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Climate Change Minister thanks the environment watchdog

Hon James Shaw

Minister for Climate Change

26 March 2019 PĀNUI PĀPĀHO


Climate Change Minister thanks the environment watchdog for his ‘landscape’ emissions report

The Minister for Climate Change thanks the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment for his latest report examining an alternative approach to dealing with long-term climate change targets and policies.

“Commissioner, Simon Upton, has provided a thought-provoking document, as I would expect, and the Government welcomes it as part of our overall consideration of climate strategies,” James Shaw says.

“The Commissioner’s report questions some of the fundamental design principles of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS).

“However, for the sake of providing policy stability and predictability for emitters and the forestry sector, the Government is committed to retaining the use of forestry off-sets for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

“As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says, there is a narrowing window of opportunity to stay within 1.5o Celsius of global warming. It is because that window is so narrow that planting trees to offset emissions is a necessity; at least in the coming decades.

“Nevertheless, Commissioner Upton is correct that trees only retain sequestered carbon for the life of the tree whereas emitted CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

“I agree that the priority must be actual gross reductions in emissions,” says James Shaw.

“The NZ ETS reforms we consulted on last year, and which we will introduce this year, will provide necessary incentives to bring down domestic emissions.

“The ETS reforms being introduced are the result of consultation, review, and decisions made over the past five years.

“The Government believes those sets of reforms are the best range of policies available at this time.

“Fundamental changes, such as those proposed by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, would need to go through the same processes that have brought us to where we are now with the current ETS reforms being put in place,” Mr Shaw says.


Will you incorporate any of what the PCE is suggesting into climate change policy?

The Government is on a path that provides a practical mix of policy that it believes will achieve the necessary changes to New Zealand’s emissions profile and meet our Paris Agreement obligations.

Why not follow the PCE’s advice?

This report will not affect the decisions the Government has consulted on and signalled over the course of the last 12 months regarding the Zero Carbon Bill and reforms to the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme.

People are already making investment decisions based on the signals they’re picking up.

But PCE is saying we can’t wait.

He makes valid points, including that we must bring down domestic emissions in long lived gases.

The choice of policy instruments you use to do that is really where the debate lies here.

Can we really address global warming if we don’t do what the PCE suggests?

Most people have only ever said planting forests is a stop gap measure while you bring down emissions.

There is more urgency in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which warns that our timeframe is shorter than previously thought.

It’s because of that urgency that trees are even more important now.

Future technology may provide other options but, until then, trees are our best option, alongside emissions reductions.

The Government plans on doing both.

So what are we doing to get emissions down?

The NZ ETS is the big tool, and the big change with the ETS this year will be a cap on total allowable emissions. That cap will be a sinking lid - lowering every five years.

What examples exist of companies switching to lower emissions production?

Synlait provides an example.

The company’s next milk powder plant will use driers powered with electricity.

Right now that’s more expensive than coal or gas-fired milk powder production. But Synlait knows that, within the lifetime of its plant, the cost will flip and it will be much more expensive to burn fossil fuels than use renewable electricity.

So people are already making investment decisions based on expected future prices, and that’s already driving investment into cleaner alternatives.


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