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Climate Action Now™ is a brand highlighting the effects of climate change on our natural environment and society.

The goal of this brand is to raise public awareness in New Zealand about the effects of global warming on our oceans including acidification, melting ice sheets and rising sea levels, and to particularly highlight the impacts of anthropogenic climate change on small island nations and coastal regions.

State of play: Climate Change in NZ

Climate change is an increasingly significant issue in New Zealand. Eight out of ten kiwis are personally worried about the warming climate, and this concern has been shown through grassroots movements and legislative approaches alike.

170,000 strikers marched nationally for the School Strike for Climate in 2019, and 2020 saw both the Zero Carbon Act and the Emissions Trading Reform Amendment Act passed.

New Zealand is aiming to be zero-carbon by 2050, and domestic policy coupled with strong social undercurrents moving us in the right direction means we are on track to do so.

Internationally, things are looking encouraging too. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, there was consensus to limit total warming from anthropogenic climate change to 2C (compared to pre-industrial levels), and aim for 1.5C.

Although the United States tried to leave the Accord, a timely election win from Joe Biden has seen them re-enter. The US has since pledged to cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by the end of this decade.

Similarly, China has promised to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, the UK government is aiming to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 and the EU Parliament has promised to cut carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

But we are not out of the woods yet. It is unlikely that we will keep warming to 2C, and a world that is 2C warmer could prove to be catastrophic to much of Southern Europe, India and sub-Saharan Africa.

With much of the world still dependent on coal for energy security and cheap petrol cars for travel, emissions remain steadily on the rise.

In terms of the ocean, rising sea levels, warming surface temperatures, coral bleaching and acidification are doing irreversible damage to marine life in ways that we do not fully understand.

Although geopolitical climate action is making promising advancements, we must continue to demand political action and accountability, as well as make well-informed consumer decisions that will help to create a zero-carbon future.

The role of our oceans in climate change

It is well recorded that existing economic and industrial activities are having dire consequences for the health of our oceans and coastal ecosystems, both in New Zealand and internationally.

New Zealand’s oceans play a significant role in limiting climate pollution, and potentially take up more carbon dioxide than our forests, thus alleviating the burdens of excess carbon dioxide on our planet.

Oceans regulate our climate and influence our weather, absorbing 90% of extra heat from the atmosphere associated with global warming.

Our oceans act as a major carbon sink, absorbing about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities since pre-industrial times.

The viability of our ocean species is also at risk as a consequence of increasing emissions. Ocean acidification is incredibly damaging to marine ecosystems. It reduces the concentration of calcium carbonate in seawater; a building block for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. Various marine and fish species, such as mussels, crabs, as well as corals, depend on carbonate ions to grow their shells and skeletons for survival.

Marine experts have ranked ocean acidification as the most serious threat to New Zealand’s marine habitats, and the IPCC concludes that it will take tens of thousands of years to reverse the profound changes to the carbon chemistry of the ocean.

Ocean acidification is almost solely caused by increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, making the reduction of carbon emissions the most effective way to mitigate ocean acidification.

It is critical that efforts to address the systemic impacts of climate change include specific measures to protect our marine ecosystems and biodiversity. We benefit from the role oceans have in regulating our climate and storing carbon but these benefits will be compromised by climate change.

Key Legislation

Climate Change Response Act 2002

Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill 2020

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019

The Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosure and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2021

International Obligations

Paris Agreement 2015: New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) is to:

Reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases (other than biogenic methane) to zero by 2050.

Reduce emissions of biogenic methane to 24% to 47% below 2017 levels by 2050.

Domestic Leadership

Minister for Climate Change: James Shaw

Recent Updates

The Climate Change Commission (CCC) (who provide recommendations to the Government, while also acting independently of Government) released their Draft Advice Report in February 2021.

This allowed the public and environmental organisations to submit feedback on the draft advice report, and the CCC recently released their response to this feedback, which can be found here.

As mentioned in the article, it is now over to the Government to decide how they will respond to the advice. They have until the end of this year to set the first three emissions budgets out to 2035, and also release a plan as to how these budgets will be achieved.

Take Action

Join organisations and volunteer your time and expertise to causes you are passionate about. OSOF has a range of roles available, and you are welcome to join local events, like beach cleans.

School Strike for Climate and 350.org are also great organisations to support (especially for climate-related issues).

Get involved politically – submit a submission for open consultations, or write a letter to your local MP about the issues that concern you

Easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Take advantage of public transport or ride sharing

Bike or walk (if possible)

Support local markets and eat locally grown fruit and vegetables

Buy less! The most eco-friendly things are things you already own (like reusable containers, cup and mugs)

Buy second-hand clothing

Educational Resources

NOAA Teaching Climate – This website contains reviewed resources for teaching about climate and energy.

NASA Climate Kids – NASA’s Climate Kids website brings climate science to life with fun games, interactive features and exciting articles.

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