ACT ridicules Government for extending emissions reduction plan after declaring climate emergency

ACT is ridiculing the Government for extending the deadline for its emissions reduction plan less than a year after declaring a climate change emergency. 

Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced the Government will begin consulting on the emissions reduction plan in October and the final plan will be released at the end of May next year in line with Budget 2022. 

The Government was supposed to have set its first three emissions budgets out to 2035 and released its first emissions reduction plan, by December 31. But the COVID-19 Delta outbreak has disrupted those plans, Shaw said. 

"Cabinet's decision allows organisations and communities key to the emissions reduction plan's success to focus on getting through the worst of the COVID outbreak before engaging with the plan."

Simon Court, ACT's climate change spokesperson, said it seemed strange the Government would postpone its emissions reduction plan after declaring a climate emergency in December. 

"In a world first, the Government has postponed responding to an emergency. The Government declared a 'climate emergency' last year, now it's delayed its emissions reduction plan by five months.

"The fact is, Labour and Greens are hypocrites. This is nothing more than the Government trying to line up its political agenda for 2022. 

"If it really believes there is an emergency, it would be taking it more seriously than this."

National MP and climate change spokesperson Stuart Smith was equally critical of Shaw's announcement, saying the emissions reduction plan does not need to be aligned with Budget 2022.

"The draft should have been released months ago, giving businesses more time, rather than blaming the pandemic for the Government's inability to deliver. I encourage minister Shaw to stop the ribbon-cutting and the headlines, and instead get to work on delivering this on time."

Shaw's announcement was welcomed by Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope, who said the Delta outbreak has forced many businesses to focus on survival.

"It's not realistic to expect businesses under severe stress to consider plans that will have such long-term impact," Hope said. 

"The emissions reduction plan will provide a blueprint for reductions initiatives over the next 14 years. So, it shouldn't be rushed, and it should be developed with the greatest business input possible, to build maximum buy-in from the business community."

It comes after New Zealand was mentioned in a list of global emitters the United States and European Union are reportedly keeping an eye on as they plan to launch a pact to reduce the planet-warming gas methane. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her Government was "working very hard" to reduce emissions. 

"We are the only country in the world that I know of that has made a commitment to how we will price emissions that are produced through our food production. You're just not seeing that in other countries."

The Government will start taxing agriculture emissions from 2025, but farmers will get a 95 percent discount, despite agriculture making up about half of New Zealand's reported emissions. 

In 2019, the agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand's gross emissions, at 48 and 42 percent respectively, according to the latest annual inventory of greenhouse gases.

Between 1990 and 2019, gross emissions increased by 26 percent, mostly due to increases in methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transport.

New Zealand has committed to reaching net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 and reducing methane emissions by between 24 to 47 percent by 2050. 

But the Climate Change Commission's final advice in June revealed that current policies will not get us there. Nearly all light vehicles entering the country need to be electric by 2035 and around 20,000 to 30,000 farm businesses will need to change management practices.