Climate change minister David Parker has given us the first hint of the government's new climate change goal. unfortunately its not very impressive. Under the Kyoto Protocol New Zealand has promised the international community that we will reduce our net CO2-equivalent emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. According to last year's Projected Balance of Units, we are likely to exceed that traget by 41.2 MTCO2-e over 5 years. Parker's goal is to halve that, to a deficit of around 20 MTCO2-e. So, despite promising no growth in emissions, we will in fact be delivering a 7% increase. We will cover it through international emissions trading, of course, at a cost of around NZ$300 million (if you believe Treasury; twice that is more likely) - but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
This is where seventeen years of no policy and lowering the bar has left us: in a $600 million hole, having to buy emissions reductions on the international market. If we'd acted early, we could have spent less money than that shifting our emissions profile, reducing our costs while ensuring that the benefits flowed to New Zealand rather than Russia or China. But its too late for that now.
Finally, thanks to the current dairy boom, Parker is concerned that we may not meet even this lax target - which again shows the importance of tackling agricultural emissions if we are ever to get this problem under control. But I'd say that the ball is entirely in his court. And if he delivers a lax policy which allows a higher level of emissions, then he can hardly complain about the outcome.