Agriculture in ETS first task for new committee
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 [ETS], 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 Shaw, left, has named Jan Wright, former Commissioner for the Environment, as a member of the climate change committee.