New Zealand’s Ardern Pledges 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 if Her Labour Party Wins Next Month’s Election
"The COVID-19 economic recovery represents a once in a generation opportunity to reshape New Zealand's energy system to be more renewable, faster, affordable and secure," she said.
#BREAKING: We’ve just released our clean energy policy, which outlines that if re-elected we will bring forward our… https://t.co/xgc78zxlHb— New Zealand Labour (@New Zealand Labour)1599700686.0
Ardern's pledge ups her Labour Party's previous goal of phasing out non-renewable energy by 2035. New Zealand currently produces 84 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, according to the government. However, these only account for 40 percent of the energy actually used in the country, since it still imports coal and oil from outside.
The promise is part of Labour's broader clean energy policy, unveiled Thursday. The plan also includes electrifying transportation and industry, investing in new technologies like green hydrogen, working to make energy more affordable and spending an additional $70 million on a pumped hydro storage solution for dry years.
...and accelerating the electrification of transport and industrial sectors to position New Zealand as a world lead… https://t.co/zeEpDqeYyw— New Zealand Labour (@New Zealand Labour)1599700717.0
"We are setting ourselves the new goal of 2030, five years earlier than our previous goal, for us to become one of the few nations in the world with 100 percent renewable electricity," Labour energy spokesperson Megan Woods said in the announcement.
As of 2018, Iceland and Paraguay received 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources, while Costa Rica got 99 percent, Think Progress reported. At the time, New Zealand's South Island was also entirely powered by renewable energy.
Ardern has emerged as a climate leader since taking office in 2017. She vowed to focus on addressing the climate crisis during her first campaign, and announced a plan to plant 100 million trees a year upon taking power. During her tenure, she oversaw the passage of New Zealand's Zero Carbon Bill, which set the country a 2050 deadline for carbon neutrality and committed it to the goals of the Paris agreement.
However, New Zealand's Green Party said that Labour's clean energy plan did not go far enough. While the Green Party plan also set a 2030 deadline for 100 percent renewable energy, it included further measures such as making it cheaper for people to switch to solar and ending permits for fossil fuel extraction.
Read our bold energy plan here: https://t.co/eCJXAbl4FZ #nzpol— Green Party NZ (@Green Party NZ)1599703323.0
The National Party, Labour's current opposition, said the party's energy plan would lose jobs and raise electricity costs by as much as 40 percent.
"This is a policy that will cost thousands of jobs and put even more people on to the unemployment benefit," National Party leader Judith Collins told RNZ. However, the party still said it wanted more renewable energy.
Ardern, meanwhile, touted the new renewable energy goal as a job creator.
"Investment in renewable energy is also jobs rich. Our plan will creating new jobs and develop the high skill workforce our future economy needs to thrive," she said in the plan announcement. "Labour's Clean Energy Plan is a critical element of Labour's wider COVID-19 recovery plan that will both prepare New Zealand for the future while boosting jobs and the economy now."
The election, which was delayed because of the coronavirus, is slated to take place Oct. 17, according to The Guardian. Labour is currently favored to win, and may even gain enough seats that it can govern on its own without having to form a coalition. During Ardern's current tenure, Labour governed with New Zealand First, with the Green Party offering support through a Confidence and Supply Agreement.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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