‘Achievable and affordable’: PM Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw react to emissions advice

The Government is calling the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice on what New Zealand needs to do to hit ambitious emissions targets “achievable and affordable”.

The Commission today released its long-awaited analysis on whether the country’s climate commitments were compatible with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

It recommended heavily cutting cow numbers, stopping conventional car imports, decarbonising the energy sector and a large-scale transition to electrical vehicles.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the Commission’s road map “both achievable and affordable”.

“Last term we set our long-lived gases and methane targets and asked the Commission for independent guidance on how to get to them. That’s exactly what they have produced. They have also confirmed our goals are achievable if we act decisively and collectively.

“The Commission’s draft advice sets out an achievable blueprint for New Zealand to become a prosperous, low-emissions economy.”

Ardern said the groundwork had been laid for the transition but that “more is now required”.

“The report demonstrates we have the tools we need to achieve our target, but calls on us to accelerate our work.

“As a Government we are committed to picking up the pace and focusing much more on decarbonisation and reducing emissions rather than overly relying on forestry.”

The Government was committed to improving New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in order to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The current targets – set in 2015 – are not ambitious enough to reach the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C and the Commission recommended strengthening them.

Under current policy, New Zealand would fall short of its 2050 target of net-zero long-lived gases by 6.3Mt of CO2-e.

Ardern said the Government will begin work to revise those targets this year.

“The advice also highlights that the cost of action on the economy is not as great as many have previously thought. In fact action on climate change is an economic opportunity for New Zealand.

“Action on climate change is critical to our ongoing economic success. New Zealand exporters rely on our clean green brand and there will be new opportunities for Kiwi businesses as we adapt to a zero carbon economy.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said he was “more confident than ever” that New Zealand could have net-zero carbon emissions and reduce biogenic methane.

It would require a “series of choices” by Cabinet to meet the Commission’s recommended strategic policy direction, he said.

But the opportunity ahead “looks to be huge”.

The Commission found that meeting the emissions budgets it proposed out to 2035 were likely to be less than one per cent of GDP – much lower than what was estimated when new 2050 targets were set – although some sectors would feel more pain than others.

The coal mining and oil and gas industries, particularly, would lose up to 1,100 jobs by 2035.

But the commission found many workers in those energy industries most affected by the transformation had important skills that would prove valuable in others.

“A strong, inclusive, and climate-friendly economy that supports our recovery from Covid creates new jobs, and encourages innovation,” said Shaw.

“If we act now, we can join with other leading developed countries to set an example to the rest of the world and show what can be done – the transition to a net-zero carbon economy in a way that gives people good job opportunities and certainty about how they will provide for their families.”

The Commission’s report showed action would be needed across all sectors of the economy but that meeting the targets was affordable and achievable.

Ardern and Shaw will answer questions about the Commission’s advice at 3pm at a press conference in Auckland.

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