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SMC: A low-emissions economy

A low-emissions economy
A draft report from the Productivity Commission has outlined some of the changes New Zealand could expect in the transition to a low-emissions economy.

The draft report, released today, is open for submissions until Friday 8 June – the final report will be presented to Government in the second half of 2018.

The Commisson has made a series of recommendations, such as emissions pricing that includes agriculture, more resources for low-emissions research and development (especially for agriculture), and consideration of a ‘feebate’ scheme for imported vehicles to reward energy-efficiency.

University of Canterbury political scientist Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward welcomed the report, which highlighted the challenge of "how we will ensure the transition to a low-carbon economy is just and fair for all the community".

The Commission weighed up options of retaining the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) versus bringing in a form of carbon tax, and recommended a reformed ETS over a carbon tax.

Dr Hayward said it was still uncertain whether the ETS system can provide stable long-term pricing signals, the certainty of which is important for industries like agriculture.

"This is a question that may frustrate economists who have worked for a long time to make an ETS work in New Zealand, but we can’t fall in love with our policy tools, we have to keep asking ourselves, are we sure this is the most effective way to achieve a just and fair transition?"

Te Pūnana Matatini director Professor Shaun Hendy said the report "makes clear that science and innovation will be a necessary part of New Zealand's transition to a low-carbon emissions economy".

"The report also makes a compelling case that government will need to take a role in stimulating green innovation. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option. We will need to be fast adopters of green technologies if our high-emissions economy is to remain competitive, and we risk missing new economic opportunities if we don’t invest in our own green science and innovation."

Lincoln University Associate Professor Anita Wreford said while the report placed a strong emphasis on forests for decarbonising, "it is important that we consider carefully which types of trees are planted and where".

“The report does acknowledge this but it will be important to ensure that there are appropriate incentives for forests beyond monoculture systems, and that a strategic approach to planting is undertaken.”

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report.

"Experience in other countries is showing that by targeting this group you are seeing less flu in those people that you normally do, like older people, because children are an important part of the community.

"By stopping the transition there you can affect your whole flu season."

Univeristy of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris
on Pharmac declining a proposal to offer free influenza vaccination for children.

Trans-Tasman biodiversity plan
A joint Australian and New Zealand plan has been launched to describe undiscovered, undocumented and unnamed biodiversity before it goes extinct.

Launched in Canberra today, the plancomes with the star backing of Sir David Attenborough, who endorsed the call for greater support for scientists who study and name biodiversity.

"Australia and New Zealand together have some of the most extraordinary organisms anywhere on Earth. However, the world is experiencing mass extinctions, and Australia and New Zealand are not immune," he said.

"We cannot properly grasp or understand the natural world without this taxonomic system. Every time I show the world a species and its life, I depend on the work of these scientists."

The 10-year plan is a joint project of Royal Society Te Apārangi and the Australian Academy of Science and was developed by an advisory committee made up of experts from both countries.

The report is available on the Royal Society's website.

Policy news & developments

Primary Sector Council: Minister of Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O'Connor has announced the 15 members of the Primary Sector Council.

Digital Advisory Group: The final seven members of the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group have been announced.

$28b for Auckland transport: Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff have announced a transport package for Auckland that will involve an investment of $28 billion over ten years.

3m ha surveyed: More than three million hectares in northern New Zealand have been surveyed for presence of kauri dieback over the last three years.

Bowel screening moves south: Otago and Southland are the latest communities to be added to the National Bowel Screening Programme.

This week on the NZ Conversation.

Despite living amongst plants with large seeds, extinct giant moa dispersed only tiny seeds
Jo Carpenter, University of Canterbury

See more NZ-authored Conversation articles.

What we've been reading
With an abundance of news stories to possibly read, watch and listen to, it can be hard to find the gems. Here we highlight some of the stories that caught our attention this week.

Thin Ice: Our disappearing glaciers
Stuff national correspondent Charlie Mitchell's interactive feature on New Zealand's shrinking glaciers examines the drivers behind their decline and the boom in last-chance tourists wanting to see them before they disappear.

Culture of silence or a cover-up?
Newsroom's South Island corresponded David Williams has dug into what went on during two years that the oyster parasite Bonamia ostreae was known to be in the Marlborough Sounds, prior to it also being found in a Stewart Island oyster farm last year.

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