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Parliament has declared a climate emergency noting the “devastating impact” volatile weather will have on New Zealand.
New Zealand has jumped nine places to 28th in a ranking of 58 countries on climate action.
The Climate Change Performance Index has bumped the country from “low” into the group of medium performers, alongside Germany, France, Croatia, Brazil, Italy and others.
In a rare note of optimism, the report’s authors noted that, while no nation is yet on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, “a turning point in global emissions seems to be within reach.”
More than half the countries surveyed had falling emissions, though overall emissions for the globe continued to nudge upwards.
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Sweden topped the rankings – giving it a placement of 4, since no country was deemed good enough for the top three spots, which come with a “very high” ranking.
The UK – hosts of the next big climate summit, in Glasgow – took the next-highest spot, shortly after bringing forward plans to ban new sales of petrol cars, and announcing a deep new Paris target of cutting greenhouses gases by 68 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Critics have noted the UK is not yet on target to meet its current, easier goals.
Chile, India and Portugal also ranked highly, while Australia, the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Canada languished near the bottom – with the US finishing last for the second year running, and any progress up the charts now dependent on what president-elect Joe Biden can navigate through the US Senate.
Portugal and New Zealand were among the biggest climbers.
The UK will ban new petrol and diesel car imports by 2030, while NZ is yet to set a date.
The survey didn’t include the temporary effect on emissions of the pandemic, though the authors said the shape of the recovery from Covid would determine how quickly the world moved to carbon neutral living.
The Climate Change Performance Index was developed by German non-Governmental organisation Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute.
Last year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected the index’s lowly ranking for his country, prompting Germanwatch to reject his rejection.
The index analyses the countries with the highest emissions, accounting for 90 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Assessors from environmental NGOs often contribute to the report, which scores countries, based on official data, for their renewable energy use, emissions per capita and emissions per dollar of GDP, among other things. It also looks at climate policy. Climate action lobbyist, Oil Change International’s David Tong and Caitlin Holling from Lawyers for Climate Action contributed to this year’s segment on New Zealand.
While New Zealand’s gross emissions have risen since 1990 – when developed countries first signed up to combat climate change – the report approvingly cites the high use of renewable energy, and the new Government’s pledge to phase out coal and gas-fired electricity earlier than originally planned, by 2030.
In transport, bright spots included a focus on bicycle, rail, and public transport, but “there is neither support for EV infrastructure nor a minimum for fuel efficiency,” it notes.
Climate policy got a “medium” ranking. New Zealand isn’t on a path compatible with keeping the globe well below 2C heating – but nor is any other country in the rankings.
“Agriculture is accountable for about 50 per cent of the country’s emissions and still excluded from the targets until at least 2022,” the report said.
New Zealand has invested in developing hydrogen as a source of energy, the report notes.
“The already-insufficient emissions targets lack implementation and the country relies on reforestation to accomplish its goals.”
However: “Internationally, the country is a considerably progressive force in wider Paris negotiations.”
The report comes a few days before the Climate Ambition Summit to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on December 12.
The British High Commission is yet to confirm whether New Zealand is considered ambitious enough to win an invitation, after British High Commissioner Laura Clarke prodded politicians to do more to walk the talk. Since then, the Government has announced the public sector is going carbon neutral by 2025.