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Govt not living up to promise of Ardern’s climate change-nuclear-free moment speech, James Shaw admits

The Government is not living up to the words of PM Jacinda Ardern’s iconic climate change is "this generation’s nuclear-free moment" speech, Climate Change Minister James Shaw admitted today.

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The Climate Change Minister said every minister needed to take a climate change-focus as Greenpeace director Russel Norman labelled policy a “total cop-out”. Source: Breakfast

Shaw’s surprising acknowledgement comes after it was revealed in the latest annual reporting of greenhouse gas emissions that NZ’s levels increased by two per cent between 2018 and 2019.

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Appearing on Breakfast alongside Greenpeace director and former Green Party leader Russel Norman, the current Greens co-leader was asked: “Are you as Government living up to promise of delivery implicit in those remarkable words from the Prime Minister?”

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“Only with caveat that it takes awhile for policies to have an effect. The latest emissions numbers that we’ve got don’t show the effect of any of the policies we put in place in the last term. Those will start to show up in subsequent years,” he said.

“Even then, I would have to agree with you, no, we are a long way off track and it does require every minister to be a Climate Change Minister, not just me.

“Because it’s in agriculture, it’s in transport, it’s in waste, it’s in energy and so on, that we need to have those plans in place. It is a challenge for the entire Government.”

Shaw said he was “disappointed with that increase in emissions”.

“It is clearly taking us in the wrong direction and it’s making it harder for us in the long run to reduce our emissions, because we’ve got to take account of the fact that everything has gone into the atmosphere already."

The agriculture and energy sectors are the most responsible for emissions, contributing 48 and 42 per cent of New Zealand’s total emissions respectively, with Shaw listing the Government’s efforts in agriculture.

“We’re actually rolling out a pricing system for agriculture for every farm in the country. We took the option the ETS (emissions trading scheme) is quite well designed for large industrial carbon dioxide emitters, [but] it’s actually not terribly well designed for farms if you want to get farm emissions down.

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“There’s quite a long lag time in that, unfortunately. But we are rolling out a system that is going to go on to all 50,000 farms right around the country.

"If we can’t get that up and running by the end of 2024 then we will actually punt for the emissions trading scheme — that’s in our legislation.”

Shaw said he will “wait and see” whether that can be achieved.

“We’ve got about 25 per cent of farms around the country have got at least a basic information scheme at the moment, so they can start measuring their emissions. We’ve got to roll that out to every farm,” he said.

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Norman savaged these efforts, calling them “a total cop-out”, saying agriculture was meant to come in 2011 under the original design of the ETS.

“Instead of bringing them [agriculture] into the ETS, they’ve done this voluntary thing.

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“These voluntary approaches don’t work. You need prices, you need regulation, you need subsidies to transition.”

Shaw was open in admitting that Aotearoa is not moving fast enough in addressing agriculture emissions.

“If you look at the emissions profile of the country, it is absolutely clear that we’re not moving fast enough and we’re not moving at the scale that we need to,” he said.

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“This year we’ve got to produce a statutory plan in law, under the law we passed in 2019, which applies to every part of the economy —not just agriculture.

“That’s got to demonstrate how we are going to bring emissions down over the course of the next 15 years. We are legally obliged to do that now.”

But Norman said it counted for little without policy.

“Mostly what we need is policies. Climate commission, framework, they’re all lovely things but we’re nearly four years into this Government and we still don’t have the policies to cut emissions out of the agriculture sector, let alone transport, which is 20 per cent.

“You can have reports, as many as you like — stack ‘em up at the backdoor if you like. You need the policies.

“Transport is the other one, about 20 per cent of our emissions. Successive Governments keep investing in motorways and so the necessary consequence of that is we’re going to have an increase in emissions out of transport.”