Climate Change Commission releases big plan for slashing New Zealand's emissions

We came together as a nation to fight COVID-19 and now our challenge is battling emissions.

While a lot of the heavy lifting will be done by central and local governments along with big business, there are lots of changes 'we' can make - alongside changes we will have to adapt to.

Aotearoa has a goal to cut our net-emissions by 36 percent by the year 2035 and the Climate Change Commission has just released a blueprint on Monday detailing how to do it. 

Now we know how we can get there and what changes will be made that will affect our day-to-day lives.

Planners Institute Deputy Luke O'Dwyer says there will be "more of a transition to smaller houses, potentially more apartments, more townhouses."

New housing will be more efficient, smaller houses mean more people can live closer to shops, parks and work and it's cheaper to heat.

Gas won't be allowed in any new builds if the Climate Change Commission's recommendations are adopted by the Government.

If a household already has gas and doesn't make the switch, the annual power bill could increase by as much as $150 by 2035, as demand for cleaner energy increases.

Petrol could also go up by about 30 cents a litre.

But the commission calculates if you trade in your petrol car for an electric one, you'll be $1000 per year better off - if you can afford it in the first place.

David Crawford from the Motor Industry Association says electric cars are a costly option. 

"Pure electric vehicles are roughly about twice the price of a normal combustion engine vehicle, hybrid vehicles are about 5-10 percent more expensive, and plugged in hybrids are about 10-15 percent more expensive."

The commission recommends an electric fleet make up 40 percent of our cars by 2035.

Sustainability professor Janet Stephenson says the main barrier is that alternative modes of transport aren't up to scratch. 

"It is that we don't have very good buses or other public transport or that cycling is really dangerous."

That's where the report kicks in, allowing us to get the kinds of products and services we need to be able to live and work the way we want to. 

One in ten of us will work from home and more of us will be walking and cycling, with 15 percent of all trips being made by bike by 2050.

We're encouraged to waste less and support the overall kaupapa by looking at investments.

Stephenson says it's important to consider whether they support a low-carbon future or are they "repeating the past?"

You can't talk about climate change without mentioning the 'F' words - farming and forestry. 

Both sectors have been handed their instructions for the next 15 years and have quickly responded by dubbing them "challenging" but "possible". 

However, some scientists are questioning whether the commission has let our biggest emitters off lightly.  

While agriculture makes up a whopping 90 percent of methane emissions, it is a short term gas. 

When it comes to those that last the longest in our atmosphere, farming is only responsible for 18 percent - it's transport, heat, industry and power that are the biggest emitters.  

Because of this, the commission has set a separate goal for methane emissions, to lower them by 24-47 percent.

Dr Tim Mackle from Dairy NZ is happy with the separate target.

"The split gas approach is really important for us, it's great to see the commission acknowledging it as the right way to go." 

Scientist Brownyn Hayward is not so convinced.

"If we are asking people to make big sacrifices in transport, we have to make sure we are asking the same of other sectors, including agriculture."

For forestry the commission has a target of 300,000 hectares of native bush in the next 14 years.  

The forestry industry is up for the challenge but it is a challenge. 

Compared to pine - which is currently used to offset our carbon emissions - natives are tough to grow and pricey.

"The Government's policy settings around incentives to plant natives is going to have to be very focussed and in tune with the fact that natives do take significantly more time, effort and resources to establish and maintain," says Phil Taylor from the Forestry Association. 

The Government is due to finalise a plan by the end of the year, based on this report that has been years in the making.