
She said the declaration was an acknowledgment of the burden the next generation faces.
The declaration comes without any newly assigned statutory powers or money, making it purely symbolic. But Ardern and other lawmakers promised to back it up with ongoing action.
Ardern previously announced plans for the nation to plant 1 billion trees, phase out offshore oil and gas exploration, and power the electricity grid with 100% renewable energy by 2030.
In 2019, the government passed a bill for New Zealand to become carbon neutral by 2050, although it carved out exemptions for farmers, who bring in much of the country's foreign income.