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‘Smoke and mirrors’: Govt’s climate change plans face criticism from opposition

Climate Change Minister James Shaw. Photo / Mark Mitchell By Hamish Cardwell of RNZ The Environment Select Committee held a hearing into...

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Climate Change Minister James Shaw. Photo / Mark Mitchell

By Hamish Cardwell of RNZ

The Environment Select Committee held a hearing into the first three years of the programme to cut dangerous climate gases.

National Party committee member Scott Simpson took aim, saying the Emissions Reduction Plan was full of ideas and commitments but few concrete actions.

“The plan is riddled with words like ‘investigate’, ‘consider’, ‘scope out’, ‘explore’, ‘evaluate’.

“Critics of the plan have labelled it as merely just a plan for a plan. Is this real or is this just smoke and mirrors?”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said many parts of the plan were well under way.

He said lots of areas had never had substantive government plans in place, and needed full policy development and money set aside so work could be done properly.

He said other countries were well ahead in their programme to cut emissions, with Aotearoa still laying the groundwork in some areas.

Meanwhile, the Climate Change Commission chairman Dr Rod Carr rejected claims from the Opposition that plans to cut climate gases were not properly costed.

He was asked why the commission, which wrote the national road map the Emissions Reduction Plan is based on, had not done cost-benefit analysis.

Carr replied the more granular work was to be done by the Government and it did not want to double up.

Climate Change Commission chair Dr Rod Carr. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Climate Change Commission chair Dr Rod Carr. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“We didn’t seek to replicate what would be coming down the pike when each specific initiative that is in the Emissions Reduction Plan will need to go through its regulatory processes.”

Commission chief executive Jo Hendy said it would run a ruler over the plan as part of its monitoring role.

On Auckland transport court action

Shaw said he was going to take a look at the law related to a court case against Auckland Council’s transport plans.

Earlier this month, the High Court in Auckland shot down a legal challenge to the programme.

A group of climate activist groups had argued Auckland Transport’s plan was inconsistent with this country’s laws to reduce emissions, as well as our international commitments.

The transport plan will likely see emissions rise.

“There does seem to be a gap there between what the democratically elected leaders of the council have decided that they want to do, and then what their agencies are willing to do,” Shaw said.

Shaw said there were decisions on similar cases pending, such as action against the Climate Change Commission.

On a ‘significant risk’ of forestry credits

Shaw said the Climate Change Commission had identified there was a significant risk that by the 2030s that there could be an oversupply of forestry offset units which could undermine efforts to make actual cuts to emissions.

He said a surplus could bring down prices, which could hurt forest owners.

“It could [also] take us back to the situation we had a couple of years ago where it was cheaper for businesses to plant forests than it was for them to actually reduce emissions.”

He said the Government was working on the issue right now.

On trade tariffs

Shaw was also asked if the Government was prepared to get into a tit-for-tat trade tussle with the EU over market access.

These are plans by the EU to look at slapping tariffs on high emissions products it imports.

It is designed to make it harder for countries that are not pricing emissions to sell their comparatively cheaper goods to countries which are.

The National Party asked if New Zealand would retaliate if local products faced these tariffs.

Shaw said the EU saw New Zealand as actively working to reduce emissions so did not think it would be pinged.

He said NZ officials were in contact with EU counterparts on the issue.

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