Labour wants cross-party climate agency

Climate protesters at the Beehive in Wellington (Simon Wong/Newshub.)
Climate protesters at the Beehive in Wellington (Simon Wong/Newshub.)

Labour is calling for a cross-party committee on climate change to help New Zealand reduce its emissions over the coming decades.

Climate change spokesperson Megan Woods told Paul Henry this morning without one, our climate policy will "change on a whim every three, six or nine years".

"These are plans that are going to take decades to implement," says Dr Woods. "Business needs some certainty around the kind of regulatory environment that they're going to be facing."

Minister for Climate Change Paula Bennett has just signed the historic Paris Agreement, committing New Zealand to doing its bit to keep world temperatures to no more than 2degC above pre-industrial levels.

To do this, the Government has a number of emissions reduction goals:

The problem is, according to Labour, the Government doesn't have a plan on how it's going to achieve these goals.

"What we don't have is some kind of integrated agency that's taking responsibility," says Dr Woods.

"That's what Labour's really advocating -- that we set up an independent climate commission, we get this out of the back-and-forth of political cycles, and we get experts making decisions based on evidence."

She points to the UK, where before last year's election the leaders of the three big parties -- Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats -- agreed to work together on cutting emissions and phasing out coal-fired power.

Since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1990, the UK has cut its emissions by 35 percent. New Zealand's have increased 42 percent.

The Government last week was accused of using fraudulent carbon credits to meet emissions targets -- buying cheap credits from the Ukraine and Russia, which the Morgan Foundation investigated and found to be "junk".

"We bought a lot of what's known as 'hot air' in the industry from both the Ukraine and Russia, and really binged on that," says Dr Woods. "The Government knew about it and didn't do anything."

 New Zealand was the biggest buyer of the dodgy credits, which Dr Woods and the Morgan Foundation both says "crashed" the carbon industry.

"We went from $20 a tonne here in New Zealand down to about 15c, which meant no one was planting forests and doing the things that we needed to do," says Dr Woods.

It would be cheaper to actually reduce emissions than pay for legitimate carbon credits, she says.