Climate change plan revealed for NZ

Publish Date
Mon, 9 May 2022, 1:36pm
Climate Change Minister James Shaw. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Climate Change Minister James Shaw. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Climate change plan revealed for NZ

Publish Date
Mon, 9 May 2022, 1:36pm

By Hamish Cardwell of RNZ

Analysis - Climate Change Minister James Shaw this morning sketched out some more details about to expect from a historic 10 days in climate policy in Aotearoa.

The Government today announced its comprehensive plan to slash climate emissions will come out next Monday, May 16.

It will include sweeping changes to help the world try and avoid a global catastrophe.

Shaw gave a speech to a conference room packed with representatives from industry and civil society eager to hear the direction of travel.

He did not release any policy detail but said Cabinet had agreed on the emissions budget for the next three years.

The budgets set the target for how much climate gases the country can release overall - and it will be slightly less than what was let out in 2017 overall.

He announced a special Parliamentary debate on climate change this Thursday.

At the release of the Emissions Reduction Plan on Monday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson will also announce the first round of recipients for money from the new climate fund.

And Shaw said a permanent climate change board will be established to coordinate climate change policy across government.

It will report to the Climate Emergency Response Group of Ministers chaired by the prime minister.

The government has said climate and health will likely be a major focus of Budget 2022.

First three emissions budgets released

The emissions budgets are a sinking lid on emissions.

  • First budget period 2022-2055: 290 megatonnes can be released (about 72 a year and approximately three less than projected for the period. A slight reduction, but in line with what the Climate Change Commission recommended)
  • Second budget period 2026-2030: 305 megatonnes (about 61 a year, so there is a slight increase in the total allowed to be released, but because it is over a longer time period of five years the annual average released is nearly 20 per cent less than the period of five years up to 2021)
  • Third budget period 2031-2035: 240 megatonnes (about 48 a year or 35 percent less than the period up to 2021).

The Climate Change Commission will provide updated advice on the second budget in 2024 and the third later in the decade.

Shaw said there were compounding positive effects from reducing emissions.

"Meeting the budgets will help to create new industries and high-value jobs; lower household energy bills; a more climate-friendly agriculture sector; warmer, drier homes; exciting new technologies; the protection of native species and eco-systems; cost savings for businesses; and greater resilience in the face of increasing global uncertainty," James Shaw said.

He said the Government had done more on climate change policy in the past few years than had been done by all governments in the previous decades.

The long road here

The Emissions Reduction Plan was supposed to be released at the end of last year but the government pushed through a law change to give themselves more time.

In October last year, the Government went to the public asking for ideas about how to make reductions, admitting it could not hit its targets without help.

At best, its plans get Aotearoa two-thirds of the way to hitting the 2022-2025 target - and at worst are only a third of what is needed.

The plan is a response to the Climate Change Commission's roadmap for how to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Government said it broadly accepted the commission's plan.

It calls for progressively deeper emissions reductions - 15 per cent by 2025 for long-lived greenhouse gases like CO2 - and up to 63 per cent by 2035.

Late last year the Government made an international pledge to halve emissions by the end of the decade - although critics say once accounting tricks are taken into account they've really only committed to about 20 per cent in reductions.

Two-thirds of the savings will have to come from paying other countries to make cuts on our behalf.

Transport likely to be an emphasis

Emissions reductions in transport, energy and industry sectors are expected to be a priority for the first emissions reduction period - from this year through to 2025.

The scale and speed of the cuts needed to hit the targets are bracing.

The commission said transport emissions must be slashed by 13 per cent by 2030, and 41 per cent by 2035.

The discussion document released in October said the distance travelled by private vehicles must drop 20 per cent by 2035.

The emphasis will be on getting city dwellers out of their cars and into public transport or walking and cycling, if there is any hope of reaching the target.

E-vehicles will need to make up 30 per cent of the fleet by 2035.

There will need to be a massive investment in mass transit in the large cities, with reduced public transport fees and increased congestion charging.

The Ministry for the Environment pulled together a succinct table on the commission's advice to the government which shows the staggering scale of the changes needed.

Some examples:

  • Cyclists numbers must increase by half in three years and by 340 per cent by 2035
  • Public transport use needs to go up 60 percent and 210 percent over the same timeframes.
  • By 2025, electricity generated from wind and solar needs to increase by 106 per cent and 180 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, the Government's work phasing out fossil fuel boilers for industrial heat and decarbonising the industrial sector will continue.

It intends to work towards a ban on organic material going into landfills without gas capture by 2030.

But there are a raft of other plans in the works.

There are few new plans for agriculture while work continues with the industry on the He Waka Eke Noa programme to cut emissions - with a decision expected by the end of the year.

Most of the plans to cut climate gases have compounding positive benefits - they often lead to better health and environmental outcomes.

The commission's modelled shows the cost to GDP in 2050 of reaching the net-zero target is a little over 1 per cent, while doing nothing will cost about 2.3 per cent.

Critics argue that letting the emissions trading scheme drive innovation and efficiencies is the best and cheapest way to cut emissions.

However, the commission and the IPCC say deeper cuts are needed if the world is to have any hope of limiting warming to below catastrophic levels.