Tuesday, 15 February 2011

My submission on why 50 by 2050 is not good enough for climate change

Make your submission by 28 February on this vital issue. And feel free to steal my points!

Submission on Gazetting New Zealand's 2050 Emissions Target: Minister's Position Paper

1. Summary

1.1 New Zealand should have a stronger target of 80 per cent reductions by 2050.

1.2 As a 21 year old, I am very concerned about the vast amounts of evidence of a worsening global climate change over my lifetime, and that of future generations. The evidence suggests the situation is urgent and developed countries such as New Zealand, with high per capita emissions, need to reduce emissions quickly. Therefore we need a stronger target than 50 by 50, interim targets to get there, and clear policies in place to meet those targets.

2. Stronger target

2.1 Based on the global commitment to no more than 2ºC of warming, which New Zealand supports, developed countries need to reduce their emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. As New Zealand supports this target, we should therefore commit to at least an 80 percent cut by 2050. This is in line with developed countries, such as within the European Union, which intend on doing their part to reach the global target of a 50 percent chance of warming being no more than 2ºC of warming.

2.2 Given that developing countries have an obligation, in terms of capacity, as well as in terms of equity with the majority, developing world, we should aim to reach our target in terms of gross emissions. Failing that, given our unique emissions profile, we should meet this with net emissions, only after trying to reduce our gross emissions as much as possible first.

3. Apples with apples

3.1 Our target needs to be transparent. A transparent target must be set in net emissions, or gross emissions. Gross 1990 emissions to net 2050 emissions is both non-transparent and confusing. Such an insincere target risks damaging our international reputation as clean, green and safe. A large part of our export economy is based on this brand, which is beginning to be undermined as people overseas begin to see us as insincere, given our environmental record. An 80 percent target, which compares apples with apples, will strengthen our reputation rather than erode it.

4. Interim targets

4.1 In order to meet a target 40 years from now, and to prevent runaway climate change, we need to set interim targets to meet our 2050 target. This should include 40 percent by 2020, as this is also consistent with no more than 2 degrees of warming. The Government should clear path to our 2050 target around the 2020 and 2050 targets.

5. Meeting the targets

5.1 New Zealand needs policies in place in order to meet our targets. The Minister's document identifies current Government initiatives. As identified, we need an economic instrument as well as complementary instruments in place to do so.

5.2 The current Emissions Trading Scheme needs to have a cap on emissions, which it does not, in order to meet emission reduction targets. Other complementary measures which should be considered are a moratorium on new coal mines, shifting spending on new motorways to public transport, and a focus on developing the green sector in New Zealand's economy. The large co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as identified in the Minister's paper, should be a strong motivator to reduce emissions and green our economy, beyond the obvious benefits of avoiding catastrophic climate change.