Government plans to go carbon neutral by 2050

The Government aims to have the Bill to put climate targets into law ready by October 2018.
The Government aims to have the Bill to put climate targets into law ready by October 2018. Photo credit: Getty

The Labour-led Government has announced its first steps towards making New Zealand carbon neutral by 2050.

The Government will tackle that goal by putting a climate-change target into law and by setting up an independent Climate Commission.

The carbon-neutral-by-2050 goal might not become part of the Zero Carbon Act itself - that'll be subject to the consultation process.

"We'll have a conversation with all New Zealanders about the potential target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050," said Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

The Government aims to have that conversation wrapped up and the Bill ready by October 2018.

National's saying it's pleased the Government will "take its time" with the legislation.

"Our primary focus for the conversations ahead of us is that any transition to a low-carbon economy must ensure local communities can adjust and thrive, rather than seeking accolades from the UN," climate change spokesperson Todd Muller said.

Is the carbon-neutral goal achievable?

"We are planning on planting a lot of trees," was Mr Shaw's answer to that question.

The Government - and especially Shane Jones - has been talking a lot about the billion trees it promised to plant.

You can expect to hear more about those trees, because the Government hopes most of the offsetting of carbon emissions can take place on New Zealand soil.

Other than the trees, so far there's little detail on how, exactly, that might be achieved, but Mr Shaw did indicate agriculture could be one of the first things that's looked at.

A core part of the carbon-neutral goal is the establishment of the Climate Commission. The exact role of the Commission will be up for discussion too.

Until the Commission is set up, there will be an interim committee.

"The interim committee could start by looking at agriculture, which contributes almost half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, and how we can transition to 100 percent renewable electricity," Mr Shaw said.

Both the Zero Carbon Act and Climate Commission Commission were promised to the Green Party during coalition negotiations, and are the first items on its confidence-and-supply agreement with Labour.

Labour promised the Greens to "adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy 2050" (capital letters are the Confidence and Supply agreement's own).