The Future is Equal

Climate Change Commission on trial in Aotearoa

Taking place virtually at the High Court in Wellington today, Lawyers for Climate Action (LCANZI) will challenge the advice the Climate Change Commission gave government in 2021. LCANZI’s claim is that the advice given is illegal and inconsistent with the science of keeping global heating to 1.5 degrees. The New Zealand government has been relying on this advice to set its 2030 emissions reduction target and emissions budgets.  

If LCANZI’s claim is successful, this would mean that the government decisions on the 2030 target and proposed emissions budgets are unlawful, and could force the government to dramatically increase the level of action it plans to take to reduce emissions in the forthcoming Emissions Reduction Plan.   

Oxfam Aotearoa campaign lead Alex Johnston said:

“We will only limit the worst impacts of climate change – the impact to homes, to the food we grow, and the places we love – if we take action at the scale necessary to keep global heating to within 1.5 degrees. 

“Families in Westport and Buller will tell you just how bad it can be. Farmers and communities in Vanuatu, Solomon Island’s and Timor Leste can tell you just how bad it can be. And this is with just one degree of warming.  

“This court case will show vast difference between what is needed to keep global heating to 1.5 degrees according to the IPCC and the level of action being planned by the New Zealand government. It’s clear when you look at the science, not enough is being done. 2030 is looking grim. 

The IPCC, the world’s authoritative scientific body on climate science, released its report on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability on the same day that this court case starts. This latest report will show the extent to which warming has increased climatic hazards, and how limits to adaptation are already being reached. Johnston says that hard facts presented in the report will make the lack of action and commitment from high-emitters more evident, and the calls for limiting warming as much as possible even stronger.  

“The government’s May Budget and finalising of the Emissions Reduction Plan must do more to cut climate pollution fairer and faster, particularly in our largest polluting sectors of agriculture and transport to protect the things we love and ensure those on the frontlines of climate change can thrive, not just survive,” said Johnston.

Other organisations have joined Oxfam including 350 Aotearoa, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, Greenpeace Aotearoa, Pacific Climate Warriors, Parents for Climate Aotearoa, Students for Climate Solutions, and Wise Response Society.

350 Aotearoa Executive Director Alva Feldmeier said:

“Power to change our pathway to limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees is with the people! That is what this court case is proving – concerned and engaged lawyers are uniting and making the case that the Climate Change Commissions advice and the New Zealand government’s emissions budget are not in line with keeping global heating to 1.5 degrees. This trial is one of many examples that people are fighting back and holding the line for real climate solutions. We are no longer prepared to accept accounting tricks and neo-colonial approaches to reducing emissions carbon offsets.” 

Coal Action Network Cindy Baxter said: 

“This government has fudged its climate target: the 50% cut, if you remove the creative accounting, actually translates as a 22% by 2030 cut. This has been noted by international assessments, and is a shameful performance by our government. NZ is also relying on international carbon offsets to meet two thirds of our target, more than any other country on the planet. This is not what climate action should look like.”   

Greenpeace Senior Agriculture Campaigner Christine Rose said:

“Intensive dairying is to New Zealand what coal is to Australia and tar sands are to Canada. If this Government is serious about tackling the climate crisis, it must do what we already know will cut climate pollution from intensive dairying: phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, substantially reduce stocking rates, and support farmers to shift to more plant-based regenerative organic farming” 

Students for Climate Solutions Co-Founder Ri Comer said:

“This case is exactly what is needed right now. The outcome could actually push Aotearoa to walk the talk that it’s been spewing for the past decade. Students like myself and all those who I work with might finally have a starting point for our legal careers, a precedent for climate action. This is the case that makes science policy. This is what will make Aotearoa keep its promise to our future generations and our Pacific neighbours.”