By Jenny Macroft, New Zealand First Environment Spokesperson.
There has been criticism of the Climate Change Response Bill. Some in the farming community believe it goes too far while there are environmentalists who fear that it does not go far enough to save the planet.
This legislation is ambitious and far-reaching.
Limiting climate change to no more than 1.5 degrees celsius over the next 30 years becomes legally binding.
What many commentators have missed is the importance of farm emissions being included in the legislation. That means we are dealing with the tough stuff on climate change, rather than just the low hanging fruit.
There are not that many easy initiatives left to get our emissions down in New Zealand because most of our energy is already renewable.
There are two important aspects to this legislation.
The first is that a Climate Change Commission will be established to review our emission targets. Secondly, the gas emission targets have been split in two. We will aim for zero carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide by 2050. Methane gas, which is the main source of our emissions does not live long in the atmosphere and we are aiming for a 10 percent reduction by 2030.
Last year I went to England to study its climate change legislation and, specifically, how it dealt with agriculture. What I found was that agricultural emissions had been put into the “too hard” basket and they had done very little work on it.
New Zealand First was insistent that for a country like New Zealand, where agriculture is a huge part of the economy, any climate change legislation that did not include methane emissions would render the legislation almost meaningless.
But we could not include agriculture and then send our farmers broke.
The Deputy Prime Minister was in Scandinavia recently. He spent a considerable amount of time in Denmark discussing methane gas reduction where there is a lot of work being done on the subject. He came back convinced that technology that is being developed will make a huge difference in managing methane emissions over the next 10 years.
So Mr Peters suggested to Cabinet that a reasonable methane target be set initially to make sure the legislation contained everything it needed to contain to be realistic.
What many in the agricultural sector are worried about is the secondary target of a 24 percent to 47 percent methane reduction by 2050. This is where future technology kicks in. It is hoped that solutions to methane reduction which are being developed now will be available to make the secondary target achievable.
These targets will be reviewed by the Climate Change Commission which will issue five-yearly “emissions budgets”.
It is hoped that technology will make even more ambitious targets possible.
But the fact is that we now have an all-encompassing climate change plan that is realistic environmentally and politically.
It is a great achievement by the Coalition Government. This was not about winners and losers in Cabinet. It may surprise some people to know that New Zealand First is just as passionate about the natural environment as members of the Green Party are.
We all worked together on making sure we had a climate change plan that could work. The great thing about having a well-functioning Coalition Government is that all sectors of society are represented, rather than the few.
Jenny Marcroft is the New Zealand First Environment Spokesperson.