No rush to sign on the dotted line of climate accord

Climate change minister Paula Bennett
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Climate change minister Paula Bennett

New Zealand has signed an historic climate change deal - and the Government says the pressure is now on business and households to get us to our target reduction in green house gas emissions.

It has previously been estimated the Paris climate change accord will cost Kiwi households an $100 extra a year.

The Paris agreement 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.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett admits it won't be easy getting there.

Treasury advice last year was that each New Zealand household would pay an extra $1350 over 15 years, or just under $100 a year, in increased petrol, electricity and energy costs to help the country meet its target.

Bennett travelled to New York to sign the deal, which was negotiated last year between 188 countries, covering more than 90 per cent of the world's emissions.

New Zealand's target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below our 2005 levels by 2030.

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New Zealand has previously committed to curbing its emissions but net greenhouse gas emissions have grown, not decreased.

According to Statistics NZ net greenhouse gas emissions increased 42 percent between 1990 and 2013. Total emissions increased 21 percent.

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Bennett said she was "incredibly confident" that New Zealand would meet its target, but the challenge was to do so without sacrificing a growing economy.

"Today is a huge milestone but this is by no means the end of the road. Implementation won't be easy."

A review of the Emissions Trading Scheme is currently underway to assess what impact it is having on reducing emissions.

Bennett admitted the price of carbon would need to be a lot higher than it is now if it was going to "seriously change behaviour".

That will mean higher prices for fuel and electricity, which will likely be resisted both by business and consumers.

The cost to New Zealand of meeting its target would cost us more per GDP than most other countries because of our emissions profile, which is largely agricultural emissions, Bennett said.

"I'd like to do better but I'm saying that actually even reaching that is hugely ambitious and going to take significant change from government, business, citizens themselves," Bennett said.

Targets included a rise in renewable energy production from from 80 per cent to 90 percent and a reduction in agricultural emissions.

"The way that we farm and how we do it; the transport, our use of fossil fuels...we can certainly do better there."

The Government was investing in research as the main way to tackle those emissions but that was one reason why she was not rushing to ratify the agreement in the next couple of months, Bennett said.

"Because I could easily just turn around and tick a box and say 'yes, we'll do ratification. Yes, we'll meet that.' But actually I want to bend that curve. I want to see our emissions reducing. But it's not gonna be government alone that does that."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the Government had watered down the emissions trading scheme when it took office.

"We still have a problem now with an ETS that gives huge licence to a number of emitters. This government made change as soon as it took office that lessened the scheme and its impact was negligible to say the least. Unless they are going to get serious with some of the big emitters, and work with agriculture, then it's not going to have the effect it was meant to have, putting a price [on carbon] and encouraging and incentivising the transfer to new technology that's generally going to reduce carbon emissions.

 - Stuff

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