Emissions Reduction Plan: Reactions range from 'travesty for taxpayers' to 'vitally important step'

The newly-released Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) is being labelled everything from a "travesty for taxpayers" and an example of where the Government "has missed the mark" on climate action, to a "vitally important step" in New Zealand's path to net-zero.

The plan, released on Monday morning, outlines how the Government plans to cut emissions over the coming decades as New Zealand aims for net-zero emissions by 2050. The 344-page document covers a wide spectrum of sectors, including transport, agriculture, energy and waste and contains over 300 individual actions. 

Last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw revealed three emissions budgets, taking New Zealand through to 2035. They lay out the maximum amount of carbon dioxide emissions the Government wants New Zealand to emit.

While they received broad political support, parties were waiting until Monday to see the plan for how exactly they would be met. 

"We support the goal of reducing emissions in the economy, but see little evidence that this Government will be able to deliver," said National leader Christopher Luxon.

"Too much of the new spending will go to corporate welfare and more working groups.

"The Government is proposing to give hundreds of millions of dollars to companies for investments they should be making anyway. We expect those companies to be cutting their emissions without help from taxpayers. A significant part of the Government's plan looks like a corporate carbon bailout."

But there are areas the party supports, like more investment in researching ways to reduce agriculture emissions and expanding options for carbon sinks. 

ACT, which opposed the budgets, has called the ERP a "bonanza for bureaucrats and travesty for taxpayers". It said the Government should have instead announced that "emissions under the ETS [Emissions Trading Scheme] would be capped at the same level as our trading partners".

"That would meet our climate commitments and allow consumers to choose how they limit their emissions. If you emit less, you keep more of your own money," leader David Seymour said.

"Instead, the Government has chosen the most expensive and bureaucratic possible route to emissions reduction. They've maximised political theatre while actively rejecting the least-cost path to emissions reduction during a cost of living crisis."

Seymour told Newshub that many of the policies contained in the plan amount to micromanaging by the Government. 

"They want to micromanage every aspect of the economy, even how many kilometres you drive. They should be focused on emissions. If your car is lower emissions, you can drive as much as you like. But instead, it is micromanaging everything."

"Too much of the new spending will go to corporate welfare and more working groups."
"Too much of the new spending will go to corporate welfare and more working groups." Photo credit: Getty Images.


The ERP contains a transport target that says by 2035, the total amount of kilometres driven by the light vehicle fleet should be reduced by 20 percent. It also wants to see the number of zero-emission vehicles jump to 30 percent of the overall light fleet.

Among the ways the Government's planning on reaching those targets is a scrap-and-replace scheme, where Kiwis who want to trade in their old, high-emitting vehicles are supported to purchase something more environmentally-friendly, and a potential ban on the dirtiest of cars.

One public transport initiative missing from the plan is making half-price fares permanent. The Government slashed the prices in March in the face of skyrocketing inflation.

A Newshub Reid Research poll out earlier this month showed Kiwis wanted that made permanent, but Grant Robertson, the Finance Minister, has only said it will be reviewed in the future.

The Free Fares Campaign group said on Monday afternoon that it was disappointed the plan lacked mention of lowering fares. The discussion document for the plan released last year did include "reducing public transport fares".

"While the plan has some good wins, such as decarbonising the public transport fleet and increased investment in active and shared modes of transport, it fails to protect our low-income and disadvantaged communities as we transition to a carbon-free future," the group said. 

"Across the country, Kiwis have been disappointed by this Government's actions to combat climate change. The Emissions Reduction Plan is another unfortunate example of where the Government has simply missed the mark and failed to implement policies for the transition we need."

It's unhappy with the focus on "individualised culture and a focus on car ownership" with the support for people to purchase EVs and stay on the road, rather than moving to public transport. The plan will build a "car-dependent culture", the group believes. 

Low income Kiwis will be supported to buy EVs.
Low income Kiwis will be supported to buy EVs. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Professor Simon Kingham, the director of the Geohealth Laboratory at the University of Canterbury, sees things differently, saying the plan invests heavily in encouraging walking, cycling and the use of public transport. 

The plan does include $350 million to upgrade infrastructure, such as urban cycleway networks, walkable neighbourhoods and safer school travel. There's also $23 million to develop a national and urban programme to get people to shift to active and shared modes of transport. 

