Agri­cul­ture in ETS first task for new com­mit­tee

The Southland Times - - NEWS - HENRY COOKE

Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter James Shaw has an­nounced the mem­bers of a cli­mate change com­mit­tee and asked them to plan for get­ting agri­cul­tural emis­sions into the Emis­sions Trad­ing Scheme.

The in­terim com­mit­tee is chaired by David Pren­tice of Busi­ness NZ and fea­tures for­mer Par­lia­men­tary Com­mis­sioner for the En­vi­ron­ment Jan Wright.

The in­terim group will be re­placed when an in­de­pen­dent Cli­mate Change Com­mis­sion takes over in May of 2019, when Shaw hopes to pass a Zero Car­bon Act.

Both groups will be work­ing to­wards the same long-term goal: get­ting New Zealand down to net­zero emis­sions by 2050, with 100 per cent re­new­able elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion by 2035.

The terms of ref­er­ence specif­i­cally asks for ad­vice about get­ting agri­cul­ture into the emis­sions trad­ing scheme, which they sig­nal is in­evitable.

‘‘It’s al­ways been a pre­sump­tion that agri­cul­ture would come into the ETS when the con­di­tions were right,’’ Shaw said.

The group are asked to look at ‘‘the full range of fea­si­ble op­tions for in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture in the NZ ETS.’’

If agri­cul­tural emis­sions do en­ter the ETS, farm­ers would have to ei­ther pay for their emis­sions by the tonne or trade their obli­ga­tions within the mar­ket, per­haps off­set­ting them with other ac­tions.

The com­mit­tee will look at how this would im­pact the New Zealand econ­omy and how any ad­verse ef­fects to farm­ers could be mit­i­gated.

‘‘We wanted to get started on some of the big re­ally thorny ques­tions,’’ Shaw said.

‘‘The In­terim Cli­mate Change Com­mit­tee will be­gin this im­por­tant work un­til we have set up the in­de­pen­dent Cli­mate Change Com­mis­sion un­der the Zero Car­bon Act in May next year,’’ Shaw said.

‘‘The in­terim com­mit­tee will con­sult with stake­hold­ers and hand over its work and anal­y­sis to the Cli­mate Change Com­mis­sion.’’

The ETS was set up by the fifth Labour gov­ern­ment and ini­tially was set to in­clude agri­cul­tural emis­sions, which makes up al­most half of New Zealand’s green­house gas pro­file. The fifth Na­tional gov­ern­ment de­cided to re­move them from the scheme.

Green­house gases are the pri­mary cause of hu­man-in­flu­enced cli­mate change, which is likely to cause dras­tic dam­age to food pro­duc­tion, coast­lines, and weather in com­ing decades.

Both the com­mit­tee and the com­mis­sion will seek to con­sult stake­hold­ers and pro­vide ad­vice for the Gov­ern­ment of-the-day – but will not set laws them­selves.

The model is based on the UK’s, where an in­de­pen­dent Com­mit­tee on Cli­mate Change pro­vides ad­vice, re­ports, and key rec­om­men­da­tions for Gov­ern­ment on whether they are meet­ing their own cli­mate goals.

Com­mit­tee-mem­ber Wright, who re­cently fin­ished her sec­ond term as the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mis­sioner for the En­vi­ron­ment, rec­om­mended in 2017 New Zealand fol­low the UK model.

She said at the time that there was ‘‘no di­rect link be­tween New Zealand cli­mate pol­icy and reach­ing the Paris tar­get.’’

The Paris tar­get, signed up to by the for­mer Gov­ern­ment in 2015, com­mits New Zealand to re­duc­ing our net emis­sions of harm­ful gases to 57.7 mil­lion tonnes of CO2 equiv­a­lent per year. The UK also sets ‘‘car­bon bud­gets’’ into law about 12 years ahead of time, leav­ing each Gov­ern­ment to de­cide how to meet them.

Wright and Pren­tice are joined by deputy chair Lisa Tuma­hai, chair­woman of Nga¯i Tahu, re­searcher Harry Clark, for­mer Meridian En­ergy CEO Keith Turner, and Motu Se­nior Fel­low Suzi Kerr.

Shaw cel­e­brated a huge win for his Green Party last week with the an­nounce­ment new oil and gas ex­plo­ration per­mits would not be granted by this Gov­ern­ment.

Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter James Shawhas named for­mer en­vi­ron­ment com­mis­sioner Jan Wright as a mem­ber of the cli­mate change com­mit­tee.

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