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Current 2030 emissions targets unlikely to be met

Current 2030 emissions targets unlikely to be met

First published in Energy and Environment on May 16, 2019.

Officials have told ministers NZ is not on track to meet is current commitments under the Paris Agreement.

NZ has agreed under the Paris Agreement to a Nationally Determined Contribution of reducing emissions by 30% below 2005 levels (equivalent to 11% of 1990 levels) by 2030.

In the climate change legislation Regulatory Impact Assessment, Officials said: “NZ cannot rely on afforestation to deliver the necessary offsets over the next twelve years to meet its NDC, or on major innovations being market-ready and adopted (such as a methane vaccine or widespread adoption of electric or autonomous vehicles).

“Based on what we know from high-level indications of abatement potential, NZ’s transition pathway is highly likely to start more gradually – as opposed to continuing in a straight line from now to 2050 – and could accelerate in later decades if innovations come to fruition, likely bolstered if there are strong domestic signals that support transition.”

Given the level of uncertainty on a cost-effective pathway for domestic emissions, the RIA said ministers might have to consider driving domestic abatement based on feasible opportunities available and the need to review the target based on evolving information on technological and other developments.

Despite there being some ways to reduce emissions, “these are expected on best estimates to be less than the abatement required to meet our NDC, leaving a gap between domestic budgets and our NDC in 2030”.

Studies on meeting targets placed a high reliance on forestation and officials said, “the annual rates of planting required to achieve these levels may be challenging”.

Buying overseas units would enable targets to be met, but this would come at a cost and would reduce pressure to cut NZ emissions

“Given the significant uncertainty of how the future will play out, policy consideration is being given to the role international units could play in meeting targets as a ‘safety valve’, allowing flexibility if innovation and afforestation rates do not eventuate as modelled.”

Ministers decided to put restrictions around their use – essentially keeping government control over their use in limited circumstances.

“The Bill accounts for this risk of future uncertainty through the provision of a number of ‘safety valves’ and flexibility mechanisms, such as allowing for the target and budgets to be revised and international units to be purchased under limited circumstances. This will give NZ the ability to remain flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances throughout the transition, as necessary, and also somewhat mitigates the risk of NZ shouldering the climate change burden should others choose not to act.”
First published in Energy and Environment on May 16, 2019.

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