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New Zealand law student launches climate change court case

28 June 2017

It's day two of a Judicial Hearing, where law student Sarah Thomson's alleging the Government is not doing enough to tackle climate change.

Thomson is taking the government to court in hopes of forcing it to set more ambitious climate change targets. On the issue of climate change, the Government has been persistently evasive.

She says the government needs to throw out the target and set a new one.

"Sarah's case makes it clear that climate change is an issue that will have a huge impact upon us all - but that those who have contributed the least to the problem are those who will pay the highest price".

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"I'm young and I'm terrified of a time when I might have to look my kids in the eye and explain to them how we let this happen".

The government recognises the need for every country to act to stabilise greenhouse gases and prevent the consequences of climate change, crown lawyers have told the High Court in Wellington.

Waikato University student Sarah Thomson said outside the High Court at Wellington on Monday: "I feel a lot of people have their hopes on this, because a lot of people want to see change". The outcome of the case is not likely to be known for several months.

But Thomson says as a developed country, New Zealand has an obligation under the Paris Agreement to take a global lead in combating climate change.

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Some of the world's leading climate scientists, including "the father of climate change awareness", James Hansen, and Victoria University of Wellington Professor, Dr James Renwick, will be giving evidence on my behalf.

The law student is challenging the government policy on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, accusing it of failing to review emissions targets properly and using flawed economic modelling in its policy decisions.

Ms Bennett said she is "very comfortable" with the target - but was limited in what she could say as the matter is before the court.

In her preliminary statement of defence, Bennett has denied that the New Zealand government needs to set a target that strengthens the global response to climate change to hold warming to "well below" 2C, with an aim of 1.5C, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement.

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Mr Gunn said the government's scientific expert in the case, Professor Frame, said a balance between participation, compliance and stringency was central to achieving effective global agreement. The Dutch government has appealed.

New Zealand law student launches climate change court case