Parliamentary Commissioner shows the way on climate change 

Andrew Morrison
Andrew Morrison.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE)’s comprehensive report “Farms, Forests and Fossil Fuels” shows the clear way forward for New Zealand on climate change. 

“The report sets out the science and the steps we must take based on that science to tackle climate change,” said Andrew Morrison, chairman of Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd (B+LNZ).

B+LNZ and the whole livestock sector are committed to reducing biogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with their warming impact. The Commissioner’s previous report identified a 10-22 percent range for methane reduction in order for the sector to achieve the equivalent of net carbon zero. The sheep and beef sector have committed to moving towards carbon-neutral at the farm gate by 2050.

“The Commissioner’s report identifies the important difference between biogenic and fossil-fuel sourced GHGs. Both must be reduced, but fossil-fuel sourced GHGs have a permanent warming effect. We need early, deep and permanent cuts in fossil-fuel sourced gases,” adds Morrison.

“Farmers are committed to owning their own issues and tackling their own impact on the climate. The sheep sector has already shown the way, by reducing emissions intensity and absolute emissions by more 30 percent since 1990, while maintaining production. Other parts of the livestock sector are committed to playing their part”, he says.

The Commissioner’s report recommends changes to the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), so that fossil-fuel GHGs can no longer be offset by planting trees; but recommends that biogenic GHGs should be able to be offset. This is because there is match between the temporary (but still significant) warming of biogenic emissions and the timescales of native and plantation forestry sequestration.

“The Commissioner has recommended a science-based approach which fits with the principle of each sector being responsible for its own emissions and for tackling them. Different sectors should not be able to off-load the impact of their emissions onto other sectors. It is essential that policy drives the right kinds of behaviours for fossil-fuel and biogenic greenhouse gases; to do this, policy must reflect the differences between those gases and how they can be effectively mitigated,” adds Morrison.

“It is now essential that Ministers considering the shape of the Zero Carbon Bill, and members of the Interim Climate Change Committee and the future Climate Change Commission, take the Parliamentary Commissioner’s findings into account when setting policy. It is vital for the planet and our collective future that policy is based on sound science that will have a real and lasting impact on reducing warming; enabling us to keep warming below 1.5C,” concludes Morrison.

Minister thanks PCE for report

James Shaw, Minister of Climate Change
James Shaw, Minister of Climate Change.

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw has thanked the PCE for the report, welcoming it as part of the Coalition Government’s overall consideration of climate strategies. It questions some of the fundamental design principles of the NZ ETS, he says.

“However, for the sake of providing policy stability and predictability for emitters and the forestry sector, the Government is committed to retaining the use of forestry off-sets for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions,” he says, adding planting trees to offset emissions is a necessity at least in the coming decades.

Shaw agrees the priority must be actual gross reductions in emissions. “The NZETS reforms we consulted on last year, and which we will introduce this year, will provide necessary incentives to bring down domestic emissions,” he says.

“Fundamental changes, such as those proposed by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, would need to go through the same processes that have brought us where we are now with the current ETS reforms being put in place.”

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