New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a "climate emergency" on Wednesday, telling parliament that urgent action was needed for the sake of future generations.
Ardern said the science on climate change was clear and New Zealand had to acknowledge the threat.
The centre-left leader said the challenges posed by global warming meant parliament’s declaration — an act undertaken by more than a dozen other countries — was warranted.
“In those cases where we do issue declarations, it is often where there is a threat to life, a threat to the property, and civil defence emergencies,” she told parliament.
“If we do not respond to climate change, we will continue to have these emergencies on our shores.”
Lawmakers passed the largely symbolic emergency declaration by 76 votes to 43 after Ardern urged them to back the move.
“Vote in favor of this declaration, be on the right side of history, be part of the solution we must collectively deliver for the next generation,” she said.
Britain’s parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency, passing the motion in May last year, followed closely by Ireland.
According to The Climate Mobilisation, a US lobby group pushing for such declarations, more than a dozen nations have followed suit, along with 1,800 local authorities in cities and towns globally.
The group argues that such declarations represent a critical first step in acknowledging the scale of the climate challenge and will spur action towards reversing global warming.
New Zealand’s centre-right opposition National Party rejected the climate emergency declaration, labelling it “virtue signalling”.