NZ dragging its heels on committing to carbon cuts

Russia did it. The United States did it. All the countries in the European Union have done it, as have Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and Latvia. Even oil-and-mineral-exporting Gabon, population 1.3 million, did it. But New Zealand did not.

What? Meet the deadline to submit details of its 2030 emissions reduction target – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the latest United Nations parlance.

The new approach to tackling climate change on a global scale, agreed upon at negotiations in Lima last year, requires all countries – including developing nations which were exempted under the Kyoto Protocol from setting emissions reduction targets – to “communicate” their post-2020 emissions reduction targets before negotiations in Paris in December.

This poses a big problem for New Zealand. Treasury has told the Government that it expects this country to have a serious carbon deficit by 2030, so making cuts will require policy changes that the Government is not keen to make. It might, for example, be forced to include agriculture – responsible for nearly half of New Zealand’s annual greenhouse gas emissions – in the Emissions Trading Scheme, a move it perceives as being politically unpopular.

That’s because at the moment, the only real way of significantly reducing biological greenhouse gas emissions is by less-intensive farming. With dairy farming intensification driving the economy over recent years, that would have serious economic implications that the Government doesn’t want to have to deal with.

During the Kyoto Protocol years, when only developed or “Annex 1” countries were required to make emissions cuts, New Zealand got away with excluding agriculture from its climate change action plans because it was the only developed country with such a heavy contribution of agriculture in its emissions profile, and argued that targeting agriculture would lead to a reduced global food supply.

But with other countries, such as Mexico, with high levels of agricultural emissions in their profile now stepping up to the plate, exempting agriculture from New Zealand’s commitments will become increasingly difficult. The UN had asked countries to submit their INDCs (their commitments) by the end of March. Climate Change Minister Tim Groser has said that New Zealand’s target will be submitted before the Paris talks.

Source: Carbon News 2015

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