Recently the Government opened a public consultation process on the upcoming Zero Carbon Bill. They are requesting online submissions from individuals and organisations as to how and in what timeframe Aotearoa transitions to a net zero economy. Here’s why it’s worth taking the time to read the discussion document, and to consider making a submission as an individual, as a parish council, or to recommend it to your congregation.
The Zero Carbon Bill is one of the most important bills that will influence significant national decisions for the foreseeable future. It seeks not only to address New Zealand’s contribution to anthropogenic climate change. Transitioning to a zero carbon economy will mean big economic decisions including transitioning away from emissions-intensive industries (such as dairy) towards low-emissions and emerging industries (such as forestry and renewable energy). Not only will the Bill provide a plan for transitioning our economy, it will also seek to put in place an adaptation plan to deal with the imminent effects of climate change now and in the immediate future. It is the poorest and most vulnerable in our society who will feel the economic and environmental impacts most strongly. Therefore this Bill is also a matter of social justice.
When it comes to the environment, our actions today have long-lasting consequence. Humanity has known this for millennia. For instance, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’ act of hubris against the son of Poseidon prevented his return home to Ithaca for over twenty years. It is an ominous warning for us. Our continued hubris against the natural world now will be felt decades, even centuries, into the future. Will we ever return to Ithaca? And if we do, will it be the same?
The book of Leviticus reminds us of the need for Sabbath rest, not only for ourselves, but for the land in which we live:
“In the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.”
The principles of Sabbath are a helpful reminder that the world is not capable of constant and unbridled growth, as our neo-liberal economic system would have us believe. We exist and thrive in a brittle ecosphere that is limited within its own means. Constant growth is an hubristic illusion we create for ourselves.
There is little historical evidence that some of these levitical laws such as the year of Sabbath rest or the year of Jubilee were ever put into practice. But in a way, that just supports my point that we should attend carefully to the Zero Carbon Bill. There is a constant tension between how the world should be and the way world is now. There is a tension between rest and work, between ideals and realities, between the liberating way of God and the social, economic systems that govern our daily lives. This Zero Carbon Bill is a discussion within that tension: between what we hope for our world, our society, our whanau, our mokopuna — and what we need to consider now to ensure economic stability and justice for the most vulnerable in our society.
Making a submission
The Government is asking for submissions. You can find the discussion document and submission form here: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/have-your-say-zero-carbon/ There are two options for submission: a quick questionnaire or a full online submission. Generation Zero have helpfully prepared a template for the full submission that promotes strong climate action: http://www.generationzero.org/zca_submission The questionnaire and GenZero options make it very accessible for people who do not know the nuances of the discussion to make informed submissions.
It is easy for conversation about climate change to descend into fear-mongering and apocalyptic doomsaying. But let us not forget that, though Odysseus sailed the seas homeless for twenty years, eventually he did return home to Ithaca. It was not a mythical place but his home on this earth to which he returned. In a similar way, we work not in despair, nor out of a vain, abstracted hope. Our struggle now is always sustained by the hope of home: this world made new; this world transformed in and through Christ by the Spirit who is drawing all things into the redeeming and reconciling love of God.
Rev. Jordan Redding is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Otago writing on the theological anthropology of Eduard Thurneysen. He is part of an inter-denominational climate change network (Combined Churches Climate Change Network). You can contact him directly for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Net Zero means that our national gross greenhouse gas emissions are mitigated by offsets (for example through forestry or carbon credits) so that, as a nation, we are not contributing to anthropogenic climate change globally. There are different goals for Net Zero: the least ambitious focuses solely on carbon. The most ambitious focuses on all greenhouse emissions including methane (farming).
 Sculpture of Odysseus, 1st century C.E., from the villa of Tiberius at Sperlonga.
 Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Walter Shewring (Oxford: University Press, 1998), 111-112.
 Leviticus 254-5