Green Party wants climate test for new laws

By HAMISH RUTHERFORD, Stuff.org.nz

All new legislation would be subject to a "climate change test" if a Green Party bill is passed.

New Green Party co-leader James Shaw announced a members bill on Sunday, which would require official documents assessing the impact of new legislation to include a section about the impact on the environment.

The Climate Impact Disclosure Statement Bill will require all new legislation introduced to Parliament to be accompanied by a Climate Impact Disclosure Statement that "outlines what impact, if any, the new legislation would be likely to have on New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions".

Already new legislation is subject to Regulatory Impact Statements and Bill of Rights Act Reports.

"Climate change is impacting almost every aspect of our lives. This bill will ensure that the government considers climate change in everything it does," Shaw said.

"This bill will mean that government can't ignore how their decisions impact on our climate."

Shaw announced the bill at the Asia-Pacific Green Federation Congress in Lower Hutt on Sunday, where Green politicians from 16 countries are meeting.

"A lot of the decisions [made in Parliament] tend to have a really short term focus, and not consider the long term implications," Shaw said.

While many pieces of legislation would have no foreseeable impact on the environment, Shaw said decisions in natural resources, transport or infrastructure could have a major impact.

"It would be useful to have some idea if the infrastructure we're spending money on is going to be flooded in 30 years, before it's finished being paid for."

Shaw conceded that the legislation was similar to a proposal from the ACT Party in 2014, which called for the long term fiscal impact of legislation – and the impact on personal tax rates – to be included in regulatory impact statements and Cabinet papers.

The environmental impact assessment wouldn't prevent Parliament from voting through any piece of legislation Shaw said, but would give politicians and the public the opportunity to asses it.

The Climate Impact Disclosure Statement Bill will be submitted to the Members Bill ballot.

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