Consultation document opens opportunity to shape NZ’s first Emissions Reduction Plan

The Government today invited New Zealanders to inform the country’s first Emissions Reduction Plan with the release of a consultation document containing a range of policy ideas to decrease the country’s emissions.

The Emissions Reduction Plan will set the direction for climate action through to 2035 prescribing action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across a range of areas, including energy, transport, waste, agriculture, construction and financial services.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

 “Over the last four years we have laid the foundations for a prosperous, low-emissions economy with the passing of the Zero Carbon Act and the work of the Climate Commission. Today’s discussion document gives New Zealanders the chance to say what policies they want in order to reach our climate targets.

“Tackling climate change is a job for everyone. Be it school children or business leaders, I hear from a range of New Zealanders about the opportunities a low carbon future offers our country, so I encourage everyone to have their say,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 The Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw, said the discussion document released today is not a draft of the Emissions Reduction Plan. Rather it is an opportunity to hear feedback on what should be included in the plan.

“Since the final advice of the independent Climate Change Commission was published in June, conversations have been underway across Government about how Ministers and agencies can support emissions reductions in their portfolios – and what can be included in the final Emissions Reduction Plan,” James Shaw said.

“Some of the ideas that have come from these conversations form the basis of the consultation document we are releasing today, and are inviting feedback on. Other ideas have already been consulted on – either through previous policy development, or the Climate Change Commission’s consultation – and are not included this consultation.”

The Plan to be released next year will need to set out future policy and regulatory change, as well as actions that can be taken by businesses, towns and cities, and every community, Mr Shaw said.

It will also set out how the transition is made in an inclusive and equitable way.

The discussion document Te hau mārohi ki anamata – Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future was released on the Ministry for the Environment website today.

Consultation on the emissions reduction plan is open until 11.59pm, 24 November 2021.

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on the discussion paper. It has posted these responses –

Dr Jocelyn Turnbull, Radiocarbon Science Leader, GNS Science:

“It is encouraging to see the broad scope of the government’s discussion document for the Emissions Reduction Plan, considering so many different sectors throughout our economy, and the considerations for a just transition. The early emphasis on transport emissions is well-placed, since these are our second largest source of emissions, and we have the capability to substantially mitigate transport emissions with current, existing technologies. It will be vital that we measure our emissions, so that central and local governments and industry are able to monitor the success of their policies and innovations.”

No conflict of interest.

Professor Robert McLachlan, School of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University:

“It’s very exciting to see the work of the Climate Change Commission now coming to fruition in this detailed discussion document for the Emissions Reduction Plan. It’s widely acknowledged that the Emissions Trading Scheme cannot achieve our climate goals alone and that different sectors need specific policies and pathways. Transport is particularly challenging as its emissions need to fall 41% over 2019-2035. The Clean Vehicles bill is only the first of many broad changes that will be needed – as the document says, “urgent, wholesale changes [are needed] across the system”. Reducing car travel 20% by 2035, making sure road building does not increase emissions, making sure local government reallocate road space to public transport, walking, and cycling, and providing more, cheaper and better public transport are all important steps.

“The proposal to form a National Energy Strategy to manage the phase-out of fossil fuels is welcome and is long overdue. Two-thirds of New Zealand’s energy comes from fossil fuels, a proportion that has hardly changed for decades.

“Many of the suggested sweeping changes lay the groundwork for future decades, and there is still a gap for the first budget period 2022-25. Emissions cuts need to be doubled over what is proposed in order to meet the budgets. It is disputed whether these budgets are sufficient to meet the criteria in the Zero Carbon Bill and our obligations under the Paris Agreement.

“I am very much looking forward to the coming discussions over the details in the Emissions Reduction Plan, a turning point in our climate mitigation.”

No conflict of interest.

Emeritus Professor Ralph Sims, Sustainable Energy and Climate Mitigation, Massey University:

“Yes, New Zealand well understands there is a global climate problem. Therefore a year ago Government declared a climate emergency and, leading by example, we will have carbon-neutral activities across all aspects of government in 3-4 years’ time.

“We know our NDC (nationally determined contribution) under the Paris Agreement, to reduce emissions to 5% below 2005 gross emissions over the 2021-2030 period, is relatively weak.

“We understand this target is not compatible with staying below a 1.5 degree temperature rise so we will have to be much more ambitious.

“Having to reach more than 36% below 2005 emission levels by 2030 to become 1.5°C compatible may prove difficult given our annual emissions have yet to show any decline. The most recent data just released for the year 2019 shows the 82.3 Mt CO2-eq are almost identical to our emissions in 2005.

“We did establish a Climate Change Commission to give us advice on how we might best be able to reduce our emissions, and by how much in order to be below 1.5°C compatible. After seeking wide consultation from businesses, farmers, foresters, and all civil society, they presented their report in June 2021. Although criticised by many for being not ambitious enough given the urgency needed to reduce emissions, it was helpful advice for us, but we realise the targets they suggested will be hard to achieve in practice.

“We’ve put the planned date for working through the appropriate legislation back by 6 months till May 2022, but all is not lost. After discussion between all the various ministries, we’re using that time to put out yet another consultation document. Given that we anticipate our policy ideas as proposed will be insufficient to match the recommended three 5 year targets identified by the Commission after all their hard work, (even assuming we can grow even more forests to reduce our net emissions), we are now asking businesses and citizens to give us some ideas as to how they could help reduce their carbon footprints. Our farmers are already working on this and will give us their ideas in 4 years’ time. We realise these same people have done very little to reduce their emissions over the past years in spite of knowing climate change is already impacting adversely on our weather patterns. Even having our emissions trading scheme in place for 14 years has had little impact.

“So overall, New Zealand is doing its share, knowing we have one of the highest per capita emissions in the world. We are also supportive of the case being made by our South Pacific neighbours who are gravely concerned how sea level rise, floods and cyclones may affect their destiny. In summary, New Zealand hopes to come up with a more ambitious NDC to present at some COP in the future, though this will have to be after even further consultation with our team of 5 million.”

No conflict of interest.

Sources:  The Prime Minister and the Science Media Centre



Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog