29 Mar 2021

Climate Change Commission carbon neutral plan: Submitters divided

5:09 pm on 29 March 2021

The Climate Change Commission is being criticised by all sides in its plan to slash carbon emissions.

Dairy cows in a milking facility in New Zealand.

The commission's draft proposal includes a potential 15 percent cut to herd numbers unless technology can help reduce methane emissions. Photo: 123rf

Feedback closed yesterday on the commission's draft proposal to make Aotearoa carbon neutral by 2050 - with complaints the commission goes both too far and not far enough.

The plan is a shake-up of society aimed at meeting Aotearoa's climate change pledges.

The goal is to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in three decades to try to tackle the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Think far fewer fossil-fuelled cars, no more gas hobs in new houses, potential cuts to herd numbers and increases in renewable energy.

The plans sparked a flood of submissions in its final days - nearly doubling to more than 10,000.

While many said there was some good in the plan, it was also labelled underwhelming and unambitious.

Generation Zero spokesperson Pranaya Thaker said for a little country, New Zealand had very large emissions and needed to set tougher targets.

"It's irresponsible of us to not do more," he said.

"The pathway that the commission has laid out for methane is pretty much the least ambitious pathway they think would tick the box - which we think is inadequate.

"We need to do much more."

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Climate Change Commission chief executive Jo Hendy is pleased with the range of feedback. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

The commission plans to phase out importing fossil fuel-powered cars, but Greater Auckland transport and urban design blogger Matt Lowrie said this would be a big struggle.

Instead, he said instead the commission needed more emphasis on mass public transport options, as well as walking and cycling.

"If we're going to get anywhere near our targets that have been set we're going to need to do much more in other areas.

"And that means getting more people on buses and trains and ferries ... and on bikes, encouraging more people to walk further.

"And that will require changes not just to not just the transport but other urban form issues and how we how we plan our cities."

Better Futures Forum freshwater ecologist Mike Joy said the fossil fuel binge was pushing the planet beyond its limit to sustain human life.

Mike Joy

Freshwater ecologist Mike Joy Photo: Supplied

He said the commission needed to radically change its approach and drastically cut consumption and the need for relentless economic growth.

"Trying to fix the problem ... [by] just tinkering and not fundamentally changing the way we live will not achieve what we need to achieve to have a future."

The report said herds would have to be cut by 15 percent unless the dairy sector could cut methane emissions - which the commission said could be done with tech and productivity gains.

However, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said the commission was being overly optimistic, and instead milk production would likely fall to 13 percent, which would be a blow to the economy.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says the commission is too optimistic. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

"New Zealanders need to be eyes wide open on this and really understand the true cost to make informed decisions about the investment and the pathway forward, and that's really what we're calling out [for]."

Oil and gas sector umbrella group Energy Resources Aotearoa's chief executive John Carnegie said the draft plan focused unnecessarily on banning things to reduce gross emissions rather than letting them be offset.

Right-wing think tank New Zealand Initiative senior economist Matt Burgess said the commission's reforms were radical, difficult and expensive and would unnecessarily damage the economy.

He said current policies - including the emissions trading scheme (ETS) - would get Aotearoa to net zero by 2050 anyway.

"The ETS should be given a chance to demonstrate that it is effective before the commission proposes sweeping reforms.

"We also think the commission needs to be a lot more transparent. It should be clearer, it should be releasing more of its model, it's withheld certain portions of its model until July ... we're not sure why."

He said New Zealand should commit to spending the least amount necessary to meet its targets.

Climate Change Commission chief executive Jo Hendy said there was broad support for moving to a low-emissions economy and it was now a question of working out how to get there - and how quickly.

"We're so pleased with the number of submissions and the amount of quality engagement that we've been having.

"It's really important that New Zealand does this well and so to have the feedback and ideas and views of so many people, it's just been really helpful for us."

The commission's finalised advice to the government is due 31 May.

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