Two of the world’s wealthier countries have committed to a more ambitious response to the climate crisis, with Denmark adopting a 2030 deadline for a 70% emissions reduction and New Zealand declaring it will filter all major government decisions through a “climate lens”—although observers aren’t unanimously excited about New Zealand’s plan.
The new Denmark law also aims for carbon neutrality by 2050, mandates climate finance support for developing countries, and “includes a robust monitoring system,” reports Climate Home News. The plan calls for the country to adopt a series of fresh, legally-binding targets “every five years, with a ten-year perspective,” beginning in 2020. It mandates the creation of a climate council which will produce annual progress reports and recommend further action.
And in what the Danes are celebrating as “a first for a national legislature,” the legislation commits the country to significant climate engagement at the international level, Climate Home adds. “The government will need to provide an annual global report on the international effects of Danish climate action, as well as the effects of Danish imports and consumption.” The government must also develop a clear strategy to ensure that its trade, foreign, and development policies drive international climate action.
While reaching consensus on the climate act was “difficult,” climate and energy minister Dan Jørgensen said it was worth the effort to deliver a law with sufficiently broad support to guard against future efforts by “less ambitious” leaders to overturn it.
Mattias Söderberg, a campaigner at Danish-based development non-profit DanChurchAid, said the law sets “a clear direction for Denmark’s green transition in the future,” while sending “an important signal to the rest of the world that Denmark is stepping up its efforts to stop climate change before it is too late.”
Receiving a more mixed response is New Zealand’s new pledge to apply a “climate lens” to all major government decisions. The announcement comes “as floods and bushfires wreak havoc around the country in the first week of summer,” The Guardian reports.
“Decisions we take now and in the future about everything from the places we live, to how we get around, to public health, to how we relate to one another will be impacted one way or another by climate change,” said Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw. “It’s crucial therefore that when we’re making big decisions, climate change is at the forefront of our minds.”
With that in mind, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government will make a climate impacts assessment mandatory on “proposals that are designed to reduce emissions, or which are likely to have an impact on greenhouse emissions greater than 250,000 tonnes a year.”
The announcement follows last month’s passage of New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act, which pledges net-zero emissions by 2050, incorporates the country’s recent ban on further offshore fossil exploration permits, and commits to plant a billion trees by 2028.
Greenpeace spokesperson Gen Toop welcomed the Ardern government’s strong messaging on climate action, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the results. “We really need to see more tangible policy action that will slash emissions now, especially those from the country’s biggest emitter, agriculture,” he told The Guardian.
Tangible policy change may yet prove elusive, however. In its latest report, Climate Action Tracker points out that the Zero Carbon Act “does not introduce any policies to actually cut emissions but rather sets a framework”. And Auckland legislators expecting to govern with a “climate lens” will find themselves constrained by laws, in place for the past 15 years, that “for both land and the marine environment specifically prevent planning bodies from considering the impact on climate change of high-emitting projects when going through the consent process.” That’s the constraint that allowed projects like coal-fired boilers at dairy plants to be green-lighted.
While efforts may be made to repeal those laws, they currently stand as “a direct threat to the efficacy of the Zero Carbon Act”, and to New Zealand’s larger efforts to see everything through the lens of the climate emergency, Carbon Tracker warns.