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Climate Committee seeks data, evidence

Climate Committee seeks data, evidence for future carbon budgets

By Gavin Evans

Sept. 23 (BusinessDesk) - The Interim Climate Change Committee is seeking additional evidence to broaden work it is doing to help prepare the first carbon budgets required under the country’s proposed zero-carbon legislation.

Chair David Prentice says the committee has a “fairly good idea” on how low-carbon technologies are developing, what the latest areas of research are and where investment is being made.

The committee doesn’t believe it has gaps in the frameworks it is developing, but it wants to test that, he said. And it also wants to lift the climate change discussion beyond the opinions of commentators and get people more focused on possible solutions that can be shared and debated.

“We’re not interested in opinions,” Prentice told BusinessDesk.

“If we are going to be successful in transitioning to a low-carbon future, then we – being New Zealand Inc – have to be as engaged as we possibly can in a constructive and positive way,” he said.

“We’re looking for hard, robust data on potential ways of reducing emissions. But we are also asking people to consider it from the impacts of social equality and inter-generational equity,” he said.

“But again, not from an opinion base - from a fact base. Some of that will be quite difficult for people.”

The committee was formed last year to help advise the government on how to incorporate agriculture in the emissions trading scheme and ways to make power generation 100 percent renewable by 2035.

It recommended against the latter, in favour of accelerating the electrification of transport and industry. It urged early action on agriculture, which accounts for almost half the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, but advocated collection through processors initially while a system of farm-level levies and rebates is established.

The committee was to have wrapped up its work this month but has now embarked on an eight-week “call for evidence”, a process used by the 10-year-old UK Committee on Climate Change.

Whereas the committee’s earlier work was focused on agriculture and energy, Prentice says its approach now is economy-wide and aimed at establishing the best possible information base for the yet-to-be-appointed Climate Change Commission.

The new body, expected to be named this year, is tasked with delivering by February 2021 three carbon budgets out to 2035.

The government’s zero-carbon legislation – not due back in Parliament until late October - requires the commission’s carbon budgets to be both ambitious and feasible. Other factors to be considered include scientific advice, feedback from public consultation, and the impacts the changes will have on people and how those impacts are distributed between regions, communities and generations.

Prentice believes climate change is being more widely discussed, but not often with a focus on emissions reduction. He commended the Gen Less campaign just launched by the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority which provides practical tips on what firms and individuals can do to reduce their emissions.

Prentice says the committee is conscious of the level of consultation already undertaken in the past 18 months. Firms and organisations that have previously submitted on other programmes - such as the Productivity Commission’s work last year on a low-emissions economy and the Ministry of Transport’s proposed feebate scheme for low-emission vehicles - can point to relevant material in those submissions, he said.


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