Greta is right

Matt Burgess
Insights Newsletter
25 October, 2019

Two developments this week on the Government’s flagship Zero Carbon Bill. First, Parliament’s Environment Committee sent its report recommending changes back to the House, having waded through more than 10,000 public submissions.

Second, the Government announced it will rush the Bill through its second and third readings before the Prime Minister flies out to Chile on 14 November to attend APEC.

Put another way, the deadline for passing a Bill that will guide New Zealand emissions reduction for the next 30 years, probably the most expensive legislation in New Zealand’s history, has just been decided on international grandstanding.

By the same Government that only 18 months ago rushed its landmark oil and gas decision, also for good PR.

Which would almost be forgivable if the Zero Carbon Bill didn’t include unnecessary rules that will make it almost impossible for New Zealand to achieve its emissions targets.

But it does. And, as expected, this week's report from the Environment Committee fixes none of what is broken with this Bill.

New Zealanders will still be banned from partnering with or funding emissions schemes overseas, regardless of how many more tonnes of greenhouse gases that could take from the atmosphere.

“Emissions budgets must be met, as far as possible, through domestic emissions reductions and domestic removals,” says the Bill.

On these 16 words rests hundreds of billions of dollars of unnecessary costs, and the near certainty that New Zealand will not reduce its emissions to net zero, ever.

It is the quality of emissions schemes, not their location, that matters. The Zero Carbon Bill is about to reject this idea permanently in primary legislation.

Behind the offshore ban is the principle that reducing emissions doesn’t really count if you haven’t upended your economy and changed everyone’s lifestyle.

But, as analysis for the Zero Carbon Bill by the Ministry for the Environment makes clear, the Government can transform New Zealand’s economy, or it can maximise emissions reductions. It cannot do both.

By banning offshore schemes, the Government chose transformation over far greater cuts in emissions. And now it has the numbers to embed this environmental vandalism permanently in law.

Which is to say that Greta Thunberg is right. You are failing us. Climate change is an emissions problem. A Zero Carbon Bill should focus on what works, rather than what is local.

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