Taking climate change seriously

Friday, September 9, 2016

Recent reports have confirmed that the winter here in Canterbury this year has been warmer and drier than usual. I know this is something that many people have commented on when I have been out and about around the region. Many farmers are concerned at the low rainfall and what this will mean as we head into spring.

Whether this particularly mild winter is due to climate change or is a result of local cyclical conditions is a matter for the weather experts to debate. What we do know however is that scientists agree that our earth’s climate is changing and global emissions are a significant factor in this change.

The Government is taking the issue of climate change seriously which is why we have set an ambitious goal for New Zealand to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This will require a massive effort across all sectors of society from local and central government, through to businesses, iwi and communities.

We have also announced our intention to ratify the Paris agreement on climate change before the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in November this year. Ratifying this year will formalise New Zealand’s commitment to addressing climate change and help support worldwide momentum to lowering global emissions.

The Paris agreement was finalised in December last year, when 180 countries that contribute 99 per cent of global emissions set reduced emissions targets.

Ratifying the agreement early gives our support to the global momentum to implement the agreement and helps ensure we have a strong voice at the table as the details of the agreement are negotiated.  Ratifying will also build on the solid work already being done by New Zealanders to reduce our emissions.

China and the US, who are jointly responsible for just under 40% of global emissions, have indicated they will ratify this year, as have Australia and Canada.

The Government already has a number of initiatives underway as part of our work programme to address climate change. These actions include:

  • Reviewing and strengthening the Emissions Trading Scheme to ensure it is fit for purpose and is encouraging emissions reductions and tree planting;
  • Investing millions each year to fund agriculture research to help the primary sector become more efficient and less emissions-intensive; 
  • Spending a record $1.2 billion over three years on public transport and encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles;
  • Increasing the amount of electricity that comes from renewable energy from 80 per cent currently to 90 per cent; and
  • Developing measures on energy and fuel efficiency.

To help ensure we’re on the right track to reduce emissions and meet our ambitious target, we are also setting up three technical advisory groups covering adaptation, biological emissions, and forestry. This is a big global issue and it is important that we get our response right.