Cli­mate change prag­ma­tism vi­tal

Buy-in needed over agri­cul­tural emis­sions to es­ca­late ac­tion: com­mit­tee chair­man

Rotorua Daily Post - - Front Page - Gavin Evans

An overly purist treat­ment of agri­cul­tural gasses in cli­mate change pol­icy risks slow­ing this coun­try’s re­sponse and politi­cis­ing the process, the chair of the In­terim Cli­mate Change Com­mit­tee says.

De­bate over the rel­a­tive con­tri­bu­tion of meth­ane and ni­trous ox­ide, and whether the for­mer is a flow gas, risks dis­tract­ing from the more press­ing task of get­ting emis­sions from agri­cul­ture into the cli­mate regime some­where, David Pren­tice said in Welling­ton yes­ter­day.

While the coun­try’s cli­mate change poli­cies needed to be science-based, he said there was also a need for prag­ma­tism and buy-in, given the pace of ac­tion needed.

Five sci­en­tists would give five dif­fer­ent an­swers on how agri­cul­tural gasses should be treated, he told del­e­gates at the New Zealand Emis­sions Work­shop. What is needed is ac­tion.

“We must de-politi­cise the is­sue as much as we can to move for­ward,” he said.

“We must use science as a base for any de­ci­sions that we make, but any de­ci­sions now need to be done on a prag­matic per­spec­tive,” he said.

“That meth­ane ar­gu­ment; it is im­por­tant, but we must not let our­selves get caught in it.”

The Labour-led gov­ern­ment has pledged to get the econ­omy to net­zero emis­sions by 2050 and is try­ing to get cross-party sup­port for a new leg­isla­tive frame­work.

But it has al­ready dam­aged its pol­icy cred­i­bil­ity by per­sist­ing with a pre-elec­tion tar­get for 100 per cent re­new­able power gen­er­a­tion by 2035 — against the ad­vice of the al­ready highly re­new­able in­dus­try — and by ban­ning new off­shore gas and oil ex­plo­ration.

Na­tional has said it will re­peal the lat­ter pol­icy, which will do noth­ing to re­duce emis­sions and could in­crease them.

Pren­tice’s big­gest fears for the process were pol­i­tics and com­pla­cency.

He said Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter James Shaw was lead­ing “fu­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tions” with the other par­ties in Par­lia­ment to find com­mon ground on the pro­posed Net Zero Car­bon Bill.

If that isn’t achieved, Labour would push the bill through re­gard­less, Pren­tice said, at which point it would be­come “an­other po­lit­i­cal foot­ball” and al­low fu­ture gov­ern­ments “to come in and change things willy nilly.”

The com­mit­tee was ap­pointed in April to make progress on key pol­icy choices pend­ing the for­mal cre­ation of the Cli­mate Change Com­mis­sion next year.

It was specif­i­cally tasked with ad­vis­ing the Gov­ern­ment on how to im­ple­ment the re­new­able gen­er­a­tion tar­get and how agri­cul­ture — which ac­counts for close to half the coun­try’s gross emis­sions — can be brought into the emis­sions trad­ing scheme.

Pren­tice said polling as part of the Net Zero Car­bon Bill con­sul­ta­tion was en­cour­ag­ing and showed broad con­sen­sus on the need to in­clude agri­cul­tural emis­sions. Even farm­ing groups un­der­stood the need to take ac­tion.

What farm­ers par­tic­u­larly wanted, he said, was some­thing that was rel­a­tively sim­ple, that set a clear di­rec­tion on what was re­quired and

We must de-politi­cise the is­sue as much as we can.

David Pren­tice

guid­ance on how best to min­imise those im­pacts.

He was not sure it made sense to rush to try to in­clude agri­cul­tural gasses in the trad­ing scheme, given it was not work­ing well and was go­ing to be re­formed any­way.

“There are other ways of ac­count­ing for agri­cul­ture emis­sions that we be­lieve are fair, that deal with the dis­tri­bu­tional im­pacts, and are sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper to im­ple­ment across New Zealand and would pro­vide bet­ter ben­e­fits back to farm­ers,” he said.

The com­mit­tee was tak­ing a “far wider per­spec­tive” than just look­ing at the ETS and also try­ing to put to­gether a suite of “com­pan­ion mea­sures” that would help min­imise the im­pact on-farm.

“We are try­ing to take a more prag­matic, hope­fully com­mon­sense view to that.”

Pren­tice said what­ever the coun­try does on cli­mate change, it will cost bil­lions of dol­lars and there will be win­ners and losers.

— Busi­ness­Desk

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