Government signs historic Climate Change agreement

The Government has recently signed a major climate change reduction agreement in Paris, which according to the Minister for Climate Change Issues Paula Bennett will include a multi-faceted approach to reducing carbon emissions.

The Paris agreement, which was finalised in December 2015, was signed by 188 countries and is said to cover 90 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. According to Bennett the agreement is “huge achievement” for both New Zealand and the rest of the world.

However, Green Party co-leader James Shaw says the targets are “inadequate”, and until the Government directly addresses the agriculture sector, emissions reductions will remain negligible.

“The Government’s emission reductions target would be somewhere between three of four percent of global warming, and page one of the Paris agreement calls for us to limit global warming between to about one and half to two degrees. The target [the Government] has adopted is inadequate.”

“We put out a report in September last year called the Yes We Can plan which went through the economy sector by sector and showed how you can reduce emissions in the New Zealand economy by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, as opposed the Government’s 11 percent [reduction] target —you cannot do that without bringing agriculture in in some way,” says Shaw.

However, according to the Government the domestic policy for reducing emissions will focus on a range of measures to address the growing issue of climate change.

“The Government is already processing a number of measures that will help reduce carbon emissions such as investment in public transport and cycleways, more fuel efficient vehicles, record investment in research and development and so on,” says Minister for Climate Change Issues Paula Bennett.

Bennett was adamant the Government would not look to implement a carbon tax, saying the focus was to reform the Emissions Trading Scheme.

“A carbon tax is not being considered at present. My focus is reforming the Emissions Trading Scheme so it creates the right incentives for people to reduce emissions,” says Bennett.

“One of our most important tools for reducing emissions is the Emissions Trading Scheme which we are reviewing now. We need carbon to cost more than it does now so that there is the right incentive to reduce emissions, so I will be looking to remove the current 50 percent discount emitters get on carbon units at some point.”

The Emissions Trading Scheme was introduced in 2008 by the-then Labour Government. The scheme placed a price on carbon emission units which were then able to be traded by the private sector. However, since New Zealand’s introduction of the scheme the price of carbon units has significantly decreased. The price of carbon has more than halved between 2010 and now.

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2016.
Posted 10:48am Sunday 1st May 2016 by Henry Napier.