New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern signs climate pact with California

New Zealand and the US state of California have signed a pledge to help fight climate change by sharing ideas and best practices, including how to get millions more electric vehicles on the road.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and California Governor Gavin Newsom discussed the agreement in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

The agreement does not commit either government to specific policies but outlines broad areas for cooperation.

“We have a natural bond, and I’m so glad we put pen to paper today to affirm that and continue our partnership on one of the great challenges of our generation,” said Ardern.

Cars, trucks, and other parts of the transportation sector are the largest contributors to California’s greenhouse gas emissions and New Zealand’s second-largest, after agriculture, Ardern said.

California will ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. New Zealand wants 30 percent of all car sales to be electric by that year.

Carbon-powered clunkers

New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern signs climate pact with California

Newsom said he expects competition to intensify in the electric vehicle market, which Tesla currently dominates, similar to when Netflix faced competition from other streaming services.

Ardern said her administration will talk to California officials about programs encouraging people to get rid of older, gas-guzzling cars.

New Zealand is home to five million people compared to California’s population of 39 million and has a much smaller economy, but both are experiencing the effects of climate change.

The US state just recorded its driest winter amid increasing drought, while New Zealand’s most recent winter was the hottest.

New Zealand is strongly focused on reducing emissions from its vital agricultural industry. Beef and dairy dominate the country’s agricultural sector, and dairy products are the largest export. Cattle are a major source of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas, worldwide.

California is also home to a large agricultural industry. The agreement states that the two governments can participate in joint projects to expand farming practices that improve soil health, reduce methane emissions and increase water efficiency.

The memorandum of cooperation was signed by Jeremy Clarke-Watson, New Zealand’s Consul General in Los Angeles, and Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

At last year’s global climate conference in Scotland, California signed a brief joint statement with New Zealand and the Canadian province of Quebec to share information on climate policy, including carbon markets.

Due to Ardern’s prominent role in the aftermath of the 2019 massacre of 51 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, the issue of gun control was also expected to be raised.

Arms control

Newsom is pressuring the state legislature to send him a package of gun-reform bills in response to this week’s murder of 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.

Less than a month after the Christchurch shooting, New Zealand’s parliament voted to ban most automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

Newsom and Ardern did not speak publicly about gun control. However, Ardern raised her country’s actions in response to a question about “shared values” between California and New Zealand.

“It was clear that the New Zealand public expected its politicians to find solutions quickly,” Ardern said.

“Are they the answer to all our gun-related issues in New Zealand? New. But they were practical steps that we felt were necessary and that would make a difference. And so we made them.”


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