New Zealand has committed to achieving a net-zero GHG emission by 2050. The Climate Change Commission’s final draft advice serves as a roadmap to help the country get there most feasibly and equitably.
Earlier this year, the NZ Government has announced the ‘feebate’ or the clean car discount scheme aimed to get Kiwis to replace their traditional fossil-fueled cars with electric vehicles by offering subsidies or rebates. To finance the repayments, the Government will tax high-polluting vehicles by as much as $5000.
When the Commission released its draft advice in March 2021, it went through several revisions before finally releasing the guidance in June 2021.
The independent advice from the Commission gives the New Zealand government until 31 December 2021 to set its first three emissions budgets out to 2035 and release its first emissions reduction plan. The Government must act swiftly while ensuring that employments in various industries are not affected as they adjust to the new low-emissions environment.
If the Government chooses to reject the Commission’s advice, it must develop its alternative plan to address climate change. But if the Government accepts the Commissions’ advice, the Commission will begin to monitor how the Government implements the direction and track down the country’s 2050 net-zero target (Climate Change Commission, 2021).
According to Commission Chair Rod Carr, current government policies are not on track to meet the 2050 emissions target, but climate action can be affordable with existing technologies and tools. The cost of acting now will be less than delaying actions in the future. In today’s figure, climate actions represent 1.2% of the country’s GDP or $3.9 billion but delaying key actions like slowing down the uptake of EVs will result in the falling of the GDP by 2.3% in 2050.
An article from the Industrial Safety News obtained the reaction of some New Zealand academics regarding the Commission’s final advice.
Dr. Rhys Jones of the University of Auckland says that the Commission’s advice avoids making the necessary changes to social and economic systems, which shows a lack of imagination and sticking with the status quo. Instead of relying on high-tech fixes such as EVs, he thinks the country should prioritize shifting to active public transport. “We should be centralizing strategies that dismantle harmful and fundamentally unsustainable systems,” he adds.
Dr. Luke Harrington from the University of Wellington says that the few and far between public transport in New Zealand limits citizens’ options between riding a car or plane. He adds that “radical change in both the breath and affordability” in public transport should happen first before we can reduce transport emissions in the next three decades.
Prof Jamie Schulmeister of the University of Canterbury says that the lack of innovative measures is beneficial. Working within current practices is much more feasible than a radically redesigned economy.
He notes that the reductions required in the proposed carbon budgets are relatively minor compared to the changes after 2030, suggesting that the country should expand walking and cycling to achieve the targets while waiting for EV prices to drop and become feasible.
The cost of batteries and renewable energy technologies also plays a role in uptake EVs and transition to renewable energy. But as more EVs are produced globally, economies of scale and increased investments in green technology and development can pull down the prices of EVs and renewable energy.
Schulmeister also notes the advice focus on reducing methane emissions in the dairy sector through an emission mechanism fee per kg of milk solids and meats produced. He says this is a critical step but won’t be easy to achieve.
Professor Justin Hodgkiss of the Victoria University of Wellington says that if New Zealand should achieve its emissions target for 2035 and 2050, it should not rely on technologies that are not proven. Instead, it should offer more options on the table to help reach the target at a lower cost.
He adds that “It is exciting to see the report highlighting the future importance of new jobs in the circular economy, in a new hydrogen industry, in the renewable electricity sector, and even emissions measurements and management. Many of these future jobs will be filled by today’s students”.
As the Commission’s advice has pointed out, achieving net-zero emissions in New Zealand is affordable and feasible even with today’s technologies. At the same time, future technological developments will only accelerate further emissions reduction. Investing in clean technologies also brings many benefits, including avoided emissions, job creations, and GDP gains. But it is up to the various sectors to embrace and commit to the changes needed to achieve this goal.
Encouragingly New Zealand debate seems to be maturing into holistic solutions, and a broad range of responses is examined.
Climate adaptation is a significant challenge for all economies that will require thinking broadly and differently about long-term and sustainable solutions.
Infrastructure management planning techniques can assist in the analysis and planning required.