National’s ETS changes

National has released its policy on climate change and the environment. The policy has a long list of achievements, but I want to focus on the ETS changes:

The 2011 ETS Review Panel recommended moving to full obligation in three equal steps between I January 2013 and 1 January 2015. It is National’s intention to implement this recommendation.

This is nothing major, and seems sensible to phase in the full obligations.

National believes it is important to maintain land-use flexibility for pre-1990 forest land. We will introduce offsetting on 1 January 2013 regardless of the lack of international agreement.

This is very sensible. It basically says you can offset new forests against cutting down existing ones. Allows a landowner to use the land most suited to forestry for forestry and the land most suited to (say) dairy for dairy.

The agriculture sector is liable to surrender units for agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from 1 January 2015.
National will review this in 2014. We will not impose a liability unless there are practical technologies to reduce emissions, and our trading partners have made further progress with their climate change policies to reduce emissions.

I actually disagree with National on this one. The ETS review panel chaired by David Caygill did a very good job I thought, and made the case that the industry has shown the ability to reduce emissions. Sure, there is no silver bullet, but I don’t think delaying the start date endlessly is a good idea. The industry moves into the ETS at a very slow rate, and a preferable strategy would have been to have it come in, and maybe then cap the level it moves to if technology has not found ways to reduce emissions.

Advocate for an international agreement that requires all major emitters to reduce their emission levels over time.

National sees no point in any future international agreement that does not include a commitment from major emitting countries to reduce their business-as-usual emissions levels. We’ve made our 2020 target conditional on this.

This is vital. If China is not part of any agreement to at a minimum hold, if not reduce, emissions then the efforts of the rest of the world will count for nothing.

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