NZ gov't greenhouse gas target too low, say critics

The New Zealand government announced an “ambitious” new greenhouse gas emissions target on Tuesday, but critics said the country was still failing to do its fair share to combat climate change.

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser said the target was to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, which was equivalent to 11 per cent below 1990 levels.

“This is a significant increase on our current target of 5 per cent below 1990 emission levels by 2020,” Groser said in a statement.

New Zealand would submit the target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ahead of a new international climate change agreement, due to be concluded in Paris in December.

The government had set an achievable target and sought to avoid imposing unfair costs on any particular sector or group of people, said Groser.

“Almost 80 percent of our electricity is renewable already, and around half our emissions come from producing food for which there aren’t yet cost-effective technologies to reduce emissions. So there are fewer opportunities for New Zealand to reduce its emissions right now,” he said.

“However, I’m optimistic about the future. Our investment in agricultural research is beginning to bear fruit and the cost of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continues to fall. I think in five to 10 years we’ll be in a good position to reduce our emissions in both agriculture and transport.”

The government would adopt an appropriate mix of policies to ensure the target is met, including a review of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The opposition Green Party said the target was way off New Zealand’s “fair share” of emissions reductions, which would be at least 40 percent below 1990 levels.

“By committing to such a small reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it means other countries will have to pick up our slack, or we’ll get runaway climate change,” Green Party international climate negotiations spokesperson Kennedy Graham said in a statement.

“If all countries followed New Zealand’s lead, catastrophic climate change would be the result.”

Business and farming industry groups welcomed the government’s target, but the WWF environment campaign group said the government had failed to set a meaningful target.

“New Zealand has one of the highest per capita emissions in the world and we are undermining our international reputation by failing to act,” WWF-New Zealand executive director Chris Howe said in a statement.

The government has come under growing pressure from critics who claim it has no plan to cut emissions and forestry groups who say the government is ignoring imminent deforestation.

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