Zero Carbon Bill Consultation Launch

  • Hon James Shaw
Climate Change

 Let’s Talk About The Weather

After all the rain we’ve had over the last few days, it’s easy to forget what an incredible summer we had this year.

Wellington, where I’m from, had 27 days above 25’ Celsius. Our average is three.

Now that is… non-linear.

The seas we swam in were warmer than anyone could remember.

In fact the Tasman Sea ranged from two to six degrees warmer than average the entire summer.

We had months of almost uninterrupted spectacular weather.

I say ‘almost’ because it was interrupted by no fewer than four hurricane force storms, putting 2018 on track to be the most expensive year on record for insurance claims.

January saw floods in Otago and Canterbury with costs of more than $55 million following massive slips and destroyed road surfaces.

Roads were washed into the sea in Coromandel and Auckland’s Tamaki Drive flooded (again).

In February, two Pacific cyclones – Gita and Fehi – caused huge landslides and crop damage in Golden Bay.

April’s storm cut power to thousands of Auckland homes for days, costing insurers more than $72 million.

And all of this was happening while we had droughts across parts of the North Island and Canterbury, damaging pastures off the back of last winter’s rains and flooding.

New Zealand has always had dramatic weather.

But the frequency and the severity of storms, coastal and river flooding, droughts and wildfires is increasing, and will continue to increase as long as we and the rest of the world keep putting greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere.

Insurance companies and banks are re-thinking their risk profiles and premiums for coastal homes and businesses.

But the cost to the economy and our way of life is much greater than just the insurance claims.

They include lost agricultural production, flood clean-up costs, sea-wall and road reconstruction and so on.

Sea level rise alone puts at risk, five airports, 46 kilometres of railway, 1,100 kilometres of road and nearly 70,000 buildings, with a replacement cost of $19 billion.

All of this sounds like a lot of bad news.

One thing is clear – if the world does nothing it will cost a lot.

But – finally – we are now on the verge of being able to fix it.

And that brings with it an extraordinary opportunity to upgrade our economy, not just to be ‘clean and green’, but also more productive and better paid.

Innovation is the key, as we look to a low-emissions future and this launch is a call to arms for all innovators for the future low-emissions economy.

So GridAKL is the ideal place to launch our consultation on New Zealand’s transition to a net-zero emissions economy.

Our Climate – Your Say.


How We Got Here

We are not starting from scratch.

Ten years ago, in 2008, the then Leader of the Opposition John Key made a commitment to halve our emissions by the year 2050.

A lot has changed in the intervening decade.

In 2015 New Zealand, alongside 195 other countries, decided that the world should achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of this century.

It’s worth noting that the Paris Agreement was signed and ratified on behalf of New Zealand by a National Government.

It was former Climate Ministers Tim Groser and Paula Bennett who signed us up to the Paris Agreement target of becoming net-zero by the second half of this century.

And it was the cross-Parliament, all-party committee of MPs, Globe-NZ, which commissioned the now famous Vivid Economics report that found that New Zealand could achieve that target for itself, at the earliest point in the second half of the century, in 2050.

Our new Government, of Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party, has picked up this mantle and made the commitment that New Zealand will join with those countries leading the fight against climate change.

Since we made this commitment at the United Nations Climate Change conference in Bonn last November, we have formed the Toward Carbon Neutrality Coalition with France, the Marshall Islands and Sweden, and been joined by Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.

We are at the vanguard, but we are not alone.


The Economics Of Climate Change

There is a new industrial revolution taking place, with investment flowing away from old, polluting industries and into alternatives.

This is happening particularly in energy and transport, but also in every other sector of the economy, including agriculture.

The countries that are leading the way are developing intellectual property, new technology and the products and services of the ‘low-carbon economy’.

Those that are following, are letting the opportunity pass them by.

In New Zealand, investment has been held back by the lack of a clear position on climate change or any signal about the direction we want the economy to go in.

Will we stick with our current reliance on traditional (and high pollution) technologies and products?

Or will we innovate and bend the curve downward, replacing old technologies with new?

We’ve commissioned a range of economic research and modelling and compared the results to give ourselves a sense of the possible impact of this transition.

The modelling is limited in what it can include and it gets pretty fuzzy the further out we go.

But what we can infer is that the economy and household incomes will continue to rise – but that we’ll need to provide targeted support to affected communities.

It tells us that that industries will continue to come and some will go.

And that we’ll need to plant a lot of trees. And I mean… a lot!

It’s likely that the difference to the economy and to incomes between the existing 2050 target put in place by Sir John Key ten years ago, of halving our emissions, and the new government’s target of reducing them to net-zero, is likely to be fairly marginal.

And it’s likely that the benefits will outweigh the costs – and particularly the costs if we do nothing.

It is achievable, although very challenging. It will affect every sector of the economy, but the change will be more far-reaching in some than others.

For that reason we are absolutely committed that this transition will be planned, gradual and carefully phased in.

