Opinion: Why NZ's Paris Agreement commitment is lacking

UN leaders celebrate the signing of the Paris Agreement in December 2015 (Getty)
UN leaders celebrate the signing of the Paris Agreement in December 2015 (Getty)

The Paris Agreement is a multilateral treaty providing a legal framework for all countries to tackle climate change. Its aim is to keep average global temperature to below 2 degC above pre-industrial levels. The US and China have signed it and today so did New Zealand and the European Union.

New Zealand has pledged to reduce emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But here are five reasons why New Zealand ratifying it is a bit meaningless:

1. There are not yet any policies in place to reduce New Zealand's domestic emissions. There's only vague mention of "encouraging uptake of electric vehicles" and "research into reducing greenhouse gases from agriculture".

2. Agricultural emissions make up almost half of New Zealand's emissions, yet they weren't factored into the modelling of how we'll reach the target.

3. The Government has surplus carbon credits left over from when we bought a whole lot of foreign ones to meet New Zealand's Kyoto Protocol commitment. We can use these to meet the 2030 target, but the problem is some of these were fraudulent carbon credits we bought from Ukraine and Russia - a bit dodgy.

4. Climate experts say in order to meet the target to reduce emissions by 2030 we need to start implementing change now. The Climate Change Issues Minister Paula Bennett gives no timeline on when the "effective plan" for meeting the target would be developed, let alone put into action.

5. The Morgan Foundation says the Government is relying on the forestry sector to offset carbon emissions, which is essentially like chucking everything on a credit card for future Governments and taxpayers to deal with later on.

These points are based on information from Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick, the Morgan Foundation's Geoff Simmons and the report from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee on the Paris Agreement.