Pure Advantage: Road to a low-carbon economy

The Paris Agreement, which New Zealand has ratified, commits the world to holding the increase in the global average ...
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The Paris Agreement, which New Zealand has ratified, commits the world to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Pure Advantage is a business-led think tank that leads the conversation for green growth in New Zealand by providing analysis and context on our path to a low emissions future. The group was a member of the joint project committee for GLOBE-NZ that produced the Vivid Economics report Net Zero in New Zealand. This week Pure Advantage hosted a series of op-eds by the cross party parliamentarians who made up the executive committee for the report. Here are their excerpts.  For more go to Pure Advantage.org 

Dr Kennedy Graham, MP for the Green Party, Chairperson GLOBE-NZ 

In October 2015, I and several parliamentary colleagues agreed to form a national chapter of GLOBE-International, an international organisation of MPs working together for a better environment, with special focus on climate protection.  

The process of producing the Net Zero in New Zealand report has resulted in an increase in shared knowledge about climate science, impact, and policy options. Mutual respect is growing across individual party positions on the subject, and a serious dialogue is beginning to develop about how to construct a pathway towards domestic net zero emissions, in the medium-term future. As that dialogue intensifies, we can begin to work our way back, from 2050, to 2030, and to 2020; and from there judge the merit of various policy measures for attaining the agreed goals.

Now the general election approaches, and the intensity of current policy differences takes over. We have been discussing, within our GLOBE-NZ membership, the importance of maintaining the cross-party respect and constructive critique as the hallmark of a new approach to policy development in New Zealand.  

Tracey Martin, NZ First spokesperson for Education, Women, Broadcasting, Communications and IT and a member of the education and science select committee.  

NZ First is completely committed to a cross-party approach in identifying the best pathways for NZ to follow in order to reach our commitments in the Paris Agreement. The overall goal in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change is for a global transition to emissions neutrality before 2100. New Zealand could do this by 2050 and I believe that is the target we should set.

The essence of the Net Zero New Zealand report is that the transition to emissions neutrality requires very significant changes in land use and in energy generation and consumption.  

NZ First wants to see an innovative transition of agriculture. The fundamental need is not to reduce water takes and uses, provided they are sustainable, and not to attack intensification. It is to invest much more in research and innovation to ensure that future intensive agriculture is sustainable.

We need to combine these measures with deft land management policy, land use change and a major afforestation project (especially on the millions of hectares of marginal land we have in New Zealand).

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The on-going viability of agriculture is a bottom line for NZ First.

Stuart Smith, National Party MP for Kaikoura.

The Vivid Report is broad and tells us to do a lot of the things that we're already doing – including increasing our renewables and uptake of electric vehicles, encouraging forestry and investing in agricultural technology to reduce biological emissions.

Diversification and higher-value use of our land through horticulture make a lot of sense. But we simply don't know what the agricultural industry will look like in 2050 and what technological breakthroughs will have been made.

One of the scenarios put forward is reducing cattle numbers by 20-35 per cent and replacing this with less emissions-intensive activity. We have to balance the need to reduce emissions while also producing the food the world needs and supporting our economy. I believe there are other options to reduce our carbon emissions – such as our transport sector – besides solely reducing dairy cow numbers.

We are, to a degree, on the right track and this is heartening. Our economy is growing faster than our emissions, meaning we are becoming more efficient. At this stage, the Government's immediate goal is to ensure we're on the right path to meet the ambitious 2030 target of reducing emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels. 

Marama Fox, co-leader of the Maori Party and list MP based in Ikaroa-Rawhiti.  Co-writer of the op-ed Te Ururoa Flavell is co-leader of the Maori Party and MP for Waiariki 

The Maori Party supports Aotearoa playing its part in meeting global emissions targets. We believe that for the transition to a low-emissions economy, and ultimately a net zero economy, more needs to be done to encourage new planting of forests.

The Net Zero NZ report highlights that the forestry sector is a significant carbon sink which currently sequesters about 30 per cent of gross emissions. All the scenarios recommend a big jump in the number of hectares of new plantation forests – up 1.6 million hectares by 2050 in one case. 

The Maori Party has always supported an afforestation programme. Marginal land needs to be targeted for permanent afforestation to act as a nursery for natives as well. This will help reduce soil erosion and the sedimentation of waterways. Infrastructure needs to be in place to allow forests to be harvested and the onus needs to be on the forest owners to repair any environmental damage.

We also believe the afforestation programme would need little new policy, just an emission price incentive to ensure investment in forestry.
* Co-writer of the op-ed is Te Ururoa Flavell, co-leader of the Maori Party and MP for Waiariki 

Dr Megan Woods is Labour Party MP for Wigram 

There is no doubt in my mind that climate change will drive the most significant economic transformation in modern history. This transition will be as transformational as the industrial revolution was to the societies and economies in the 19thcentury.

In order to avoid shocks and disruptions as we undergo these structural adjustments, it is imperative that we have robust across-government transition planning that is well connected to industry and the workforce. 

Central government needs to start providing the leadership and impetus so that region by region we draw up robust economic development plans that chart a pathway to carbon neutrality. Sitting at the centre of these plans needs to be workforce planning. We need to be thinking about the qualifications and skills this economic transformation and the new jobs will require. We then need to ensure that those qualifications and skills are being offered in the regions where they will be required. It is this kind of joined up thinking from a progressive and future-focused government that will ensure that we minimise the shocks and ensure a "just transition" to a low-carbon economy.

It means starting immediately to put in place across-government transition planning to build a stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy.

Peter Dunne is leader of UnitedFuture

We have to move away from the notion that climate change policy is just one more responsibility limited to the particular government of the day. It is properly a parliamentary responsibility, and Parliamentarians have to take control of it and drive it forward. The goals that New Zealand sets for the next 50 years, the next 100 years, and beyond, go far beyond the longevity of any government. This is one of the genuinely few issues where Parliament, and Government as its executive wing, has to project its thinking forward to make some bold stands on behalf of future generations, not just the voters of today.

The GLOBE Group of MPs has already taken the first steps in this direction by recognising that the Report is the end of the beginning. The next phase is now upon us. We now need to have discussions between parties, and we need to have a clear and defined course of action that all of us can sign up to, regardless of the relative positions that parties occupy in this House.

Whatever the outcome of the forthcoming general election, the momentum established so far needs to continue. The success of our efforts will be judged by what we do for the future. The opportunity is simply too good and too pressing for us to pass up.

 - The Dominion Post

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