Our whānau, our communities and our businesses will need to make decisions about how they deal with the changing risks – for example, to properties and infrastructure exposed to sea level rise, or to industries that will need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as well as remain productive and profitable.

For this to work, we need to make sure we bring everyone with us and leave no one behind.

A planned transition over time gives us the best chance of minimising the social and economic impacts of change so it is just and fair for people, communities, and regions.

That’s why the Provincial Growth Fund is already starting to invest in new industries like hydrogen energy technologies in Taranaki.

That’s why we’ve invested $100 million into the new Green Investment Fund to grow the low-carbon companies of the future.

It’s why the $5.5 billion Families Package, which we announced before Christmas, is so important in ensuring low-income families have the resources they need.

It’s why we’ve bought in new home insulation grants and a rental warrant of fitness to ensure our homes are healthy and warm and cheap to heat.

And it’s why we’re making tertiary education and post-secondary training more accessible and affordable, with a particular emphasis on mid-career retraining and upskilling.

The longer we leave our planning, the more abrupt and difficult change will be. We want to avoid that risk.

So, this is the time for New Zealand to act.

To start planning ahead and to set in motion a gradual transition over the next 30 years, to ensure we can make the most of the opportunities and plan how we move and manage the transition for those most affected.


Introducing the Zero Carbon Bill

The Zero Carbon bill is designed to create certainty.

It is intended to provide a long-term and stable policy environment, with a clear emissions target and a guided pathway to get us there.

It does this in four ways:

First, it sets in law the target for 2050 so we know where we’re going.

In this consultation, we’re going to be asking New Zealanders whether they think that target should mean,

  1. Net-zero carbon dioxide – only – and not other gases;
  2. Net-zero long-lived gases, like carbon dioxide, and stabilised short-lived gases, like methane; or
  3. Net-zero emissions of all gases.

Second, the Zero Carbon Bill puts in place the stepping stones along the way – our ‘emissions budgets’.

We’re going to ask New Zealanders what their views are of how those should be set.

Third, it establishes the institutions we need to get there, particularly a politically independent Climate Change Commission.

The consultation will be asking for your views on what powers and functions the Commission should have and the degree to which it can make key decisions, or simply offer advice to Parliament to make those decisions.

And finally, the Zero Carbon Bill ensures the country has a plan for how we adapt to the effects of climate change.

This includes having a national risk assessment, a national adaption plan, and possibly some powers to ensure key organisations are managing risks to the economy.


The Economic Opportunity

That certainty provided by the Zero Carbon Bill will drive investment in new industries and create new jobs. We have opportunities to increase our renewable electricity generation, plant more trees, invest in new technologies, continue our world-leading research into reducing emissions on our farms, and support the growing Māori economy.

Cast your mind back thirty years, to 1988. The Internet didn’t exist, at least not in its current form. But try to imagine running your school or your farm or your bank without the Internet today. It has transformed every aspect of the economy – and our lives. It has been disruptive, and it has also created tremendous opportunity, and whole new industries.

Many of New Zealand’s largest businesses have already gone ‘carbon neutral’, and many others are working on it.

Z Energy is a trailblazer as a fuel company. It aims to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020 and is building a sustainable bio-diesel plant in South Auckland; installing reticulated water recyclers in carwashes; installing electric vehicle fast-charging stations on its retail sites, and investing in Mevo, an electric car-sharing company.

Waste Management NZ has opened New Zealand’s first workshop facility dedicated to converting diesel trucks to electric vehicles. It has successfully trialled its own conversion and aims to convert 20 of its diesel trucks into electric vehicles over the next two years.

Ports of Auckland, another business with big challenges in emissions-intensive haulage and machinery, is on track to be New Zealand’s first zero emission port by 2040.

And Ngai Tāhu Farming is a leading iwi-run farm business applying environmental best-practice across nearly 100,000 hectares of dairy and sheep and beef farms and forestry land.

They focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through collaborative research and on-farm practices including tree planting to create carbon sinks and reducing stock even while improving productivity.

This is just skimming the surface of the ambition and energy out there. 


Conclusion – A Call To Action

Now is the right time to set a long-term target of zero emissions and put in place the institutions and the strategy to reach it. At its core, this is what the Zero Carbon Bill does.

Whatever we choose to do, New Zealand will look as different and as similar thirty years from now, as it does today from thirty years ago.

There are some big decisions that will need to be made.

That’s why we’re so interested in what people have to say during this consultation.

If you can’t make it to one of our public workshops, you can send us a submission from our website and on your mobile phone.

Or you can organise your own workshop, by downloading the slide decks, the videos, the handouts and the facilitator guides from our website and then feeding the results back into us later.

With this challenge comes opportunity.

Together we can build a more sustainable economy that ensures future New Zealanders can continue to prosper.

Together, we are going to make climate change… history.

I invite you to be part of it.


No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.