PM Jacinda Ardern defends climate spending after attack from National, ACT

The Prime Minister is defending her Government's climate spending after it was attacked by both National and ACT over the weekend. 

Jacinda Ardern told AM on Monday lowering emissions is incredibly important especially as more communities are affected by adverse weather events. 

It comes after the National Party accused the Government of spending half a billion dollars more than Treasury advised on climate change projects. 

National's finance spokesperson Nicola Willis accused the Government of blowing cash on what she said are low-value climate change projects, like helping dairy and meat processing plants transition away from coal boilers

Meanwhile, the ACT Party is criticising the Government's efforts to encourage EV uptake, saying the scheme doesn't justify the price tag.

ACT took particular issue with the Government's plan to help lower and middle-income families into cleaner cars, which the Party's climate change spokesperson Simon Court labelled "a cash for clunkers boondoggle".

Starting with a trial of 2500 vehicles, these will be scrapped in return for cash for an electric or hybrid vehicle. It'll cost $569 million over four years.

Over the first two years, it'll cut emissions by 500 tonnes of CO2 if 10 percent of eligible people take up the scheme, or up to 4500 tonnes if all eligible people take it up.

For context, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Despite the criticism, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended her policy on Monday telling AM co-host Ryan Bridge incentivising EV uptake will help build a second-hand market in New Zealand and make the vehicles more accessible. 

Ardern also pointed out the scheme was partially funded by levies on high-emitting cars.

"ACT's view is that… for all of your emissions reductions, you just let the Emissions Trading Scheme do the job. So you let the price of carbon basically do all of the heavy lifting. 

"The problem with that is that means, for instance, the price you will be paying at the pump would go up significantly but without you necessarily having the ability to transition into some of those lower emission options because the price point might be out of reach," she told Bridge. 

"You might have enough to weekly just cover the costs, those growing costs at the pump but you might not have the ability to switch over to a lower emission vehicle."

Ardern said the scheme will help speed up the country's transition to low-emitting cars which is vital in combating climate change. 

"The point here I would make is that some parties in Parliament actually don't think that we need to go that fast. I would challenge them to go and visit those areas that have had significant weather events this winter season. We are seeing one in 100-year events repeatedly now, we have to make sure we are doing our bit. "

ACT and the National Party are of the view that polluters should pay through the emissions trading scheme and that's enough. On the other hand, Labour thinks they need to go further. 

The Government's Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Climate Change Minister James Sha also both defended their policies over the weekend, saying combating climate change is a necessity.  

"This Government takes very seriously our obligations to reduce emissions and meet the goals of the Zero Carbon Act," Robertson said. 

While Shaw agreed, saying: "The intention here is to try and get as much movement on climate action as we can."