‘Smoke and mirrors’: Government climate change plans slammed by opposition

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James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The Environment Select Committee held a hearing on the first three years of the program to reduce climate-damaging gases.

Nation Party committee member Scott Simpson took aim, saying the emissions reduction plan was full of ideas and commitments, but few concrete actions.

“The plan is peppered with words like ‘investigate’, ‘consider’, ‘study’, ‘explore’, ‘evaluate’.

“Critics of the plan called it just a plan for a plan. Is it real or is it just smoke and mirrors?”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said many parts of the plan are on track.

He said many areas had never had substantial government plans in place and needed full policy development and money set aside to get the job done properly.

He said other countries are well ahead in their emissions reduction program, with Aotearoa still laying the groundwork in some areas.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Climate Change Commission, Dr Rod Carr, dismissed opposition claims that plans to cut climate gases were not properly costed.

He was asked why the commission, which drafted the national roadmap on which the emissions reduction plan is based, had not carried out a cost-benefit analysis.

Carr replied that the more granular work had to be done by the government and he did not want to double down.

“We did not seek to replicate what would happen as each specific initiative in the emissions reduction plan would have to go through its regulatory processes.”

Commission chief executive Jo Hendy said he would lead the plan as part of his oversight role.

Rod Carr, Chair of the Climate Change Commission.

Climate Change Commissioner, Dr Rod Carr.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

On Auckland Transport’s legal action

Shaw said he would take a look at the law relating to a legal case against Auckland Council’s transport plans.

Earlier this month, the Auckland High Court dismissed a legal challenge to the scheme.

A group of climate activist groups had argued that Auckland Transport’s plan was inconsistent with that country’s laws aimed at reducing emissions, as well as with our international commitments.

The transportation plan will likely see emissions increase.

“There seems to be a gap between what democratically elected council leaders have decided to do and what their agencies are prepared to do,” Shaw said.

Shaw said there are decisions on similar cases pending, such as action against the Climate Change Commission.

On a “significant risk” of forestry credits

Shaw said the Climate Change Commission had identified there was a significant risk that by the 2030s there could be an oversupply of forest offset units that could undermine efforts to actually reduce shows.

He said a surplus could drive prices down, which could hurt forest owners.

“It could [also] brings us back to the situation we had a few years ago, where it was cheaper for companies to plant forests than to actually reduce emissions. »

He said the government was working on the issue at the moment.

On commercial tariffs

Shaw was also asked if the government was prepared to engage in a trade dispute with the EU over market access.

These are EU plans to impose tariffs on the high-emitting products it imports.

It is designed to make it harder for countries that do not price emissions to sell their goods comparatively cheaper to countries that do.

The National Party asked if New Zealand would retaliate if local produce faced these tariffs.

Shaw said the EU saw New Zealand as actively working to reduce emissions and therefore did not think it would be nuts.

He said New Zealand officials were in contact with their EU counterparts on the matter.

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