New Zealand introduces climate bill to become carbon neutral

New Zealand Climate Change Minister James Shaw, left, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talk to reporters on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Wellington, New Zealand. (AP)
Updated 08 May 2019

New Zealand introduces climate bill to become carbon neutral

  • Agriculture is a key source of overseas revenue for New Zealand, which is home to just under 5 million people but more than 10 million cows and some 28 million sheep

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand’s government on Wednesday introduced an ambitious climate change bill that aims to make the nation mostly carbon neutral by 2050 while giving some leeway to farmers.
However, some farming industry groups say the measures remain too onerous and threaten the future of regional communities, while some environmentalists say the bill doesn’t go far enough because there are no penalties for noncompliance.
The bill represents a campaign promise from the liberal government that was elected 18 months ago. The government has also promised to plant 1 billion trees over 10 years and ensure that the electricity grid runs entirely from renewable energy by 2035.
The bill would require all greenhouse gases except methane from animals to be reduced to net zero by 2050. Methane emissions would be reduced by 10 percent by 2030 and by between about one-quarter and one-half by 2050.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said climate change was the biggest single challenge facing the world.
“We know the climate is changing. People can see that,” Ardern said. “This legislation makes a start on tackling climate change because the alternative is the catastrophic cost of doing nothing.”
Agriculture is a key source of overseas revenue for New Zealand, which is home to just under 5 million people but more than 10 million cows and some 28 million sheep.
Those animals burp and fart methane, resulting in an unusual greenhouse gas emission profile for the country. Almost half of total emissions come from agriculture. The bill says the lower targets for methane reduction reflect that it stays in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than carbon dioxide.
Tim Ritchie, the chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, said meat processors and exporters are alarmed at the targets, which could only be achieved by reducing herds.
“This will impose enormous economic costs on the country and threaten many regional communities who depend on pastoral agriculture,” he said in a release.
Meanwhile, Russel Norman, the executive director of Greenpeace in New Zealand, said the bill would have little clout because there was no mechanism to hold anybody to account.
To come into effect, the bill would need to be passed by a majority in the Parliament. A final vote is expected later this year.


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 15 October 2019

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.