Greens MP Jan Barham says reaching a zero-carbon economy is possible.
Greens MP Jan Barham says reaching a zero-carbon economy is possible. Jacklyn Wagner

Greens call for zero carbon NSW by 2040

NORTH Coast Greens MP Jan Barham has put climate change on the agenda with a new bill calling for New South Wales to become carbon neutral by 2040.

The proposal would commit current and future governments to working towards a zero-carbon economy.

Governments would be required to develop four-year plans for emissions reductions and climate change adaptation, with legal action available to prevent decisions that would undermine the goal.

"Mike Baird can change the conversation by acknowledging that our state can make the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a zero emissions future, consistent with international agreements and the scientific evidence," Ms Barham said.

Under freedom of information laws, the Greens obtained a NSW Government report to the federal consultation on post-2020 emissions targets.

Ms Barham said the secret document was never submitted to the consultation process, but it showed the Baird government was aware of the risks of failing to act.

"The NSW Government's own analysis recognised that without significant emissions cuts, climate change will have very significant impacts on farming, tourism, on communities across the state and on human health and emergency services," she said.

"It's a case of the government stepping up, being responsible and meeting its duty of care."

Achieving a zero-carbon economy is not an unheard of target: Melbourne City Council has committed to reaching zero net emissions by 2020.

In June, the G7 group of rich nations set the goal of completely decarbonising the global economy before the end of the century.

Ms Barham said it would require brave investment in renewable energy to avert the worst impacts of an impending climate crisis.

"People don't appreciate how dynamic some of these storm events can be," she said.

"We've had a quiet period, but ask anyone who was around in the 1950s to 1970s and they will tell you.

"The high incidence of cyclones, East Coast lows and major storm events cause a lot of damage.

"Add to that the likelihood of more events with greater impact and this could be a more important decision for us than any other.

"We need to be prepared."

The bill will be debated in parliament next week.