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Major changes needed

The Productivity Commission’s latest draft report on transitioning to a low-emissions economy includes 50 recommendations on how best to address New Zealand’s slow progress.

New Zealand has had climate change policies in place for some time but these have not been effective in reducing domestic emissions. For businesses, households, investors and consumers to manage the risks and seize the opportunities of moving to a low-emissions future, change is needed.

“Our report shows that major changes will be needed”, says Chair of the Productivity Commission, Murray Sherwin, “Emerging technologies are likely to play a large role in facilitating those changes and creating new opportunities for New Zealand.  Our inquiry shows that, if credible and stable climate policy can be established now, businesses, households and consumers will be better able to plan for change and manage the risks of moving to a low-emissions economy.”

The recommendations in the draft report are designed to promote these changes. They include:

  • a strong signal from the Government, and preferably from across the Parliament, about its long-term commitment to transitioning to a low-emissions economy;
  • establishing an institutional framework that supports policies for transition
  • a broad-based and effective emissions pricing scheme that includes phasing in agriculture;
  • supporting regulation and policies, such as a “feebate” scheme for imported vehicles;
  • more resources focused on low-emissions research and development, especially for agriculture; and
  • mandatory financial disclosures about climate risk.  

In essence, the strategy for New Zealand involves replacing fossil-fuels, where feasible, with clean electricity (eg, electric vehicles and lower grade process heat). Longer term, as new technologies emerge in response to higher emissions costs, there will be more options available to ease the path to a net-zero emissions future. These new options will be particularly important since, while increased forestry buys us time, it is not a permanent solution for New Zealand.

Murray Sherwin also notes that “While the challenges of achieving a low-emissions economy are large, the scale of change involved in the transition is comparable to transitions that have occurred before in New Zealand, and within the scale of transitions faced in other developed countries. New Zealand can reach its low emissions targets if it has the right institutions and policy settings in place, and the journey is embarked upon without delay.”

The Productivity Commission’s draft report makes 140 findings, 50 recommendations and asks 11 questions. It is being issued for public and stakeholder review with the Commission now calling for submissions.

A final report will be presented to the Government in the second half of 2018.

Submissions are invited on the report by stakeholders and the public by 8 June 2018. 

Click here for the full report and how to submit feedback.

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PM announces Zero Carbon Act

Jacinda Ardern announced that the Government will start to lay the framework for a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent climate change commission alongside Green Party co-leader James Shaw. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Post Cabinet Press Conference with Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw.

“This is a big task and the transition will take decades. Climate change challenges us to make fundamental changes to our economy and we have a moral responsibility to do that in a way that brings people and communities along with us,” Shaw said. 

“By the end of this Parliament, our goal is to have put in place the framework that will guide our economy toward a net-zero emissions economy by the year 2050.” 
Ardern said consultation would begin from May 2018. It was in the Government’s “100-day plan” to set the carbon zero goal. The consultation period would also mean deciphering what the independent Climate Commission would carry out, however the interim commission, that is already in place, was expected to begin preparing advice for the Government from March. 

“The interim committee could start by looking at agriculture, which contributes almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, and how we can transition to 100 per cent renewable electricity,” said Shaw.”We’ve always been really clear we do, as a nation, need to transition. What we’ve had in our first few weeks are a couple of issues come to us where we’ve realised we’ve actually, as a Government, had no discretion on some of the decisions we’ve had put before us to take into account things like environmental impacts,” Ardern said. 

James Shaw, the Greens’ co-leader

The recommendations from the commissioner’s report, released in July this year, included an act similar to Britain’s Climate Change Act and enshrining targets into law.

What the targets should be was not specified.

“Putting our new climate change target into law will hold the Government to account and place New Zealand in a small group of countries who aspire to net-zero emissions in the next few decades,” Shaw said.

 The Government announcement has been met with a mixed response, with Greenpeace saying that the Government’s refusal to rule out fossil fuel expansion undermines the interim commission. The PSA, Public Service Association, welcomes the announcement, “Climate change will have a profound impact on New Zealand, and PSA members recognise it will fundamentally change the nature of the work they do,” says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay. “We look forward to working with the government and others on this.”

The Zero Carbon Bill is planned to be introduced by October 2018.

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