Thursday, December 05, 2019

Climate Change: The shameful reality

The government has been congratulating itself over the passage of the Zero Carbon Act, which sets out long-term emissions targets. Meanwhile, Climate Action Tracker has the shameful reality: those targets are insufficient:

While New Zealand is showing leadership by having passed the world’s second-ever Zero Carbon Act in November 2019, under currently policy projections, it is set to miss its “insufficient” 2030 unconditional target by a wide margin, as it lacks the strong policies required to implement it. There is as yet no signal from the Government that it intends to submit an updated and more ambitious NDC by 2020.


The Zero Carbon Act aims to achieve net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases, except for methane emissions from agriculture and waste, by 2050. Methane emissions from these two sectors, which represent about 40% of New Zealand’s current emissions, with the lion’s share from agriculture, are covered by a separate target of at least 24-47% below 2017 levels by 2050, with an interim target of 10% by 2030.

While the Zero-Carbon Act recently adopted strengthens its former New Zealand’s 2050 target (halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050), excluding such a substantial share of emissions from the net zero goal lowers its ambition.

Thanks to the methane exclusion, our 2050 target is at the very top end of the "insufficient" range, verging on "highly insufficient". Meaning that it is not consistent with the UNFCCC target of 2 degrees, let alone the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C. Instead, if everyone was as lazy as we are being, we'd be heading for between 2 and 3 degrees, if not more.

Our policies are also inadequate to get to those inadequate targets, but the Zero Carbon Act at least has some mechanisms to change that. But at best, we're headed for failure, while the government is patting itself on the back about its success.

We are not doing enough. We are not pulling our weight. The ambition of these targets needs to be increased, and we need policies to meet them. And that means rural New Zealand must do its share.