It only took outgoing Climate Change Minister Tim Groser a few hours after the Paris climate talks to throw cold water over any idea that the National Government might have been inspired to turn over a new leaf on climate policy.
Groser spoke to Morning Report on Monday arguing that New Zealand’s climate policy will not need to change following Paris.
Groser, who has now been replaced by Paula Bennett, barely tried to hide that the National Government had decided to spend its remaining years in power holding off real action to transition New Zealand to a low carbon economy.
The Government has just signed up to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels”. It is astonishingly brazen to now claim this will require nothing more of New Zealand.
Its own emissions reduction target, of 11 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, is the equivalent of a 3.5-3.8 degree temperature rise if adopted by all other countries.
Imagine if every country did the same thing, returned home having signed up to the Agreement and told their populations that they don’t need to do anything to meet the terms of the deal?
By contrast, France, which had already committed to a stronger emissions target than New Zealand, signalled it is going to increase its own carbon target in light of the Agreement, and put more money on the table to help developing countries adapt. That’s leadership.
The National Government is making policy decisions right now that are long-lasting. By continuing to actively support heavily polluting parts of the economy today – be it deep sea oil and gas exploration, expansion of intensive dairying, or foot-dragging on clean transport options – the National Government is actively undermining our ability to meet our climate target.
Without National changing course now, when we go back to the UN in 2023 to put forward a more ambitious climate target, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions will have already increased by approximately 23 percent.
The National Government’s behaviour post Paris is the worst example of passing the buck to future governments and future generations to sort out.
Leading American climate campaigner Bill McKibben likened the global effort to limit warming to 1.5 degrees to a world-record marathon race. He described the world’s response to the Paris talks thus far as “engaging in the kind of impressive-looking stretching that runners enjoy at the start line”.
If the National Government is even in the race it has missed the starting gun, closed its eyes and started running the opposite way.
In avoiding its obligations, the National Government is not only bludging off the efforts of other countries to restrain global warming, its also missing out on the opportunities of transitioning to a cleaner, more modern economy.
There is lots that can be done today, right now, to clean up New Zealand’s climate pollution, for example in the transport, energy, agricultural and waste. The Green Party showed how, earlier this year with our pragmatic plan for how New Zealand can reduce emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels.
Here are some relatively simple changes the National Government could make in the New Year.
- Clean transport: incentivising electric vehicles and fast tracking the City Rail Link so Auckland can start the transition away from congested roads and fossil fuelled transport.
- Committing New Zealand to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2025.
- An end to dirty investment: divesting the ACC and Superannuation funds out of fossil fuel companies.
- A new clean economy: a minimum carbon price of $25 and establishing a Green Investment Bank to mobilise public and private investment in the clean economy.
The Paris Agreement calls on every country in the world to lift their game. Far from shrugging our shoulders at it, New Zealand needs to step up.