New Zealand pledges to cut emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030

Published 04:46 on July 7, 2015  /  Last updated at 14:15 on July 7, 2015  /  Asia Pacific, Climate Talks, International, New Zealand  /  No Comments

New Zealand will cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced Tuesday, but observers said the plan was too weak.

New Zealand will cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced Tuesday, but observers said the plan was too weak.

The target will be submitted to the UN as part of New Zealand’s INDC, but will remain provisional until a final deal is agreed in Paris, including rules on accounting for land sector emissions and carbon markets.

The target equals an 11% cut from 1990 levels, only slightly deeper than the country’s target of cutting GHGs 5% below 1990 levels by 2020.

The INDC said New Zealand wants “unrestricted access to global carbon markets”.

“Almost 80% of our electricity is renewable already, and around half our emissions come from producing food for which there aren’t yet cost-effective technologies to reduce emissions. So there are fewer opportunities for New Zealand to reduce its emissions right now,” Groser said in a statement.

“The Government will adopt an appropriate mix of policies to ensure the target is met. In particular, we will begin a review of the Emissions Trading Scheme this year, which will include scope for further public discussion on what New Zealand will do domestically.”

TOO WEAK

But analysts said the INDC did not go far enough.

“What’s missing from the submission is a firm commitment backed by policy to decarbonise the New Zealand economy in line with global effort to limit temperature rises below two degrees Celsius,” said Catherine Leining, a policy fellow at MOTU Economic and Public Policy Research.

“The submission suggests heavy reliance on carbon markets until technology improvements in agriculture and transport become more widely available sometime after 2030 (and) does not address the significant spike in net forestry emissions projected during the target period,” she told Carbon Pulse.

Erwin Jackson of The Climate Institute said New Zealand’s target was so weak the country is putting at risk its competitiveness in a carbon-constrained world.

“If it does not lift this initial offer to the international community New Zealand will join Canada in family of free riders by significantly reducing their emissions reductions efforts,” he said.

Meanwhile, green groups said the 30% target was far below what New Zealand needs to do.

“The Government’s new climate target is well below what is needed to play our part in stopping climate change,” Chris Howe, executive director at WWF New Zealand said.

“The Government’s long term target is to reduce emissions by 50% from 1990 levels by 2050 – they will not reach this with the weak 2030 target announced today. To really make a contribution on climate change and be taken seriously, NZ needs to commit to a reduction of 40% from 1990 levels by 2030,” Howe said.

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

New Zealand is holding out for the final accounting rules approved in Paris because those are essential for the country’s ability to meet its target.

Its 2020 target uses gross emissions for the base year, meaning it does not take into account carbon stored in forests, thus making the base year emissions artificially high. It does, however, count forest sinks in the target year (2020).

As a result, New Zealand is more or less on track to meet its 5% reduction target by 2020, even though actual emissions have more than doubled since 1990.

The INDC did not make it clear if New Zealand plans to use the same methodology again for the 2030 target, but sources speaking to Carbon Pulse said it was likely.

If it does, New Zealand’s net target for 2030 would be 54.8 million tonnes of CO2e (30% below gross emissions of 78.3 mt in 2005) – a 134% net increase from the 23.4 million tonnes it emitted 1990.

“How much carbon New Zealand plans to actually take responsibility for is not revealed by New Zealand’s latest climate change target announcement. We will not know what it really means until the assumptions are revealed. Much depends on the rules it assumes will be applied to the commitment,” said Simon Terry, CEO of Sustainability NZ.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com

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