Substantial changes needed in battle to reduce emissions in New Zealand, expert says

The Chair of the Climate Change Commission is warning that there will have to be substantial changes in the way people live their lives and interact with the world if New Zealand is to play its part in reducing emissions and tackling climate change.

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Speaking on Q+A’s climate special Milk, Meat and Motorcars Dr Rod Carr outlined the scope of the problem. Source: Q+A

Speaking on Q+A’s climate special Milk, Meat and Motorcars Dr Rod Carr outlined the scope of the problem and the range of responses needed.

“Over the next 30 years, we will need to change how we produce energy, how we move things around, how we get around. Also what we produce and how we produce it.”

On Monday the Climate Change Commission will give the government its final recommendations on how the country might meet its commitments to reducing emissions in Aotearoa.

Climate Minister James Shaw agreed change was coming, but argued that it was part of life .

“I think that life will be as different 30 years from now as it was 30 years ago, you know? And as similar 30 years from now as it was similar 30 years ago. There will be a lot of things that will seem quite alien to you and I in the world that we live in.

"But the way that we live is pretty alien to my folks when they were in their 30s and 40s back in the ‘80s. So there will be things, as Rod says, in the way that we produce and how we live and how we get around and so on. And that change will come at a greater or lesser extent, depending on what category you’re talking about.”

Q+A Panel: Culture shift needed to address long-term transport emissions in NZ

He cited power generation as one are that will require major work.

“Transpower, who run the grid across the country, have estimated that we will need about 70% more electricity generation in 2050 as we have today. So if you can imagine what that is going to require, and that’s after energy efficiency matters have taken hold, what that’s going to require is that we build 2/3 more electricity generation than we have built over the last 120 years.

"And we’re going to have to do all of that in 30, and we’re going to have to take the remaining fossil fuels out of the system, and we’re going to have to deal with the intermittency issues to do with wind and solar and all of that kind of stuff. So that’s pretty dramatic in terms of the amount of additional electricity.”

Tamatha Paul, a Wellington City Councillor who holds the climate change portfolio for the city says that while the vast majority of people accept that climate change is a problem, and that action needs to be taken, they balk when it starts to impact their daily lives .

"What I’ve found is that when the rubber hits the road, sometimes literally, people are not willing to make that change.”

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Nearly 4.5 million vehicles on NZ roads produce close to half of all our CO2 emissions. Source: Q+A

Ms Paul says there will be an “inconvenient an uncomfortable” period of adjustment on the way, as people find a new normal.

Tim Mackle from DairyNZ argued that the changes were already occurring, and that we needed to tailor our responses to our individual circumstances.

“We do have to run our own race here, because of the uniqueness of New Zealand, so that we can manage our emissions down, but enjoy the benefit of what we’re so good at.”

Tamatha Paul says the challenge will be to implement changes without creating new problems for future generations to solve.

You can watch the full debate on Q+A’s climate change special Milk, Meat and Motorcars here