What effort has the Government made to engage with the public on reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and the setting of a target for 2020, to help conclude a global agreement at the Copenhagen conference in December?
The decision on 2020 emissions reductions is significant and will impact on all New Zealanders, so over the adjournment we went about engaging with New Zealanders on that 2020 target. Nine public meetings were held across the country, involving over 1,600 people. We also had three meetings with business groups, a national hui with Māori leaders, and last night held a webcast panel discussion. The feedback from those meetings will be considered alongside scientific, economic, and foreign affairs advice in making a decision on New Zealand’s contribution to this global problem.
Is the baseline for setting the 2020 target the 1990 levels; if so, does the fact that New Zealand’s gross emissions have risen by 24 percent since then not present a difficult challenge for New Zealand?
The member is correct, and that does need to be taken into account. Officials advise that on a business-as-usual basis, emissions would be 41 percent above 1990 levels by 2020. We are fortunate currently that our emissions growth is being offset by trees that were planted in the 1990s, but that situation will be reversed in 2020 due to the age class of our Kyoto forests, and that makes New Zealand’s challenge in 2020 particularly difficult.
What additional reports has the Government sought to enable it to set a 2020 emissions target?
Firstly, there has been significant uncertainty over New Zealand’s forest data, which has seen billion-dollar variations in our Kyoto balance. A major investment has been made in the Land Use and Carbon Analysis System, which utilises satellite imagery data to provide accurate data on forests, and this information will be available to Cabinet before it makes the decision. The Government has also commissioned specific analysis on the economic costs of various targets, and that report will also be used to inform the Government’s decision on a 2020 target.
When the Government determines the 2020 target for New Zealand, what weight will it give to the significant public support expressed at the recent consultation meetings for a 40 percent target, relative to the weight to be attached to the other criteria that the Minister has outlined?
There was a range of views expressed at the meetings. For instance, in Hawke’s Bay and in more provincial areas people were quite conservative, particularly those from the farming community, who were very nervous about the impacts of a bold target. There was an organised campaign by Greenpeace around a 40 percent reduction by 2020. Those advocating a 40 percent reduction need to explain to their fellow New Zealanders how that can be achieved, when New Zealand’s emissions have gone up by 24 percent over the last 18 years.
What plans does the Minister have to counter the misinformation repeatedly published in the rural papers, which has led many farmers to honestly believe that cows are carbon neutral and emit no greenhouse gases, that climate change is not human-induced, and that agriculture should be exempt because the world needs our butter and meat, and if he does not have any such plans, how will he set a target that will be supported by both town and country?
The Government, as part of the consultation on the 2020 target, has been quite upfront with the farming community about the fact that agricultural emissions are contributing to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and to global warming. Equally so, I would say that the major players in the industry—and I include both the meat industry and the dairy industry—are actively and quite constructively engaging to see how the agricultural industry can constructively contribute to a solution. I say that we need to be cautious, though. Those who are promoting very bold targets need to recognise that the technological challenges around reducing emissions from agriculture are quite difficult for New Zealand.