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More work needed to address climate change

14/03/2016 4:00:00 p.m.

A Lincoln University academic is calling for legislative changes that will help New Zealand deal more effectively with greenhouse gas emissions and show leadership on the global stage.

Associate Professor of Planning Hamish Rennie believes the Resource Management Act (RMA) should be altered to “reflect the spirit” of the Paris Agreement, which was signed by almost 200 nations in December last year in an effort to address climate change.
“At the moment, there are provisions in our RMA that seem out of sync with the intent of the Paris Agreement and we could show international leadership by addressing this quickly,” Associate Professor Rennie says.
“The RMA describes the effects of climate change as matters that must be carefully considered in decision-making, but I think this is too weak. It also only addresses the effects that climate change have on us, not the effects our activities have on climate change.
“We need to amend the wording to make climate change effects a matter of national importance, which will mean that regional councils must address the issue in their plans.”
Associate Professor Rennie says that under the RMA, councils are expected to pay particular attention to the way climate change affects sea levels and weather variability, but are not required to consider how their land use decisions could be contributing to climate change.
“This means that issues such as sea level rise are seen as important but the impact of things like coal burning power stations are not taken into account.”
The effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change are not allowed to be considered under the current provisions of the RMA.
“Clearly, if we are to address climate change and meet the targets we need to meet, greenhouse gas emission effects must play a role in decision-making.”
Associate Professor Rennie points out that international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, do not automatically become part of a country’s domestic law.
“Even though we signed the agreement, it was more a moral commitment than anything else,” he says. “A ratification process is needed to make sure that our laws are not contrary to the agreement.
“It may turn out that changes to our legislation are not technically needed for us to ratify the Paris Agreement, but we certainly need to make changes if we are to meet the spirit of the agreement.”

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