24 Jun 2017

Student's court battle with govt over climate to begin

6:13 pm on 24 June 2017

In a New Zealand first, a legal case challenging the government over what is being called its failure to tackle climate change will be heard in Wellington next week.

Waikato University law student Sarah Thomson has filed papers in the High Court in Wellington challenging the government's climate change policy.

Waikato University law student Sarah Thomson Photo: NZ Geographic

Hamilton law student Sarah Thomson will challenge the government to justify the way this country's climate targets have been set.

It will be heard at the High Court in Wellington from Monday and run for three days.

New Zealand has committed to reducing emissions by 11 percent on 1990 levels by 2030 as part of the Paris agreement.

However, New Zealand's most recent greenhouse gas inventory shows emissions in 2015 were 24.1 percent higher than 1990 levels.

Gross greenhouse gas emissions from human activity for 2015 were 80.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, compared with 64.6 million tonnes in 1990.

Ms Thomson said the government's response to climate change has been blasé and the target needs to be more ambitious.

"We're already seeing the effects of climate change right now. Every year we're experiencing more extreme weather like cyclones, droughts and floods.

"Entire communities are being left devastated, yet our government is burying its head in the sand, business as usual," she said.

The case will include evidence from Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick.

He said New Zealand's targets for emissions reductions were not good enough.

"It is now recognised that the world must get to zero emissions as quickly as possible, preferably by 2050 with emissions starting to decline no later than 2020, if we are to meet the Paris goals," he said.

"New Zealand must play its part and ramp up its emissions reduction goals urgently."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs