Auckland diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission has urged the Government to be more ambitious in its targets for minimising “greenhouse gas” emissions.

In an oral submission to Parliament’s Environment Select Committee, presented on August 16 in Auckland, the JPC called for “a halving of emissions in each decade so that the 2030 emissions level be half of that
of 2020; and that 2040 be half of 2030; and reaching zero by 2050”.

“This steep reduction is needed in order to avoid reaching ‘tipping points’ in ecosystems and climate systems,” the submission stated.

The submission was on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, which, among other provisions, states that biological methane emissions will legally need to be reduced by at least 10 per cent by 2030 and between 24 and 47 per cent by 2050.

All other emissions would be reduced to “net zero” by 2050 to limit global warming increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The bill also provides for the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission. According to the Ministry for the Environment’s website, the commission’s role is “to provide independent expert advice to the Government and to monitor and review its progress towards emissions reduction and adaptation goals”.

In its written submission, the JPC stated it supported the bill, but wanted amendments.

It stated that the steep reduction it is calling for would “follow the ‘Carbon Law’ proposed by the very well-respected Swedish climate scientist (and Hillary Laureate) Johan Rockstrom. It would also be in alignment with the recommendations of IPCC’s special report from 2018”.

Rockstrom’s law stated that fossil-fuel emissions should peak by 2020 at the latest and fall to around zero by 2050 to meet the UN’s Paris Agreement’s climate goal of limiting the global temperature rise. Rockstrom and researchers also stated that halving emissions every decade should be complemented by an equally ambitious, exponential roll-out of renewables.

The JPC submission also stated that “for the biogenic methane we recommend a decline in emissions as quickly as possible. We would like that the ambitions in this area [are] higher than indicated above”.

The JPC warned in its oral submission about “tipping points” caused by global warming — such as the thawing of the permafrost in the tundra of Canada and Russia, leading to the release of “huge amounts of methane”; the loss of arctic summer ice and the loss of ice in West Antarctica and the resultant risk of rising sea levels and the damage that would cause.

The submission noted that “caring for the environment should not be at the expense of the economic well-being of the poor, who struggle and often bear the brunt of the damage caused by climate change”.

The written JPC submission called for assistance to be given to the poor and to businesses during the transition period.

The written submission also supported the proposed Climate Change Commission being independent, avoiding political influence that would compromise the placing of “the good of the entire human community and the care for the natural environment as the foundation of all decision making”.

In the oral submission, Christopher Tenisio expressing concern about the impact of climate change and rising sea levels on Pacific nations.

Musical finish to JPC submission

Music was in the air at the Auckland diocese Justice and Peace Commission select committee presentation on the Zero Carbon Bill on August 16.

Glen Innes St Pius X parishioner and budding opera singer Ipu Laga’aia dedicated his adaptation of “It’s Now or Never” to the people of Funafuti, Tuvalu, whose homes are less than three metres above sea level and so are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, a theme of the Pacific Islands Forum they had just hosted.

The words of Mr Laga’aia’s song were: “It’s now or never; Don’t spoil our air; The seas are rising; Too much to bear; Tomorrow will be too late; It’s now or never; Our lives won’t wait.”

Coromandel MP and Environment Select Committee deputy chair Scott Simpson asked for an encore — perhaps a first for a select committee — and Mr Laga’aia obliged in two languages, Italian and English.

New Lynn MP Deborah Russell dubbed it “our most memorable submission so far”.

The live performance can be viewed on the Justice and Peace Commission page on the Auckland diocese website: www.aucklandcatholic.org.nz

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