James Shaw: Action on Climate Change

Opinion 23/05/2019

By James Shaw, Leader of The New Zealand Green Party, Minister for Climate Change.

So, finally we have the Zero Carbon Bill in Parliament; or, to be precise, the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.

You can track the Bill’s progress at: www.parliament.govt.nz

It’s a milestone.


This proposed law commits New Zealand to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to levels that do our bit as a nation to limit global warming to no more than 1.5o C above pre-industrial levels.

We believe this is the first time a country has committed to living within 1.5o C in law, although other countries have made political commitments to do so.

Our planet is currently 1o C hotter than it was before the industrial revolution some 200 years ago. Current patterns suggest that if we continue “business-as-usual” we’ll see global temperatures increase by around 3C to 4o C by the end of this 21st Century.

So we’re putting targets into law which the best available science says could keep global warming inside that 1.5o threshold. It is science collected from 44 countries by 91 authors on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It turns out climate change science and its modelling are complex.

What is straightforward, though, is that the current path we are on with global warming is unsustainable.


I attended a breakfast with the United Nations Secretary General in Auckland recently where we discussed climate change issues with youth leaders.

One of the students at the breakfast asked the Secretary General what motivated him in his work on climate change; what got him out of bed each morning to grapple with this global problem?

Antonio Guterres gave a short, sharp response, “Because otherwise we are dead.”

James Shaw Leader of The New Zealand Green Party is Minister for Climate Change.