Split-gas emissions targets
Split emissions targets for different greenhouse gases are among the key climate change levers in the Zero Carbon Bill legislation introduced to Parliament on Wednesday.
The Zero Carbon Bill - a key piece of Green Party legislation agreed upon in the 2017 election confidence and supply deal - lays out the Government's plan to reduce New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The Bill creates a legal obligation for the Government to keep climate change under 1.5C over the next 30 years and establishes an independent Climate Change Commission to keep the government on track through five-yearly “emissions budgets”.
The Bill also sets emissions targets to help us meet this goal, with the Government opting for a split gas approach. Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions must be reduced to net-zero by 2050, whereas a staggered target for biological methane emissions has been set, starting with a 10 per cent reduction by 2030 and a 24 to 47 per cent reduction by 2050. The provisional targets will be subject to review by the independent Climate Change Commission in 2024.
The deputy director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, Dr Andy Reisinger, told RNZ it would not have been unreasonable to ask for net zero methane by 2050, but it would have fundamentally changed farming in this country.
"You can't take methane out of the atmosphere faster than it decays naturally, so to get to zero methane, you basically have to have zero livestock, and that transformation is presumably stronger than people could imagine for now," Dr Reisinger said.
University of Canterbury's Bronwyn Hayward said New Zealand would likely struggle to meet even modest, near-term methane targets as "we have done very little to incentivise any real shifts in our behaviour around climate gas emissions and legislation is needed to set a framework for the real action which comes next".
On Thursday, the Government announced it would establish a research centre to explore clean energy options such as offshore wind, solar batteries, hydrogen and new forms of energy storage. It pledged $27 million to set up The National New Energy Development Centre in Taranaki and has set aside $20 million over the next four years for a new energy research fund.
The SMC gathered expert reaction on the announcement.