Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Point of Order: James Shaw gave us a rundown on the Govt’s climate-change programme (before the Beehive website fell silent)

The PM yesterday announced a national minute of silence will be observed at the start of New Zealand’s State Memorial Service for Queen Elizabeth II, at 2pm on Monday 26 September.

The one-hour service will be held at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, during a one-off public holiday to mark the Queen’s death.

“The minute’s silence is a way for people, wherever they might be in New Zealand, to stand together to mark an extraordinary 70 years of service,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Perhaps Ardern’s ministers misinterpreted the announcement.

They have been silent – in terms of posting press statements on the Beehive website – ever since the PM posted her statement.

The only new post, when Point of Order checked out the site around noon, was a speech which Climate Change Minister James Shaw had delivered to a climate change and business conference.

It had been posted earlier than the PM’s announcement about a minute’s silence.

It is well worth reading because it offers what Shaw called a mid-point review of what the Government is doing in this policy area.

The focus in the Government’s first term had been on establishing the institutional framework to guide climate policy and action over the coming decades.

Action taken included the Zero Carbon Act. NZ became one of the first countries to put the 1.5˚C global warming threshold into primary legislation although,

“… based on recent court cases, it sounds like we need to strengthen that somewhat.”

Much of Shaw’s focus as Minister of Climate Change for the balance of this Parliamentary term primarily is dealing with the land sector.

“There’s a tonne of things going on, which are all related to each other in some way.

“We’ll be consulting shortly on our response to He Waka Eke Noa, the Primary Industry Partnership, on agricultural emissions pricing.

“That has to be up and running on 23,000 farms in about thirty months from now, which, in Governmental terms, may as well be tomorrow.”

Shaw drew attention to the Climate Change Commission’s concerns that the current Emissions Trading Scheme settings leading to a glut of forestry offsets in the 2030s.

“That in turn could lead to a crash in the ETS price and a return to the bad old days of companies just using cheap offsets rather than actually reducing their emissions.”

While a cap has been introduced into the ETS, Shaw said,

“… it is a very soft cap.

“That’s because anytime anyone plants enough trees to sequester a tonne of carbon, we automatically generate an NZU, which is a permit to pollute a tonne of carbon into the atmosphere.

:Which means, technically, that unlimited forestry allows unlimited pollution.

“Aotearoa is the only country in the world with an ETS that allows companies to offset 100% of their pollution with forestry.”

In the Emissions Reduction Plan the Government has committed to a review of ETS sequestration supply and demand settings.

Making an uncamouflaged political point, Shaw noted the significance of what happens in the next Parliamentary term.

The year 2025 is the end of the first emissions budget period. The second emissions budget period is from 2026-2030.

“Which means it is also when we have to publish our second Emissions Reduction Plan for how we’ll meet that budget period.

“It’s also when we decide on what the fourth emissions budget will be, from 2036-2040.

“It’s when we decide our next Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, from 2031-2035.

“It’s when we decide to bring our international shipping and aviation activity into our domestic greenhouse gas accounts and targets.

“And it’s when agricultural emissions pricing kicks in on 23,000 farms. Finally.

“That set of decisions and actions, in the next term of Parliament, will determine the speed and momentum of climate policy and action in this country for the next fifteen years afterwards.”

There were parties in Parliament which want to dismantle the entire machine built to deal with climate change, Shaw concluded (without naming names).

But the worst possible scenario Shaw can imagine for the future of climate policy and action in this country

“… would be for someone to put the brakes on, or worse, for it to come of its axle entirely.”

He is determined to drive the transformation over the coming years towards an economy that is productive, inclusive and sustainable.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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