It was great to hear yesterday that the Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett will ratify the Paris Agreement, and is finally talking to her colleagues in other parties. Climate change is quite possibly the biggest challenge we face as a nation and world. Given 2015 was the hottest year on record and 2016 looking to top that, progress is sorely needed. So far New Zealand’s performance has been dismal – our greenhouse gas emissions are at record levels. Some degree of cross party consensus is essential to getting consistent progress.
However this talk of consensus reignited a discussion about the veracity of the target New Zealand tabled at Paris – an 11% reduction from our 1990 emissions by 2030. According to Radio NZ Green Party co-leader James Shaw commented:
“The target that the government has set to reduce emissions by, is really flaccid. It is an 11 percent reduction on 1990 levels – it is one of the weakest targets in the OECD. Actually, we could be doing a whole lot more.”
Minister Bennett rejected any review of the target.
“We have absolutely no intention of changing our target, everything and every advice that I get is that it is going to be incredibly difficult and expensive for us to reach the target we’ve already set.”
We have previously looked at how the Government has inflated the cost of taking action on climate change. The key point here is that a more challenging target wouldn’t cost that much more than our current target. That is because we have so far done nothing to reduce emissions, in fact we have allowed them to increase unabated. That’s right, our target is ‘challenging’ not because we have high levels of renewable electricity, or high agricultural emissions, it is because we have done nothing to reduce emissions so far. The infographic below sets out this issue, and compares the cost of a more challenging target with other issues we face as a society.
Finally, there are still questions about how ‘challenging’ the Government’s 2030 target truly is. If they carry over surplus credits past 2020 that could reduce the target by around one third. Remember New Zealand only has these surplus credits because our Emissions Trading Scheme was the only one that allowed unlimited trade in fraudulent foreign credits. That is why we are urging them to ‘dump the junk’; not carry over the dodgy surplus credits. Also the forestry accounting to be used under the Paris agreement is still under negotiation; New Zealand is proposing some changes that would make our 2030 target a lot easier to achieve. That is the only reason the Government is ratifying the Paris Agreement early, so they can secure a place in those negotiations.