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Emissions Reduction Plan: Political parties weigh in

As the government hails its plan to reduce New Zealand's emissions as a significant landmark, opposition parties remain more sceptical.

As the government hails its plan to reduce New Zealand's emissions as a significant landmark, opposition parties remain more sceptical.

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Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Ministers announced the plan this morning, a strategy for how the government can achieve the emission reduction targets set by the emissions budgets.

It sees the government spending $2.9b of the $4.5b set aside from the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) over the next four years, funded through the Emissions Trading Scheme.

A significant, landmark plan like no other - government

"This is it," Minister of Climate Change James Shaw said in his speech today. "A landmark plan that provides a clear pathway to cutting the pollution that we put into the atmosphere; that creates jobs, improves lives and livelihoods, and unlocks new investment.

"We've had 30 years of setting targets and more general policy but this is the first time that we've had such a comprehensive plan of work right across government, across every sector of the economy to actually reduce our domestic greenhouse gas."

It contained more than 300 actions which would add to a future Aotearoa could be proud of, but the plan would need to be backed with action, he said.

"New Zealand's first emissions reduction plan puts us on a path to meet our long term targets to 2050 in line with that 1.5 degrees temperature threshold ... but of course it's not job done. A plan alone will not cut emissions, it will take changes both large and small."

Climate Change Minister James Shaw at the release of the government's Emission Reduction Plan.

James Shaw at the announcement this morning. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

He said it was just the start of the path laid out by the Climate Change Commission.

"Our best scientists have told us what we need to do, and this plan will make it happen. In total, there will be six emissions budgets and emissions reductions plans to take us to 2050. Each budget will act as a stepping stone towards lower emissions, and each plan will include the necessary policies and strategies to meet that budget."

No government initiative other than the Budget itself drew on so many different sectors of government. Importantly, the Climate Emergency Response Group of ministers and chief executives would have collective responsibility and be accountable for achieving the reductions.

He also highlighted that the transition to low emissions would need to be equitable.

"We will not succeed if the transition further entrenches existing inequalities in our society and in our in our economy. To this end the government will develop an equitable transition strategy including proactive transition planning with Māori and other communities most affected by the transition."

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson called it a plan like no other, with a significance that could not be underestimated.

"Today is the most significant day in our country's history on climate action," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson at the release of the Emissions Reduction Plan

Grant Robertson Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"The plan today is achievable, it means we will meet our first emissions budget. It provides greater self reliance in the area of energy, reducing the exposure to global pricing that hits New Zealanders in the pocket and it delivers the greatest opportunity that we have had in decades to move to a high-wage, low-emissions economy that provides greater economic security."

The threat of climate change to homes, communities, infrastructure and sacred and historic places like urupā was "real and is approaching faster than we imagined", he said.

Some saw climate change as a less pressing issue than everyday challenges like the rising cost of living, he said - a reference to opposition attacks on that topic.

However, it was the most important, and indeed could help reduce New Zealand's exposure to global inflation.

"This will only work if we all commit to action together. I would hope that the days of climate being a political football can end - we need to put our heads down and get on with action. A stable climate is not a nice to have. It is a must to have for our future and for our economy."

Climate action was the bedrock of leadership in the 21st Century, Robertson said.

Devil in the detail, initiatives need testing - National

National's climate spokesperson Scott Simpson said the party was committed to the targets but did not agree with everything in the plan.

"We are sceptical about the government's ability to actually deliver on some of their very big promises that have been made in this paper today," he said.

"This is a plan that has taken nearly two years to prepare and frankly there's an awful lot of waffly stuff in it, an awful lot of working groups, consultancing, and also a lot of reannouncements of things that have already been announced."

National MP on the Environment Select Committee at Parliament.

National's Climate spokesperson Scott Simpson Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Simpson said the $2.9b pricetag again showed the government was addicted to spending.

Many of the nearly 400 initiatives in the plan were of questionable worth, he said, and National would want to test "each and every one of those to see that we're getting actually the best effect for the investment".

The party would prefer to see further investment into native forestry, so-called 'blue carbon' and ways to encourage the corporate sector to do "quite a bit more than they are currently doing".

He said big companies like Fonterra and breweries like DB were profitable enough to be paying their own way and should not be relying on taxpayers to remove coal-fired burners from their business.

"There's close to $750b that is effectively corporate welfare ... a lot of this is going to be spent on is subsidising big corporates who frankly can already afford it and already should be making decisions to decarbonise their own businesses, to lower their own emissions without the support of taxpayers. Big business can and should be leading the charge."

He was not convinced by the scrap-and-replace scheme either.

"The devil's in the detail, we haven't seen the detail. There's money in this plan for a trial programme that will see 2500 vehicles clunked, so let's wait and see."

The funding for research and development of agricultural tech was welcome, however.

"Pretty much every country in the world produces biogenic methane through their own agriculture sector and they are all looking for the same answers we are so yeah, we think that the spending on R&D in that space is good spending, and if necessary probably worthy of some more."

Expensive, ineffective plan for more bureaucracy - ACT

ACT leader David Seymour criticised the plan as an expensive, ineffective approach and that would create more bureaucracy.

"All they needed to do was cap New Zealand's emissions and allow consumers to choose, conscious of the price that they will pay for emissions trading scheme units," he said.

David Seymour

David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Seymour described the scrap-and-replace scheme for low emission vehicles as "cash for clunkers" - a policy he said was a "total disaster" when trailled in the United States.

"It cost a fortune and effectively just subsidised expensive vehicle purchases that were likely to happen anyway ... it's a pointless waste of money when transport is already within the Emissions Trading Scheme."

"Given the New Zealand ETS price is $US48.16, you could buy 19 tonnes of emissions credits for the same cost and shred them so no one can use them for the same cost of a one tonne reduction from cash for clunkers."

The plan confirms the creation of a Climate Emergency Response Fund, established with $4.5 billion from ETS revenue.

ACTs policy is instead to take the proceeds from the ETS and give each New Zealander a 'carbon' dividend - $250 a year as an incentive to reduce emissions.

Plan falld short for low-income families - Te Pāti Māori

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said today's plan fell short on both agriculture emissions and support for low-income people.

"I was really disappointed to see that even though farmers aren't contributing to the ETS, there's actually quite a lot of support and acknowledgement for them and not so much for lessening the agriculture impact.

"Even worse, there's not so much in the climate justice space to help low income families. They're not the ones who're going to be able to afford EVs and they're not the ones that are going to be able to take on a lot of what has been proposed."

Ngarewa-Packer described the ERP as "farmer friendly, low-income unfriendly" and said she expected the country's first climate action plan to be bolder.

"We're in a relationship that isn't committed to being truly transformational and [the government is] appeasing the median voters and trying to be politically correct and that's so disappointing

"We really needed to have our main priority as addressing this boldly while we have a government with a strong mandate and with the Greens beside it."

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