Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Climate Change: What's left of the Emissions Reduction Plan?

In 2019, Parliament, in a supposed bipartisan consensus, passed the Zero Carbon Act. The Act established long-term emissions reduction targets, and a cycle of five-yearly budgets and emissions reduction plans to meet them, with monitoring by the independent Climate Change Commission. In theory this was meant to ensure that the government would be telling us what it was going to do and how it was going to do it, and would be held accountable for that, breaking the traditional cycle of "announce target - make no plan - do nothing - fail" which had dominated the previous twenty years of climate policy. But there is a problem in the law: what if the government changes, and the new climate-denier government just doesn't want to implement the old government's ERP?

This is what is happening now. Labour announced the first Emissions Reduction Plan in May 2022. At the time I called it craven, status quo policy because of its in action on forestry and agriculture, but it looked like it might do the job on other sectors. It certainly seemed like it would lay the foundations for long-term decarbonisation of the transport and energy sectors, and the evidence since supported that. Until National cancelled it all. One of the government's first actions on gaining power was to scrap the clean car discount, and since then they've been systematically dismantling climate change policy. Which invites the question: what's left of the Emissions Reduction Plan?

It's difficult to tell, because so much of the plan is bureaucratic wank and business-as-usual policies shoehorned in as padding or to scam funding. But the core of the plan, the things which would carry most of the weight of reducing emissions, was this:

  • The ETS;
  • Agricultural emissions pricing;
  • The National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management;
  • The GIDI fund;
  • The offshore gas exploration ban and future phase-out;
  • The coal phase-out;
  • The clean car discount and standard;
  • Active transport funding and vehicle kilometres travelled reduction.

Since coming to power, National has killed or gutted, or is in the process of killing or gutting, every single one of these policies. The ETS? Being gutted. Agricultural emissions pricing? Being repealed. The Freshwater NPS? Ditto. GIDI? Gone. The gas ban and phase out? They'll repeal it. Coal phase-out? Being repealed. The clean car discount and standard? Gone. Active transport/ Gone. So basically we have a target, and an emissions budget, and the government is no longer doing anything significant to meet it. Which seems awfully familiar...

The check on this is meant to be He Pou a Rangi's annual monitoring reports, the first of which is due by the end of next week. They're required to include an assessment of progress in the ERP's implementation, and an honest report should be screaming about its effective repeal and asking how the government expects to meet its future targets. The Minister is also meant to make a formal response to Parliament, describing the progress in implementing the plan, and noting any amendments. But this only works of course if the government has a sense of shame, and this government is shameless: shamelessly dishonest, shamelessly corrupt, and shamelessly anti-democratic and authoritarian. So I expect they'll use that first report as "evidence" that He Pou a Rangi is "biased" against them for telling the truth about the impact of their policies, and then use that as an excuse to disestablish them and return to their traditional agenda of climate denial and delay.