Govt asks for ideas to reduce emissions – Expert Reaction

The government has released a consultation paper, asking for feedback to help shape the Emissions Reduction Plan.

Some ideas on the table include: a trade-in scheme for old polluting cars, planting more native forests, a ban on sending paper and food to landfill, and kerbside kitchen compost collection. The final plan has been delayed to next year due to Covid.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the discussion paper. Feel free to use these comments in your reporting or follow up with the contact details provided.

Dr Jocelyn Turnbull, Radiocarbon Science Leader, GNS Science, comments:

“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, comments:

“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, comments:

“Well having released yet another discussion document instead of outlining robust actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, I’m glad I’m not Minister Shaw having to front up to the world in a few weeks’ time at the major COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. What can he say?

“Maybe his presentation will be something like this:

“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.