Former Greens MP among those criticising Govt's emissions plan

By Katie Scotcher of RNZ

The Government's plan to slash emissions has a red tint, not a green one, Minister of Climate Change James Shaw is telling voters.

Shaw, who is also the Green Party co-leader, unveiled the first Emissions Reduction Plan at Parliament to much fanfare yesterday.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson billed the plan to tackle global warming as a turning point in New Zealand's history, a plan "like no other", the significance of which "cannot be underestimated".

Among its critics, however, was former Green MP Catherine Delahunty, who said the Government was too scared of losing the election next year to make real change.

Heading into the debating chamber this afternoon, Shaw said while many initiatives in the plan were similar to Green Party policies, it would have looked different if they held the balance of power.

"I've delivered an emissions reduction plan on behalf of the Government, and it is a Labour Government, and so by definition it has a Labour hue to it."

The National Party supports the Government's emission reduction targets, but has been critical of the plan to reach them.

Leader Christopher Luxon this afternoon said it contained a lot of "mush" and was particularly critical of what he called "corporate welfare".

The plan will see some $650 million spent over four years on moving industries away from using fossil fuels. Some of that money will be spent on banning new low and medium-temperature coal boilers, and phase out existing ones, by 2037.

Luxon said big companies did not need the help.

"The message to corporates is very clear, get on and get removing emissions right now. They've got the financial capability to do so, they don't need to be waiting around wondering whether the Government's going to give them more subsidies."

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which sees tax paid to the Government based on greenhouse gas emissions of certain activities, did a lot of the heavy lifting, he said.

"You know, the price of carbon goes up and you have to then talk about carbon removal for corporates, and every good corporate, every good board will be thinking very deeply about that."

However, Luxon's criticisms did not extend to the agriculture sector.

Agricultural involvement in the ETS scheme has been delayed until 2025, with hopes pinned on He Waka Eke Noa - a plan to assess how that can be done which has been developed jointly by farming groups and Government agencies.

The sector received more than $700m from the ETS-funded Climate Emergency Response Fund in the plan - despite being exempt from the fees - but Luxon felt that was appropriate.

"Agricultural emissions doesn't actually have a natural technology pathway or roadmap, in the world - no one has capture that or has worked that out. We need to be able to develop that, I think we should back ourselves as New Zealanders to actually go out and do that work," he said.

ACT leader David Seymour said National was being weak.

"The National Party's trying to pick a half side of this. The National Party needs to come out and say 'we oppose all forms of subsidies, the ETS is all we need'."

National has not yet explained how it would reach New Zealand's emission reduction targets. Luxon said that plan would come next year, in the lead-up to the election.

Shaw was not confident it would be any more ambitious than what the Government had already proposed.

"I look forward to the National Party's proposals because to date, they haven't had a single one - all they've done is propose everything that's come out of Government to achieve emissions reduction."