New climate change target set – and widely criticised

Climate scientist Jim Salinger is among the many critics of New Zealand’s new climate change target.

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser announced the target last week.

“This target is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030,” Mr Groser said. “This is a significant increase on our current target of five per cent below 1990 emission levels by 2020.”

New Zealand will submit the target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. All countries are expected to table targets as part of work towards a new climate change agreement, due to be concluded in Paris in December.

“While New Zealand’s emissions are small on a global scale, we are keen to make a fair and ambitious contribution to the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the most harmful effects of climate change,” Mr Groser said.

“Almost 80% of our electricity is renewable already, and around half our emissions come from producing food for which there aren’t yet cost-effective technologies to reduce emissions. So there are fewer opportunities for New Zealand to reduce its emissions right now.

“However, I’m optimistic about the future – our investment in agricultural research is beginning to bear fruit and the cost of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continues to fall. I think in 5-10 years we’ll be in a good position to reduce our emissions in both agriculture and transport.

In setting the new target, the Government needed to ensure it was achievable and to avoid imposing unfair costs on any particular sector or group of people.

“We appreciate input given via public meetings, hui and submissions. Around 1,700 people attended meetings and over 15,000 people and organisations made written submissions. These were analysed and taken into account as the Government considered the most appropriate target to set, given our unique national circumstances,” Mr Groser said.

“New Zealand’s target is equivalent to a reduction of 11 per cent below our 1990 emission levels by 2030. Our target is expressed against 2005 emission levels similar to the approach of other significant players including the United States and Canada,” Mr Groser said.

“The target will remain provisional until we ratify the new international agreement. The detailed rules and guidelines for national reduction targets are likely to be set after the Paris meeting. These will cover matters such as the rules on accounting for the land sector, and ensuring international carbon markets meet high standards of environmental integrity.”

“The Government will adopt an appropriate mix of policies to ensure the target is met. In particular, we will begin a review of the Emissions Trading Scheme this year, which will include scope for further public discussion on what New Zealand will do domestically.” Mr Groser said.

More information can be found here.

The target was promptly criticised by opposition parties and environmental groups.

According to a TV3 report:

Climate scientist Jim Salinger says New Zealand needs to be more ambitious, as it’s uniquely placed to lead development on low-carbon solutions that support, enhance and potentially advantage the economy.

The Bioenergy Association said it was disappointed the Government’s climate change targets focus mainly on emissions reduction opportunities in agriculture and greater use of electric cars, with no mention of the potential of the heat sector.

Association Chair Rob Mallinson says the Government has already run a Wood Energy Scheme that showed the cost of carbon emission reduction from renewable heat opportunities was only around $7 per tonne.

“Buying carbon credits offshore will only meet our obligation for one ‘commitment period’ and the long-term cost of this approach hasn’t been properly assessed. We should be taking advantage of low-cost opportunities to reduce our carbon emissions here in New Zealand by increasing our use of bioenergy, particularly in the heat sector.

“The Bioenergy Association would like to see the Government explore these opportunities, as have the UK with its Renewable Heat Incentive, and Australia with its $2 billion Emissions Reduction Fund.”

Mr Mallinson says the Government should see climate change targets as an opportunity for New Zealand business and the economy, not a cost.

“Bioenergy has the potential to add revenue of $6 billion per year to the country’s economy, and to create jobs and economic growth – particularly in the regions.

“In the short term, we’d like the Government to encourage the heat market to use wood fuel, farmers to process farm waste to produce bioenergy and local authorities to use organic waste for heating and transport fuel instead of dumping it in landfills.

“Such leadership would show other potential users the viability of bioenergy and support expansion of the wood fuel and biogas markets. Our bioenergy opportunities are based on well-proven technology, so don’t require further research or exploration. What we need is Government support to speed up growth of the market.”

Mr Mallinson says there are many economically viable niche bioenergy opportunities. “With Government support and near zero cost, the number of opportunities could increase considerably, using New Zealand’s good supply of renewable natural resources to achieve significant economic, employment and environmental benefits.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s