Emissions Reduction Plan ideas dubbed 'wacky', 'hot air' and 'hodgepodge'

Ideas to help reduce emissions in New Zealand have received a wide range of feedback - some voicing support for the proposals, while others labelled them "hot air" and "hodgepodge". 

New Zealand's first Emissions Reduction Plan will set the direction for climate action through to 2035 and the Government is seeking feedback on proposals before the official plan is finalised in time for Budget 2022. 

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has stressed the discussion document unveiled on Wednesday is not the final Emissions Reduction Plan, but a way for the public to have their say. 

That's just as well, seeing as many environment-focused organisations are not on board, including Greenpeace, whose agriculture campaigner Christine Rose described the ideas as "meaningless waffle". 

"It is clearly pandering to the dairy industry. There is no excuse for hanging the country's hopes on the possibility of unproven techno-fixes when the solutions to the climate crisis are known and could be put in place tomorrow."

Agriculture accounts for 91 percent of biogenic methane emissions and makes up 48 percent of New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions. But the proposals are heavily focussed on energy transport emissions

The Government will start taxing agriculture emissions from 2025, unde the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, but the sector will get a 95 percent discount.

"We already know what works to cut emissions from agriculture: fewer cows, less synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, less imported feed and more support for farmers to shift to regenerative organic farming. But those key actions are missing from the Emissions Reduction Plan document," Rose said. 

"So much for tackling the climate crisis being Ardern's 'nuclear free' moment. Instead of taking action, she's sending Climate Minister James Shaw off to COP26 with a suitcase full of hot air and udder bullshit."

Climate Change Minister James Shaw.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw. Photo credit: Getty Images

Oxfam Aotearoa campaign lead Alex Johnston said the plan is "hodgepodge" from Government ministers, "some of whom appear to not be grappling with the very real urgency of climate breakdown". 

"Taking nine months to come up with a discussion document about making yet another strategy is not acceptable. With COP26 less than a month away, the Government clearly isn't taking the climate crisis with the urgency required to keep a safe climate future within reach."

The proposals aim to help the Government meet New Zealand's goals of limiting the global average temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. But Johnston says we're taking too long.

"Aotearoa needs to do more to achieve its fair share of keeping to 1.5 degrees."

Coal Action Network's Tim Jones described the proposals as underwhelming, particularly how New Zealand's growing reliance on coal would be able to continue for decades. Stats NZ data last month showed coal use drove up regional emissions in 2019.

"The Government is still giving big industrial emitters massive subsidies, in the form of free industrial allocations of carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme (EST)," Jones said. "There's no commitment to phase out those subsidies."

The ETS places a price on greenhouse gas emissions and requires all sectors of the economy, except agriculture, to pay for their emissions, but rebates are given to heavy emitters to prevent them from heading offshore.

National's climate change spokesperson Stuart Smith criticised the proposal to have everyone cut the distance they drive by 20 percent by 2035 as "pretty whacky".

Agriculture accounts for 91 percent of biogenic methane emissions and makes up 48 percent of New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Agriculture accounts for 91 percent of biogenic methane emissions and makes up 48 percent of New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions. Photo credit: Getty Images

"James Shaw needs to look at the sign on his door that says 'Climate Change Minister' and move away from trying to impose restrictions on every aspect of Kiwis' lives."

The feedback wasn't all bad, with Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope welcoming "today's signpost towards a net zero-carbon New Zealand". 

"We agree with the Government that the ETS should be the main tool for emissions reduction and believe other interventions should follow only where there is a clear positive net benefit."

Shaw said since the Climate Change Commission's final advice was published in June, conversations have been underway about how ministers can support emissions reductions in their portfolios, and what can be included in the final Emissions Reduction Plan.

The Government has already committed to making the public sector carbon neutral by 2025, with public sector agencies required to measure and publicly report on their emissions, and to offset any they can't, cut by 2025.

"The plan we release next year will need to set out future policy and regulatory change, as well as actions that can be taken by businesses, towns and cities, and every community," Shaw said. 

"It will also set out how we make the transition in an inclusive and equitable way. The consultation marks the next phase in this work."