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GOVERNMENT CONSULTS ON ZERO CARBON BILL
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The Government is currently seeking feedback to help shape the Zero Carbon Bill. This Bill will decide how we transition to a low-emissions, productive and resilient economy. Legislation will be introduced to Parliament later this year, with a view to passing the Zero Carbon Act by mid-2019.

Transitioning to a low-emission economy

The Ministry for the Environment (‘MfE’) states that the Zero Carbon Bill “puts a new target in legislation that gives us certainty about our long-term goals. It creates the institutions to help us get there and to hold us to account. It can also put in place the plans we need to respond to the growing impacts of climate change.[1] According to the Hon. James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change, “That certainty will drive investment in new industries and create new jobs to upgrade our economy. We have opportunities to increase our renewable electricity generation, plant more trees, invest in new technologies, continue our world-leading research into reducing emissions on our farms, and support the growing Māori economy.[2]

While the Government wants to avoid sudden changes as we transition, there will be negative impacts on some sectors and industries, high emission businesses, and low income households. It seeks to work with industry across the agriculture, forestry, energy, transport and waste sectors, “to get the transition right”.[3]

What the consultation covers

Through the consultation, MfE is seeking comments and views on:

  • The target set through the Bill;
  • The role of the Climate Change Commission;
  • The emission ‘budget’ system; and
  • The role of the Bill in climate change adaptation.

Which target should be set through the Bill

Like many other countries have already done, this Government has committed to setting a net zero target for New Zealand to meet by 2050. This would be in line with our commitment to the Paris Agreement signed with most countries of the world in 2015. Exactly what target is set in the Bill will be influenced by the consultation. Three options for a 2050 target are proposed in the discussion paper:

  • Net zero carbon dioxide;
  • Net zero long-lived gases (such as CO2 and NO) and stabilised emissions of short-lived gases (including methane); or
  • Net zero emissions across all greenhouse gases.

Under any target, there will be significant increases in new forest planting and emissions reductions in transport and energy, as well as changes in how we use our land.

The role of the Climate Change Commission

The Climate Change Commission will be established by the Bill. It is to provide independent, expert advice and support New Zealanders to hold successive governments to account for progress. MfE is seeking feedback on the Commission’s role:

  • In setting the target;
  • Advising the Government on emissions budgets to reach the target; and
  • With the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.

The emission ‘budget’ system

This will be part of the Bill and set out how much greenhouse gas we can emit over a period of time. MfE is seeking feedback on the design of the emission ‘budget’ system, for example, the duration of each budget, how far in advance they are set, whether they can be revised and what happens if they are not met.

The role of the Bill in adapting to climate change

MfE is seeking feedback on how the Bill can help decision makers manage climate change risks in a systematic way, for example, through national adaptation plans, regular risk assessments, setting up a targeted reporting power, and information sharing by organisations on exposure to climate change risks.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has recommended “that the Zero Carbon Act should include a process for carrying out regular national-level risk assessments and national adaptation strategy planning (whether or not these are to be conducted by the Climate Change Commission).[4]  

The Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group in its recent report recommends 21 key actions New Zealand needs to take to build resilience to the effects of climate change while growing the economy sustainably.  Under Action 19, the Group recommends that “the Zero Carbon Bill is used as the primary vehicle for establishing and empowering our proposed adaptation approach, assigning responsibilities for the national climate change risk assessment and the plan, and the monitoring and reporting of implementation. The issue of climate change mitigation and adaptation should not be separated.[5]

Making a submission

The target and requirements provided for in the Zero Carbon Bill will have an impact on businesses, the agricultural sector, and infrastructure providers. Including adaptation management as part of the Bill may form a useful framework to support local government in dealing with this issue. While there will be a further chance to comment on the Zero Carbon Bill once this is drafted and going through the Select Committee process, it is useful to get involved at this stage to voice any big picture concerns or suggestions. Submissions close 19 July 2018.

Access the MfE discussion document and submission form here[6]. Kensington Swan will be monitoring progress, and will keep you updated on developments. If you would like further information in relation to this topic or assistance with lodging a submission, please get in touch.

Thanks to Barbara Dean for preparing this newsflash.

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