New Zealand: ‘Landmark’ Net Zero Climate Plan

Lower and middle income families will benefit from ‘scrap and replace’ scheme, while 20% cut in car, van and ute trips sought

New Zealand will help some people to buy electric vehicles, end its reliance on fossil fuels, lower agricultural emissions, and reduce waste going to landfill, the government has promised in the most significant announcement on climate change action in the country’s history.

The emissions reduction plan sets the direction for climate action for the next 15 years, with a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas New Zealand can emit, in order to meet targets to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The government announced the details of New Zealand’s first comprehensive plan to slash climate emissions and how it will be funded at parliament on Monday.

The plan last week garnered near cross-party support, which will give it enduring influence if there is a change in government. Two minor parties did not support the plan – the rightwing ACT party, which said it is not necessary, while Te Pati Māori (the Māori Party) said it does not go far enough.

The finance minister, Grant Robertson, has revealed how the “climate emergency response fund” – generated from emissions trading and ringfenced for climate spending – will be allocated, ahead of the primary budget announcement on Thursday.

“This is a landmark day in our transition to a low emissions future,” Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. The day will be bittersweet for the prime minister, who has called climate change this generation’s “nuclear-free moment” and long campaigned on the promise to slash emissions, but was unable to attend the announcement due to testing positive for Covid-19 and needing to isolate at home.

“The emissions reduction plan delivers the greatest opportunity we’ve had in decades to address climate change,” Ardern said. “We can’t opt out of the effects of climate change so we can’t opt out of taking action.”

The minister of climate change, James Shaw, said the plan would lay the path towards a net zero future where more people could buy electric vehicles, towns and cities would have better transport infrastructure, the highest emitters would switch to clean energy, farmers would grow food in a way that helps the climate, and warmer, more affordable heating options for homes would exist.

It would ensure an equitable transition for Māori, through developing a Māori action plan and through funding and resources for Māori-led programmes and solutions.

“This is a historic day for climate action in Aotearoa,” Shaw said. “Because of this work, New Zealand is on track to bend the curve of its emissions downwards for the first time in its history.”

One of the most significant initiatives is the clean car upgrade programme, which will support lower and middle income families to transition to low-emission alternatives through a “scrap and replace” trial. That will allow eligible families to trade in their vehicles and receive support to buy electric or hybrid vehicles, which will in turn be cheaper to run.

This, and plans to improve public transport through greener bus fleets, better cycleways and walkways, and more frequent trains, will put the country on track to make zero-emissions vehicles 30% of the light vehicle fleet (cars, vans and utes) and reduce the total kilometres light vehicles travel by to 20% by 2035, the government says.

More than $1.2bn had been allocated towards this part of the plan, which was expected to reduce emissions equivalent to taking 181,000 cars off the road between now and 2035, said Michael Wood, the minister of transport.

The climate fund was established using an initial $4.5bn from the emissions trading scheme – which charges certain businesses for the greenhouse gases they emit – and meant “the polluters are paying [for pollution], not households”, Robertson said.

- Author: Eva Corlett, The Guardian


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