National sets carbon targets

Carbon emissions have grown faster in NZ since 1999 than in most other countries, despite the rhetoric of Labour, but with no action.

Clark has spoken of being carbon neutral but absolutely refuses to set any timeframe around that. John Key however has announced a policy commitment today of a 50% reduction in carbon-equivalent net emissions by 2050 (compared to 1990).

Some extracts from the speech (not online yet)

In the decades ahead, peoples’ perceptions around climate change will affect the brand image of New Zealand and its exports. New Zealand must take credible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk becoming a trading pariah.

We’re going to need some serious climate ‘cred’ to tackle the ‘Food Miles’ bullies.

We also need to be on the economic offensive.

Climate change awareness will create new markets for Kiwi industries, tourism, and technology. It’s estimated that demand for low-carbon products will be worth at least $500 billion per year by 2050. Countries and consumers will be crying out for climate-friendly products and innovations.

Helen Clark’s policies have seen New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions grow faster than ever before. Between 2000 and 2005 alone, New Zealand’s emissions grew by 6.8 million tonnes. The weight of that gas is more than 16,000 fully laden jumbo jets, 260 titanics or 20 Empire State Buildings. It’s a big increase.

Labour’s policy framework has been characterised by uncertainty and indecision. Their eight years in Government have seen a revolving door of climate-change interventions: The fart tax, the carbon tax, and the negotiated greenhouse gas agreements have all been abandoned. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on an energy-efficiency strategy that saw the annual rate of improvement in energy-efficiency fall.

The most damaging area of Labour’s climate change policy is what happened in forestry. In the 50 years to 2003, New Zealand each year planted an average thirty thousand hectares of new forests. After Labour broke its word on forestry credits, we’ve had deforestation for the first time since those records began. The media is describing this as a “chainsaw massacre”.

I’m confident that many New Zealand businesses and individuals can and will become carbon neutral. I’m pleased that more and more are striving for it.

But making one household carbon neutral is quite a different thing to making the entire country carbon neutral. Not even the Green Party thinks that will be achievable in Clark’s lifetime.

Take their flagship scheme of getting six government departments to go “carbon neutral” in 2008. The emissions that will save over one year will be wiped out in just over half a day by greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation alone.

And the 180 tonnes estimated to be saved from Parliament’s proposed new fuel-efficient cars – that will go in less than half an hour.

So today I say this: don’t be sucked into believing that Labour has the solutions on climate change. When Helen Clark talks about achieving carbon neutrality, Kiwis need to remember her track-record of skyrocketing emissions.

So today I will do something Helen Clark has never done and I doubt she ever will.

I will set the achievable emission reduction target for New Zealand.

Here it is: A 50% reduction in carbon-equivalent net emissions, as compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

In shorthand: A 50% cut by 2050. 50 by 50.

If I am Prime Minister of New Zealand I will write this target into law.

This target is comparable with targets being set by other developed nations and it makes sense for New Zealand’s agriculture-intensive economy.

I make no apologies for promising less than Labour; because will deliver more.

I think the points about a trading and economic need to cut carbon, otherwise face trade boycotts is a strong one. We are starting to see the danger already from food miles campaigns.

I’m glad to see National set a specific target, as it allows for meaningful debate – something one can’t do with Clark’s meaningless spin on carbon neutrality. What I would like to see is some ballpark estimates of the costs of the 50% reduction by 2050, and what the projected benefits will be, in fiscal terms. If for example trade fell by 5% due to a lack of action on carbon, would this cost more than the carbon reduction?

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