Campaigners say the Government’s unambitious, underprepared set of carbon-cutting policies could see the Climate Minister face fresh criticism from international leaders at next month’s climate talks.
In the lead-up to his trip to the global summit in Glasgow, Climate Change Minister James Shaw presented a consultation document offering a broad look at what is likely to be in the Emissions Reduction Plan in May – the Government’s response to the Climate Change Commission’s carbon budgets and advice.
In November, Shaw and other international leaders will attend the COP26 climate meeting, where they will attempt to transform the vision of the Paris Agreement into action. Hailed as a “turning point”, the Paris Agreement eventually got virtually all the world’s biggest polluters to make carbon-cutting pledges, in a bid to keep the planet inside 1.5C to 2C heating. The Glasgow summit will see nations attempt to tie down the final rules.
While many countries have used the lead-up to Glasgow to ratchet up their climate pledges, New Zealand is yet to do so. The Climate Change Commission has told the Government its current pledge is well short of what’s needed, but Cabinet is yet to announce its decision on a new pledge.
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The less New Zealand achieves domestically, the more it will rely on buying carbon credits from other countries to meet its goal.
Reactions from climate campaigners to the Government’s proposals were consistent: “A grab-bag of generally underwhelming proposals,” said one. A “hodgepodge”, said another. “Deeply disappointing,” was the statement from a group of climate-concerned lawyers.
Oil Change International campaigner David Tong said negotiators at the talks wouldn’t read countries’ domestic emissions proposals themselves, but their aides were likely to prepare them a summary.
“The UK presidency and others have made it clear that they already see a gap between the Prime Minister’s ‘nuclear-free moment’ rhetoric and the reality of New Zealand’s increasing emissions and lacking policies,” he added.
Tong was disappointed the proposals failed to address onshore oil and gas prospecting.
The Government delayed updating its Paris pledge – using the need to wait for the climate commission’s advice and the Emissions Reduction Plan as an excuse. “We’ve built up a lot of expectations, and this document doesn’t deliver.”
Mike Burrell, executive director of the Sustainable Business Council, thought negotiators would be more interested in the pledge itself, also known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (or NDC). “We, alongside others, wait with interest for that announcement.”
On the discussion document, Burrell noted that the proposed policies fell short of the emissions cuts required to meet the Government’s tweaked budgets. But he thought businesses could provide plenty of other ideas to close the gap.
“We can already see some areas where there are suggestions that have been put forward that may not currently be included in the document.”
Burrell had hoped to see a draft Emissions Reduction Plan released yesterday – though the minister stressed this was still to come. “Currently, it is difficult to see how it all fits together, as the plan is [a] work in progress,” he added. “We would be very concerned if this was the only consultation process that the Government was going to hold.”
Climate Change Minister James Shaw announces the Government has released its draft carbon-cutting ideas to the public, so everyone can have a say.
In a statement, Shaw said it was unlikely there would be international interest in the policy proposals, compared to New Zealand’s updates to its NDC and climate finance pledges.
Asked whether he was proud of the consultation document, Shaw said he was proud that “we are committed to putting a plan in place” after previous governments delayed taking action.
The policy document faced heavy criticism. The World Wildlife Fund NZ’s Saul Chambers said it had “more holes than a Swiss cheese”.
Nothing was asked of agriculture before 2025. After that, farmers will have to pay a price on their emissions, plus create a greenhouse-reduction plan. But that was in the works long before the consultation, which will run until November 24.
The document was full of meaningless waffle, added Greenpeace campaigner Christine Rose. The Government was sending Shaw to the global climate summit “with a suitcase full of hot air and udder bulls…”.
Forest & Bird noted that the agriculture section of the 131-page document is only four pages long, despite accounting for 48 per cent of the country’s greenhouse emissions. Comparatively, transport (contributing 20 per cent) is discussed across 27 pages.
Of all departments, the transport team provided the most comprehensive, detailed proposals. Policies – such as the measures promoting EV uptake – had estimates for the carbon they’d save. There were new policies unveiled, including a ban on the heaviest-emitting vehicles (to complement the already-announced feebate and emissions standards schemes) and a goal to reduce car travel by one-fifth through major funding of footpaths, cycleways and public transport, particularly in big cities.
The Government may also pay lower-income families to trade in their old dungers.
Outside of transport, major new proposals include a requirement for big polluters to publish an annual carbon footprint and a ban on organic waste, paper and green waste in landfills after 2030.
Energy Resources Aotearoa – which represents the oil and gas and heavy-emitting industries – joined the criticism, though voiced the position that the proposals went too far.
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