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Election 2017 and science

Election 2017 and science
24 August 2017

Ahead of the 2017 general election, scheduled to be held on September 23, the Science Media Centre posed ten science-related policy questions to political parties.

Full responses are available on our website, or as a PDF. The climate change-related responses are also below.

We asked the National, Labour, Green, NZ First, Māori, ACT and TOP parties for their policies on the following topics:

Freshwater quality
Science funding
Climate Change
Predator Free/1080
Genetic modification

Renewable energy
Natural hazards
Medicinal cannabis
Healthy housing

NZ First has yet to respond: we will add the party's comments to our website when they are available. Let us know if you want to be alerted when those final responses are added.

Climate change
How will your party meet the goals of the Paris Agreement? How will agriculture be accounted for in climate change adaptation and mitigation? What are your plans for the Emissions Trading Scheme?

NATIONAL: Under the Paris Agreement, we have signed up to a fair and ambitious target of reducing emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. We will meet this target through a combination of reducing domestic emissions under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), planting more trees and participating in international carbon markets.

With more than 85% renewable electricity generation already, and a target of 90% by 2025, we are off to a good start. We are also looking at how we can reduce emissions in other sectors such as agriculture and transport, however we will not bring agriculture into the ETS until we have the viable technology to reduce emissions.

We’re spending a record $2 billion on public transport with a target of 64,000 electric vehicles by 2021, each year we invest $20 million in agricultural greenhouse gas research and are providing up to $200 million for international climate-related support.

We are committed to making the ETS work and will not scrap it like other parties have proposed. The National Government recently announced a package of changes to the ETS to provide businesses with the clarity they need about the direction of the ETS. We are committed to ensuring New Zealand businesses whose emissions are a big part of their costs are not disadvantaged compared to their international competitors.

LABOUR: Labour will ensure a just transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy with decent and secure jobs and, as a key to achieving ambitious emissions reduction targets, will establish an independent Climate Commission and carbon budgeting. We’ll restore the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to be an all sectors, all gases scheme, so that we move away from carbon-polluting goods and services towards low or zero-carbon options.

GREEN: We are committed to a net zero carbon economy by 2050. We must act to ensure a secure future according to science on Climate Change.

The Green Party will:
1. Work to strengthen the ineffective ETS, e.g. through a progressively rising price cap and a minimum price floor, and over time replace it with an effective levy;
2. Use all the levers available to government: R&D, energy efficiency, transport changes, tree-planting etc. to make New Zealand a world leader in the race against climate change.
3. Prioritise investment in low-carbon transport options.
4. Move towards 100% renewable electricity by 2030 with our Empowering NZ plan, and also help major industrial energy users wind down their use of coal.

On agriculture, although New Zealand has a unique emissions profile, primary industry has ways to cut carbon emissions that are already cost effective for farmers. There will be an early and measured phase-in of a levy on agriculture emissions for the agriculture sector. We will introduce incentives for on-farm mitigation measures and potentially on-farm sequestration. The Green Party is committed to assisting vulnerable sectors adapt to a low emission economy and will make this a priority.

NZ FIRST: Responses not yet received.

MĀORI: Climate change solutions:
• Prioritise solutions that address the effects of Climate Change working across the political spectrum to tackle climate change
• Enact emissions targets into law and support the setting of carbon budgets that would act as stepping stones towards the targets
• Support the establishment of an independent Climate Commission to advise on setting carbon budgets and to report on meeting those budgets
• Set up government subsidies for electric vehicles for community groups
• Establish whānau friendly cities encouraging young people to have a voice in the design and planning of their cities starting with green spaces in urban centres
• Create more kura taiaō and enviro-school models of curriculum
• Support a proposal that will see the planting of 100,000 hectares of new forests over the next 10 years

We also believe in the efficient use of water, energy conservation and the need for sustainable environmental management. We are concerned about water management, restoration of water quality; and environmentally sustainable land use that does not degrade our water system.

In this regard, the Māori Party looks to:
• Expand the mandate of the Environmental Protection Authority to include crown minerals and freshwater
• Transfer the role of kaitiaki back from the Department of Conservation to mana whenua
• Subsidise organisations to undertake environmental impact assessments to support businesses becoming more environmentally friendly.
ACT: ACT opposes blunt environmental regulation, but supports various initiatives that would reduce emissions, such as modernised ride-sharing rules, demand-based road pricing, and priced irrigation.

As for the ETS, ACT’s preference is for a carbon tax rather than a trading scheme.

TOP: TOP will ensure the Emissions Trading Scheme is restored to being a proper cap and trade scheme. It should remain closed to international units, phasing out the free allocations to energy intensive exporters and auctioning credits with the cap set at the 2030 target. We expect this will cause the price of carbon to rise significantly, sending a long term signal for investment. If international trade resumes, the government should purchase the units and auction them into the ETS.

The revenue raised by the ETS should be used in the first instance to invest in improving energy efficiency in the nation’s homes and small businesses. That includes insulation, and the adoption of energy efficient heating systems. This will save money and reduce emissions at the same time. The other short term priorities are planting all our 1.1m hectares of erosion prone land and ensuring electricity pricing encourages a move to 100% renewable energy.

In the short term we want to see agriculture managed through freshwater controls. When agriculture is brought into the ETS we need to ensure methane is accounted for correctly, which may mean a two basket approach (short lived gases treated differently to long lived).


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