Friday, October 16, 2020

Climate Change: Planning to fail

Last year, the government passed the Zero Carbon Act, setting short-term and long-term goals for carbon reduction. And they're already saying that they will fail to meet them:

Environment Minister David Parker says we’ll need to buy carbon units from other countries to achieve our 2030 emissions target, though this may clash with the Zero Carbon Act.

The country has set itself both international and domestic goals. Internationally, we have pledged to cut emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

On the domestic front, the Zero Carbon Act also requires the country's biogenic methane emissions to be 10 per cent lower than 2017 levels, by the end of the decade. We’ll also need to be on the path towards zero net carbon emissions by 2050. It also instructs that “emissions budgets must be met, as far as possible, through domestic emissions reductions and domestic removals”.

Asked during an environmental election panel debate if he supports the international 2030 target, the Labour Party minister said he does: “But it’s impossible to meet with New Zealand-only emissions reductions”.

Bullshit. Its "impossible to meet" because the government has refused to enact policy to meet it, most notably by continuing to exempt agriculture from the ETS until 2025, and subsidising it by 95% when it comes in, meaning that farmers will face no effective price signal to drive reductions. This was purely a matter of political choice. And the person who made that choice was David Parker.

We could make a different choice. We could bring agriculture into the ETS next year, and make farmers pay for 100% of their emissions, like us plebs do for our electricity and fuel. But the fact that farmers would have to change farming practices or reduce output is taken as a reason not to do it. We can't have effective policy because it might be effective.

Meanwhile, the planet warms, the seas rise, and the land burns. And our politicians are choosing to do that, to keep doing that, rather than choosing to stop it. Isn't it time we got better politicians, to make better, smarter choices?

Corrected: An earlier version of Stuff's story portrayed this as being about the domestic methane reduction target under the Zero Carbon Act, but Stuff has now corrected it to clarify that it is about the international Paris target. The same critique still applies: it is "impossible" only because the government has decided not to do anything about it.