Here’s a breakthrough: A government that’s finally taking positive action to reverse the effects of climate change by attacking its cause: fossil fuel use.
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Help to buy EVs in ‘landmark’
New Zealand net zero climate plan
Lower and middle income families will benefit from ‘scrap and
replace’ scheme, while 20% cut in car, van and ute trips sought
The government says its plan will put New Zealand on track to make
zero-emissions vehicles 30% of its light vehicle fleet by 2035.
Eva Corlett in Wellington
15 May 2022
New Zealand will help some people to buy electric vehicles, end its reliance on fossil fuels, lower agricultural emissions, and reduce waste going to landfill, the government has promised in the most significant announcement on climate change action in the country’s history.
The emissions reduction plan sets the direction for climate action for the next 15 years, with a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas New Zealand can emit, in order to meet targets to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
The government announced the details of New Zealand’s first comprehensive plan to slash climate emissions and how it will be funded at parliament on Monday.
The plan last week garnered near cross-party support, which will give it enduring influence if there is a change in government. Two minor parties did not support the plan – the rightwing ACT party, which said it is not necessary, while Te Pati Māori (the Māori Party) said it does not go far enough.
The finance minister, Grant Robertson, has revealed how the “climate emergency response fund” – generated from emissions trading and ringfenced for climate spending – will be allocated, ahead of the primary budget announcement on Thursday. Jacinda Ardern said in a statement:
“This is a landmark day in our
transition to a low emissions future.”
The day will be bittersweet for the prime minister, who has called climate change this generation’s “nuclear-free moment” and long campaigned on the promise to slash emissions, but was unable to attend the announcement due to testing positive for Covid-19 and needing to isolate at home. Ardern said:
“The emissions reduction plan delivers
the greatest opportunity we’ve had in
decades to address climate change.
“We can’t opt out of the effects of climate
change so we can’t opt out of taking action.”
The minister of climate change, James Shaw, said the plan would lay the path towards a net zero future where more people could buy electric vehicles, towns and cities would have better transport infrastructure, the highest emitters would switch to clean energy, farmers would grow food in a way that helps the climate, and warmer, more affordable heating options for homes would exist.
It would ensure an equitable transition for Māori, through developing a Māori action plan and through funding and resources for Māori-led programmes and solutions. Shaw said:
“This is a historic day for climate action in
Aotearoa. Because of this work, New Zealand
is on track to bend the curve of its emissions
downwards for the first time in its history.”
One of the most significant initiatives is the clean car upgrade programme, which will support lower and middle-income families to transition to low-emission alternatives through a “scrap and replace” trial. That will allow eligible families to trade in their vehicles and receive support to buy electric or hybrid vehicles, which will in turn be cheaper to run.
This, and plans to improve public transport through greener bus fleets, better cycleways and walkways, and more frequent trains, will put the country on track to make zero-emissions vehicles 30% of the light vehicle fleet (cars, vans and utes) and reduce the total kilometres light vehicles travel by to 20% by 2035, the government says.
More than $1.2bn had been allocated towards this part of the plan, which was expected to reduce emissions equivalent to taking 181,000 cars off the road between now and 2035, said Michael Wood, the minister of transport.
The climate fund was established using an initial $4.5bn from the emissions trading scheme – which charges certain businesses for the greenhouse gases they emit – and meant “the polluters are paying [for pollution], not households”, Robertson said.
A portion of that fund – $1.3bn – has been earmarked for international climate aid, with half committed to the Pacific. Another $1.5bn will be allocated in future budgets. Further spending announcements will be made as part of the overall 2022 budget announcement on Thursday.
On Monday, Robertson announced the first tranche of funding allocations. One of the largest investments, at just over $650m over four years, will go towards decarbonising industry and speeding up the switch to cleaner energy options.
Megan Woods, the minister of energy and resources, said:
“Rising global energy prices we
cannot control show we must wean
ourselves off expensive fossil fuels.”
