14 Oct 2021

Climate plan 'a slap in the face for current and future generations'

5:05 pm on 14 October 2021

A chorus of anger and disappointment has met the release of a government consultation document on how to slash climate emissions.

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Photo: 123RF

It includes ideas from ministers and agencies on how the country can become carbon neutral by 2050, which will be fed into a final plan to be released next May.

But there are some brutal assessments of it, environmental groups have called it a "major embarrassment" and a "slap in the face" - a document that's just been "thrown together".

The paper paints a stark picture, current and proposed changes won't come close to hitting initial reduction targets.

The government is at pains to point out this not its final climate plan - it's already delayed that by five months to May next year - and other ideas already consulted on are not included in the document.

It said this is a set of ideas it wants the public and business input on to have a chance of hitting its reduction goals.

But the public has already weighed in, there were more than 15,000 submissions to the Climate Change Commission, the body the government tasked with developing the roadmap to slash emissions.

Adam Currie from youth climate action organisation Generation Zero said the government has had years to come up with concrete plans, and instead it has served up a failure of policy and nerve.

"Ultimately it's a slap in the face for current and future generations of New Zealanders.

"The government committed to a Zero Carbon Act, and an ambitious climate plan in their speech from the throne four years ago now.

"We've got massive motorways, we've got a refusal to address agricultural emissions, and we've got a plan to keep burning coal for decades to come."

The bulk of the detail in the document is in transport, with targets to reduce kilometres travelled in fossil fuel powered cars and plans to expand the use of public transport and biofuels.

But other large emitting sectors like energy and industry are short on specifics.

Dr Paul Winton, the founder of 1.5 Project, says Climate Change Minister James Shaw - who heads to a major UN climate conference next month - faces international ridicule trying to sell the government's climate response.

He said some government ministers were simply not taking the issue seriously.

"Transport accounted for 40 percent, on page count, of the document simply because [Transport Minister Michael] Wood has actually done some work - not enough - but the other ministers haven't even touched the side.

"They've barely even started."

Winton said the government needed to triple reductions to stick to its international and ethical commitments to keeping warming below 1.5 degrees.

All but absent from the document is ideas for reductions from agriculture - which makes up about half of emissions.

That is while work is being done with industry on the He Waka Eke Noa programme to measure and reduce emissions.

This makes Forest and Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey furious.

"A section on agriculture that's what, four pages out of 131 page document?

"I think quite frankly you and I could have written it in an afternoon."

Environmental groups want massive investment in regenerative agriculture and a commitment to phase out of synthetic fertilisers.

Dairy NZ chief executive Tim Mackle said farmers were already working hard to to cut emissions.

"The proposal, we think, does endorse He Waka Eke Noa as the key pathway for farmers and growers to play our part in reducing emissions alongside all Kiwis.

"And look, we're achieving our milestones in that program to date."

Oxfam campaign lead Alex Johnston said New Zealand's efforts to cut emissions was failing our Pacific neighbours who face devastation from increasingly violent storms and sea-level rise.

He said drastic improvement was needed.

Jared Abbott from First Union said the downgrading of Marsden Point refinery to an import-only terminal accounted for anywhere from half to nearly all of the emissions reductions floated for 2022 to 2025 period.

But he said this just outsourced the problem to worse-emitting fuel refiners offshore.

"While we're losing literally millions of dollars of wages into the economy, we're increasing global emissions overall and we're losing a huge skill base, which almost every quarter of the industry has come out and said 'we need these skilled workers if we're ever going to get the production of biofuels off the ground in New Zealand'."

Wellington City Councillor and climate change leader Tamatha Paul said the government knows what it needs to do, it just needs to get on with it.

"Instead of wasting more resources on planning for what's happening right now, and put that into actual productive ways to reduce emissions."

Consultation on the emissions reduction plan closes 24 November.

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