New Zealand needs to urgently increase its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it is to meet its obligations under the Paris climate accords.
The country’s climate change commission – an independent body – has delivered its draft advice to the prime minister, on the vital steps that must be taken if it wants to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
“Current government policies do not put Aotearoa on track to meet our recommended emissions budgets and the 2050 targets,” the report found, after a year of research and analysis.
“Our analysis shows if policy stayed as it is now, Aotearoa would fall short of achieving the 2050 net-zero long-lived gas target by [6.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions]. Biogenic methane would reduce 12% below 2017 levels and fall short of the current target of 24-47%.”
Rod Carr, commission chair, said while the plan for reform is ambitious, the government must take immediate and decisive action if it wants to avert the worst ravages of climate change, and transform New Zealand’s economy, and society.
“The good news is that our analysis shows there are technically achievable, economically affordable and socially acceptable paths for Aotearoa to take,” he said.
“But the government must move faster – and support business, agriculture and community to do the same.”
Critical advice includes a comprehensive move to electric vehicles, accelerated renewable energy generation, climate-friendly farming practices, more permanent forests – predominantly natives, and reducing livestock numbers by around 15% by 2030.
The report also sets new reduction targets; a 2% reduction on 2018 greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, 17% by 2030, and 36% by 2035.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the technologies required to meet targets already exist.
“Reaching our emissions reduction targets by 2050 is both achievable and affordable according to the Commission’s advice,” Ardern said.
“They have also confirmed our goals are achievable if we act decisively and collectively.”
Her government was committed to picking up the pace, and focusing “much more” on decarbonisation and reducing emissions rather than overly relying on forestry.
Climate change minister, James Shaw, said the release of the draft advice was a significant milestone in facing the climate emergency head-on.
“There are two things that stand out from the draft advice – first, that action will be required across all sectors of the economy, and second that meeting our targets is affordable and possible with existing technology,” Shaw said.
“There are a series of choices that will need to be made at a cabinet level about how we reach net-zero carbon emissions and reduce biogenic methane – but when I look at the strategic policy direction the commission has set out, I am more confident than I have ever been that it can be done.”
The draft report would be released to the public for consultation, a process that would last till mid March, with a final report to be released in May.
“If we act now, we can join with other leading developed countries to set an example to the rest of the world and show what can be done,” Shaw said.
“The transition to a net-zero carbon economy in a way that gives people good job opportunities and certainty about how they will provide for their families.”
Ardern has described the threat of climate change as her generation’s “nuclear-free moment” and committed to net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases other than biogenic methane by 2050.
New Zealand is already seeing a multitude of effects from climate change, including record-hot summers, a prolonged fire season, warming ocean temperatures, melting glaciers, and myriad effects to its unique flora and fauna.