Emissions from the energy and industry sectors made up 27% of New Zealand’s total emissions, she added.
Agricultural emissions are being largely dealt with in a separate policy called He Waka Eke Noa – a five-year programme working with the sector to reduce methane and build resilience. But the government has committed more than $700m over four years to lower agricultural emissions, expand the contribution of forestry to reduce carbon, and produce alternative “green” fuels.
This will be paid for by the emissions trading scheme, despite the agriculture sector being exempt from having to pay into it until 2025.
Central to this is the establishment of the new centre for climate action on agricultural emissions, which will drive innovation and product development.
New Zealand has long relied on its “clean green” image for tourism, trade and wider global cultural cache, and has regularly made headlines for some of its grander gestures, including when Ardern declared a climate emergency.
But the country’s green reputation has become more untenable in recent years. The country’s gross emissions per person are high and it is one of the world’s worst performers on emissions increases. Emissions in New Zealand rose by 57% between 1990 and 2018 – the second-greatest increase of all industrialised countries.
“New Zealand trades on its environmental
reputation – it is the key to the ongoing
security of our primary exports and
tourism, our two main export earners,”
Robertson said, adding that investing in low-emissions projects and industries would protect those industries.
“These [overall] plans mark the greatest
transformation for the economy and New
Zealand society in my time in politics.”
The chair of the climate change commission, Rod Carr, told Newsroom the plan was a good step, but said the car scrapping scheme would need to be carefully designed.
“The evidence overseas as I understand it
is that scrappage schemes as implement-
ted overseas have been relatively expensive
ways of reducing emissions. But that depends
entirely on how they’re targeted and who gets
the benefit and what the benefit is used for.”
The University of Otago’s Prof Lisa Ellis, who is also a member of He Kaupapa Hononga/Otago’s Climate Change Research Network, told the Science Media Centre:
“The good news … is that we finally have
the legal and political infrastructure to
drive the transition to a sustainable
and equitable low-emissions economy.”
The bad news, Ellis added, was that the emissions budgets were weak.
“As a country with one of the world’s
highest per capita emissions, we
have a responsibility to do our fair
share by taking prompt action to
prevent runaway climate change.”
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If you’ve read my blogs before, you know that I’ve favored ideas that improve sustainable living … that individuals can implement. Fossil fuel political action groups have a huge impact in virtually every nation. I’m delighted to finally see a national government take positive legislative action to reduce the effects of global warming. Adding D’s comments …
“This is a beautiful example of a country who has first recognized that their fossil fuel use has escalated to a point where it needs immediate attention. Then the country, together, looked for and is now implementing changes to support massively reducing fossil fuel dependency.
“What does that mean for the United States?
“Many states in the U.S. are larger in size and population than New Zealand is, as a country. The United States is so diverse – and at such odds over climate change – we are not sure what can be done at a federal level. It is more probable that change will begin at a state level.
“Most of the change at this point has come from the ’blue’ states. And yet, what we see is the rising costs of fossil fuels and rising costs of food may be the driver of change away from dependency on fossil fuels. If you are so inclined, write or contact your state representatives to request change from fossil fuels, and find out what your state is currently doing, and what is planned. Then, get involved … as much or as little as you’re comfortable doing so.
“The rising costs of fossil fuels may drive the ‘red’ states to adopt the changes made by the ‘blue’ states. Then, when enough states have shifted, it’s easier to pass federal legislation.
“The emphasis for Stu’s blogs has always been ‘What can an individual do?’ It must begin by asking ‘How can you lower your fossil fuel dependency? So, doing large things, such as adding photovoltaics or changing to EVs, is important. On a smaller scale, using less plastics, not buying in excess, and purchasing locally grown food will make strides. We know that many of you think that an individual can’t change the trajectory of climate change. And yet, collectively, it can.”
The final portion of D’s comments recalls a Margaret Mead statement …
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens
can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”