Government unveils its plan to tackle climate change

Today the Government introduced the much-awaited Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to Parliament.

The Bill provides a framework for New Zealand to develop and implement “clear and stable climate change policies that contribute to the global effort under the Paris Agreement”.

Key features of the Bill are:

  • A new emissions reduction target (which is reflected in a broadened purpose of the Climate Change Response Act). It is a split target which aims to reduce:

–  all greenhouse gas emissions, aside from biogenic methane (emissions from livestock), to net zero by 2050; and

–  biogenic methane emissions to between 24-47 percent below 2017 levels, by 2050 (including a short term requirement to reduce emissions to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030).

  • An obligation on the Minister for Climate Change to prepare a national adaptation plan that responds to an assessment of risk to New Zealand’s economy, society, environment, and ecology from the current and future effects of climate change, particularly in the next six years. The Bill does not require financial support from the Government to assist individuals or businesses to adapt to climate change.

  • The establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission to provide advice to the Government on adaptation and mitigation; advice to the Minister setting emission budgets (considered as interim targets) and emission reduction plans; and to create a risk assessment for the country. There is no consequence in the Bill for not meeting emission budgets.  The Commission will not have any decision-making or regulatory powers and may have to consider Government policy when on unit supply settings for the emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The Bill maintains the existing approach of the Climate Change Response Act and does not prescribe how to achieve the emissions reduction targets.  Detail will be contained in emissions reduction plans to be developed by the Minister.  These may need to be ambitious to achieve the emission reductions desired.

Another Bill on the ETS

The ETS will be a key tool in meeting emission reductions and achieving the 2050 target.  A number of improvements to the ETS will be progressed through a separate Bill, including price-control measures. The Coalition Cabinet indicates that “any release of units following the activation of those price-control measures will not be taken from an emissions budget”.

Next steps

The Government has indicated that political consensus has been broadly reached in respect of the Bill.  Although there have been cross party negotiations, that does not mean there will be automatic support for the Bill.  The National Party has indicated that it is reviewing the Bill and will decide whether or not to support it after that review.  The Act Party has indicated that it will oppose the Bill.

The Bill will progress to its first reading in Parliament and will then be referred to a Select Committee for consideration.  The Select Committee process is likely to allow for public submissions to be made on the Bill and for submitters to speak to their submissions.  The Government hopes the Bill will come into force late this year, although no fast tracking of the Bill has been announced.

The Bill will affect everyone in New Zealand, particularly the industrial, forestry and agricultural sectors.  Please contact a member of our team if you would like more information on the Bill, its potential impact, or if you are interested in making a submission on it.

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