Paris climate deal: New Zealand must improve plans to meet global target
New Zealand will have to "up its game" on climate change and make bigger emissions reductions if it is to meet a historic global agreement, politicians and climate experts say.
The Paris agreement, reached after two weeks of negotiations, is the first to require all countries to tackle climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to limit global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius this century.
It also includes an aspirational goal of limiting rises to 1.5C, following lobbying from Pacific countries most likely to be hard-hit by rising temperatures and climate change.
Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, who led the New Zealand delegation to Paris, described the deal as a "huge and historic step forward".
"For the first time, we've got a very serious, comprehensive deal in place and climate change is a permanent part of the policy framework: I don't think one could have really said that before…[so] this is a big shift."
While the aspirational 1.5C target was more aggressive than some had hoped for, Groser did not believe any drastic changes to New Zealand's energy policy were required as a result.
"Our proposal is aimed at a gradual and progressive grinding down of the level of emissions, like other countries…
"We're not going to try to get to 1.5 with one hit in our next iteration of climate change policy, so I don't think actually it changes anything at all in that respect."
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A likely growth in the number of international carbon markets would help to allay fears about any sharp rise in the prices of carbon credits, which New Zealand would need to meet any target.
Groser said there was no need to reconsider agriculture's omission from the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), as "not a single country in the world" was charging the sector for biological emissions and the Government's focus was on investing in R&D to improve agricultural emissions.
Groser said Kiwis would eventually notice the impact of the climate deal when the Government "tightened up" the ETS, leading to higher carbon charges.
"New Zealanders are going to see, eventually, they'll be paying higher prices through their electricity bills and through their fuel bills for the carbon involved in their purchases."
However, the Government would take a "more strategic view" with businesses and how they improved their emissions.
'CLEARLY OUT OF LINE'
Green Party co-leader James Shaw, part of the Paris delegation, said he was "pretty stoked" with news of the final deal.
"I was sitting next to someone who leaned over and said this hasn't happened since the creation of the United Nations, getting every country in the world to sign up to an agreement,...so it's a big deal.
"While the agreement at this point is weak, what it does is create a framework to tighten the screws over time and that is really important."
Shaw said New Zealand's current commitment - to reduce carbon emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, for an emission rate 11 per cent below our 1990 output - would lead to the equivalent of a 3.5 to 3.8 degree temperature increase, "clearly out of line" with the Paris agreement.
The Government would now come under pressure to improve its emissions goals, he said.
"The really important thing here is that they've now signed up to an agreement that at least moral force should be applied that they actually up their game."
'REPUTATIONS ARE ON THE LINE'
Labour climate change spokeswoman Megan Woods, also part of the Paris delegation, said it was "remarkable" that nearly 200 countries had been able to reach agreement.
While the emissions target would not be legally binding on countries, Woods said the requirement for regular updates meant signatories would be under pressure to meet their goals.
"Reputations are really going to be on the line [with] how countries are doing in terms of meeting their targets."
Woods said New Zealand now needed to develop "really solid plans" about how to reduce its emissions, looking at carbon budgeting and having a "mature and science-led conversation" about agriculture emissions.
"At the moment it's sort of like [we're] failing to plan and planning to fail."
'TIME FOR RUBBER TO MEET THE ROAD'
Climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger said while the deal should be celebrated, it was now "time for the rubber to meet the road" given the amount of work required to meet the global warming target.
Salinger said New Zealand needed to reduce emissions from transport and energy, such as by promoting clean energy, public transport and electric vehicles.
Professor Ralph Sims, director of Massey University's Centre for Energy Research, said New Zealand would have to "become more nimble and innovative" to reduce emissions across all sectors and keep up with leading countries.
Greenpeace NZ executive director Russel Norman said there was a "huge gap" between the ambition of the 2C target and the actual commitments made by countries like New Zealand, which were closer to a 3C to 4C increase.
"Now we want to see a plan to meet that commitment, because now we've got the exact opposite of it."
Norman said the Government needed to cut emissions in transport instead of increasing them through road subsidies, while it should also look at requiring the agricultural sector to pay for its emissions.
New Zealand Climate Action Network coordinator David Tong said the deal was an important step which showed countries were willing to act on climate change, but the Government needed to "step up its game" and improve its emissions target without relying on international carbon markets.