7 Jul 2019

A call for ideas on climate catastrophe prevention

From The House , 7:30 am on 7 July 2019

Twenty years ago New Zealand signed the Kyoto Protocol, agreeing to limit the emission of greenhouse gases. We set a target for the first period (to 2012), and massively overshot it.  

Three and a half years ago New Zealand signed up to the Paris Agreement which has a specific objective of limiting the average global climate temperature to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. This target was chosen not because it is safe but because scientists fear that above that level positive feedback systems could fuel a runaway temperature rise that could be civilization threatening. 

Legislation is now being considered by Parliament that seeks to create ways to improve on our earlier results. But MPs want feedback on what they've come up with.

Wellington Climate Strike 190524

Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

The proposed legislation is titled the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.

When The House spoke with the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw, he outlined the proposed law’s main objectives as:

  • "To provide New Zealand with a policy framework for living within 1.5* of global warming, above pre-industrial levels, as per the Paris Agreement. 
  • It sets a long-term emissions reduction target for the country to the year 2050. 
  • It creates a Climate Change Commission; an independent, expert body to advise Parliament and the Government on how to get from where we are today to 2050.
  • A process for creating interim emissions budgets, sort of stepping stone targets for us to get down to our emissions reduction target.
  • And it requirement on the Government to have and to regularly update an adaptation plan for how we adapt to the effects of climate change."

And yes, James Shaw can rattle off such a list without pausing, although after more than a year of writing and building political consensus on this bill he probably now dreams the details.

The House also spoke with National MP Todd Muller, opposition Climate Change Spokesperson and Deputy Chair of the select committee considering this bill. The National Party voted with the Government on the first reading of this bill and Mr Muller says New Zealand needs to contribute.

Todd Muller.

National MP Todd Muller in select committee. Photo: VNP/Daniela Maoate-Cox

Todd Muller applauded the plan to create an independent climate commission, saying, 

“I think the key take-out really is an institution that helps guide us in terms of how we wrestle our emissions down. We know we need to play our part, from a New Zealand context, and so to have this institution to provide advice, for successive governments and successive ministers of climate change, I think is useful.”

Todd Muller’s Environment Committee will be accepting submissions on the bill until July 16th. 

We asked both James Shaw and Todd Muller what feedback, advice or criticisms they desired or expected from the public.

National is on the record as unhappy about the methane targets the bill sets out. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is produced in New Zealand predominantly by bovine and ovine digestion (cows and sheep). Todd Muller expects to hear from the primary industry on this.

Minister Shaw notes that he has received criticism of the bill from a variety of groups, including from both industry and environment sectors. Some think the plan goes too far and some not far enough. 

Green Party co-leader James Shaw answers media questions

Green Party co-leader James Shaw answers media questions Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

“If everyone is equally unhappy about it we have probably landed in the right space,” he says. “My sense is we’ve probably got it about right, broadly speaking.”

But he says there are still many other questions that people may feedback on:

  • Does it satisfy Treaty of Waitangi obligations?
  • Should shipping and aviation emissions be included? (they’re not currently).
  • Should the commission have some powers beyond giving advice?
  • Should this legislation be able to force government’s hands on other decisions?

James Shaw points out that the public often brings ideas to and raises issues about legislation that MPs haven't thought of, so the consultation is valuable.

Todd Muller, speaking for the committee wanted to encourage people not just to make written submissions but to also ask to speak with the committee. This can be done in person, but can also be done remotely via video or phone.

  • You can read what MPs said during the first reading debate on the bill here.  
  • You can read the bill here.
  • You can make a submission online here.    

The Environment Committee will be accepting submissions on the Bill until July 16th.