New Zealand will unveil a more ambitious emissions reduction target at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Climate Change Minister James Shaw has revealed.
Our current target, as agreed in the 2015 Paris Accords, is reducing emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. This in order to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial average, considered by most scientists as the threshold of ecological disaster.
"Earlier this year, the Climate Change Commission said our target was not adequate for a 1.5C world," Shaw told Newshub Nation.
"So they have instructed us to come up with something a bit stronger now. Keep in mind the Cabinet hasn't made a decision on that yet, but you know, we will obviously be doing that before I go to COP26."
This could mean the societal changes proposed in the draft emissions reduction plan released this week are only the beginning. The proposals include cheaper public transport, a ban on food waste in landfills and tax incentives for clean cars, among many other ideas.
Shaw stressed this is not the final version but a consultation document which will inform the complete plan, due next year, setting the roadmap for our climate action through to 2035.
"The Government by itself isn't going to be able to do this. Most of the pollution occurs in our industrial sector, so we've got to work with them on proposals for how they can reduce their emissions."
Critics have blasted the draft proposals for not tackling agriculture - our largest emitter by far - and instead focusing mostly on sectors like transport. Shaw says the agricultural emissions will be dealt with but addressed separately.
"This is not the only input into the final plan. We have the He Waka Eke Noa, which is a partnership between the government and the agricultural sector. They are intending to go out to consultation over the summer with their proposals for how to price and reduce agricultural emissions very shortly."
Under the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership, the Government will start taxing agriculture emissions from 2025 - but the sector will get a 95 percent discount.
Greenpeace, headed by former Green Party leader Russel Norman, slammed the lack of aggressive action on agriculture as 'udder bullshit'.
Other critics, including ACT Party Leader David Seymour, attacked the Climate Change Minister for extending the deadline on delivering the emission reduction plan. Originally due this year, the final plan will now arrive alongside the next Budget in May 2022.
Shaw says he understands the pushback but blames Delta disruption.
"It is urgent and I don't want to push it six months further down the road. But ultimately we had a Delta outbreak that meant that we had to adjust our plans, and that's just a function of the world that we live in at the moment."
Whatever emissions reduction commitment New Zealand reveals at COP26, it is unlikely to match the ambition of some of our closest allies. The UK is targeting a 78 percent emission reduction target by 2035 and have already reduced their emissions by 48 percent since 1990.
New Zealand, meanwhile, is heading in the opposite direction. Between 1990 and 2019, our gross emissions increased by 26 percent. When pressed on whether he should be doing more, Shaw was open about his frustration.
"If you look back over the 30 years that we have known about the climate crisis and the effects of the climate crisis, our greenhouse gas emissions and our policy response has gone in precisely the wrong direction.
But while he acknowledged the trend is dire, the Climate Change Minister says once the final plan is in place it will be a substantial step in the right direction.
"This is the first time that we are going to have a legally binding plan that touches every part of the public sector, every part of the Government.. And when we publish it next year, what you will see is that it is a plan that hits those targets for the next five, 10 and 15 years."
COP26 will begin on October 31 and run until Friday November 12, in Glascow. Public consultation on the current emission reduction plan is open until November 24 and the full document is available here.
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