New Zealand law student launches climate change court case

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says the Government is very comfortable its Paris target is fair and ambitious

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says the Government is very comfortable its Paris target is fair and ambitious

The case brought by Sarah Thomson, 26, began Monday in the High Court in Wellington and is scheduled to last three days.

Local group, Oil Free Wellington, is organising the rally in a show of support for climate justice and for an end to fossil fuel exploration.

"So far the New Zealand government has shirked its responsibilities, set unambitious and irrational targets, and justified it all by saying we're too small to make a difference", she says.

"This means we can not have meaningful action on climate change while the government continues exploring for more fossil fuels".

"I'm young and I'm terrified of a time when I might have to look my kids in the eye and explain to them how we let this happen".

Thomson said she was inspired by other climate change cases worldwide, including a 2015 case in which a Dutch court ordered the Netherlands to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

She has the backing of several world-renowned climate change experts, including the "father of climate change awareness", former NASA researcher, James Hansen, who is giving evidence in the case.

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But Thomson says as a developed country, New Zealand has an obligation under the Paris Agreement to take a global lead in combating climate change.

One of the targets under review is New Zealand's contribution under the Paris Agreement, which commits New Zealand to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 11% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Climate Change Issues Minister Paula Bennett said in a statement that "we are very comfortable that our Paris target is fair and ambitious, and that it was set only after a thorough process of consultation".

New Zealand's reliance on carbon credits, which governments can buy to offset their emission outputs, was also criticised.

"If New Zealand reduces emissions to zero there won't be any noticeable effect on climate change and we have to rely on the rest of the global community to achieve change".

Along with similar lawsuits, it will set a bar for the type of action that developed countries must take to prevent unsafe climate change.

He said those setting the climate targets had to take into account a range of matters and act in a way that did not threaten the world's food production. "In court it will have to justify its inaction on climate change before a judge and before the New Zealand public".

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