"It has been calculated switching to electric vehicles alone won't deliver the required reductions in carbon emissions. New Zealanders have to change the way they travel and they need to transition to more carbon-friendly modes, specifically reducing light vehicle travel by 20 percent," he said. 

"This will be a challenge as travel behaviour has historically been focused towards private cars. But meeting these targets is not impossible if there is appropriate investment, political will and public buy-in."

He said the plan is not about "forcing or pricing people" out of their cars, but making alternatives more attractive.

"Currently, for many New Zealanders it isn't practical to walk, cycle or use public transport, and to change this, there needs to be an increased investment in public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure. This will take time to implement, and requires government investment; something an Emissions Trading Scheme can't do."

There was no announcement about public transport fares.
There was no announcement about public transport fares. Photo credit: Newshub.


The energy sector is getting $692 million from the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to decarbonise the industry over the next four years as well as to develop a new energy strategy, and a roadmap for the use of hydrogen.

Vince Hawksworth, Mercury's chief executive, said the plan is a "vitally important step" in decarbonising the economy, sending "important signals" about where collective effort needs to be invested.

"It helps build confidence that New Zealand has a realistic plan to transition to a low carbon economy. The challenges remain very significant to achieve net-zero emissions, but they are not insurmountable," he said.

"It will require a collective effort involving all sectors, government and Kiwis to manage a transition that genuinely achieves the emissions reductions whilst ensuring that it is fair and equitable. 

"All Kiwis should have equitable access to low carbon transportation and lifestyle options.  Public and private sectors must work together to best address the challenges of affordability and access.  We're ready to help with that."

BusinessNZ is on board, saying it is positive to see the plan take "a comprehensive approach to a low-emissions future". 

"Climate action is not the responsibility of any one sector and the ERP represents both a sectoral and system approach," said chief executive Kirk Hope.

"It's heartening to see evidence of submissions included, and to hear that Government has consulted with energy-intense businesses on barriers, when finalising the version released today.

"The ERP requires heavy involvement from businesses, who will need to assess their practices including manufacturing, travel choices and more."

Grant Robertson announced funding from the CERF on Monday.
Grant Robertson announced funding from the CERF on Monday. Photo credit: Newshub.


Federated Farmers president and climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said his organisation was pleased the Government understood solutions to agricultural emissions lay with new technologies and tools.

The plan revealed $339 million is going towards work to "accelerate development and uptake of high impact agricultural mitigation technologies". That will also see the establishment of a new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions.

The Feds said it will be important to know how this new body fits within the existing, such as the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

Hoggard also wants to make sure that a regulatory framework is being worked on at the same time as the research, so that when the new technologies are available, "we can get on with using them". 

"Feds again make the point we've made many times previously - serious investigation and society-wide discussion is needed on the role genetic technologies - particular gene editing - can play in the thorny environmental issues confronting us. Feds supports giving food producers and consumers the choice with gene-editing technology.

"If we are not open to all solutions, we risk losing our world-leading emissions footprint as other countries embrace the innovation we are ignoring."

But Greenpeace is calling the Emissions Reduction Plan the "Ommissions Ridiculous Plan" as it "fails to deal with the dirty great cow in the room", intensive dairy. 

"Intensive dairying is the number one cause of climate pollution in Aotearoa, so it's absolutely staggering to see that the Emissions Reduction Plan fails to include policy that would reduce cow numbers or phase out the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser that drives emissions," said agriculture campaigner Christine Rose. 

Rose noted that Climate Change Commission recommendations to reduce the livestock herd had not been included. 

She also took issue with the fact the sector is getting $710 million overall from the CERF. That comes from revenue from the ETS, which doesn't currently tax agriculture.

"Despite the climate emergency, industrial dairy has yet again been given a free pass that now comes with a huge subsidy from the rest of New Zealand," she said.

"This is a kick in the guts for New Zealanders who are effectively subsidising the intensive dairy industry due to the industry's exemption from the ETS."

The Climate Change Commission said it will be reviewing the plan in detail, but has set out what it expects. 

"A good plan will show urgency, decisiveness, cohesion, and a commitment to collaboration," said chair Rod Carr.

"The transition will impact some communities, industries and regions more than others. The Government needs to work with the people who are most impacted to ensure the transition is achievable, affordable and socially acceptable.

"The policies in the emissions reduction plan need to be supported by adequate funding in the Budget so they can be successful."