04 August 2009
Big Affordable Climate Change Target in Sight
New Zealand can reduce its carbon emissions dramatically and cheaply according to a study released by the Green Party today which sharply contradicts recent Government claims.
“We can have a lot of gain without much pain,” said Green Party Climate Change Spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons. “There’s literally money growing on trees if we want it.”
New Zealand could reduce its emissions well below 1990 levels through a series of reforms in the forestry, transport, energy and agricultural sectors, according to the Green Party research, which also concludes that the cost of buying carbon credits has been grossly distorted by the Government.
“The Government says it can’t be done, but careful research shows it can be done. Environment Minister Nick Smith says it’s too hard and too expensive to set a responsible target, but the facts and the science say something different,” Ms Fitzsimons stated.
“In the absence of leadership from the Government on this issue, we’ve done the work. There’s a way to be optimistic and constructive in the face of a major international challenge but it seems the Government is taking a different path.”
In order to reach a target that is 40% below 1990 emissions levels, New Zealand must reduce emissions by 48 million tonnes (Mt) below the levels expected in 2020. It could save three-quarters of that, or more than 36 Mt of carbon emissions, according to the Green Party study. New Zealand would then have to purchase less than 12 Mt of credits to reach a 40% target and the cost for the credits would likely be $1.2b according to the study. For a target of 30% below 1990 (or 41.8 Mt), New Zealand would need to purchase 5.6 Mt at a cost of $560 million.
By contrast, the Government has claimed that New Zealand cannot make any emissions reductions, that its international commitment can only be met by purchasing carbon credits and that a 40% target would cost $15 billion.
The Green Party research shows New Zealand has choices, Ms Fitzsimons noted: “We can move to more clean energy generation, we can make our cars more fuel-efficient, we can make our dairy farms more profitable and we can invest in forestry before we have to buy credits.
“We can make big gains which means we buy less than a quarter of the carbon credits in order to reach a responsible target.” The reforms had the added benefit of future-proofing much of New Zealand’s economy, Ms Fitzsimons said. “These types of measures protect our export industries and protect us from rising oil and fertiliser prices, while strengthening our clean, green brand. This approach also helps with our current account deficit because we don’t have to buy as many credits overseas.”
The Green Party research found potential savings in the following places: Electricity 5.25 Mt, Industrial Fuels 1.9 Mt, Transport 4.7 Mt, Agriculture 2.7 Mt, Forestry Planting 10.9 Mt, Forestry Management 10.75 Mt.
The research was conservative and based on the best available estimates, Ms Fitzsimons said. “We’ve compared this work with what other countries such as the UK are doing and it’s generally in line with their calculations. What’s out of line is some of the maths our Government has produced lately.”
The New Zealand Government recently calculated the potential cost to New Zealand based on a carbon price of $200/ton to reach the frightening figure of $15b, Ms Fitzsimons said, but had used a price of just $100/ton in other places.
In the UK, meanwhile, the Government had taken firm and fact-based action, Ms Fitzsimons said, setting an unconditional target of a 34% reduction and is ready to go to 42% as part of a global accord. The British government had also established an independent commission to administer the plan.
The New Zealand Government is due to announce an emissions target for 2020 as part of a global agreement to be reached this year. The next international meeting on emission reduction targets begins in Bonn next week.
“We could hold our heads high at Bonn and Copenhagen with only modest cost if we offered 30% unconditionally and 40% if other developed countries made similar commitments,” said Ms Fitzsimons.