ETS targets need teeth

8 July 2015

Forest owners say the size of the government's emissions target is not as important as the policies that support it.

Yesterday the government announced that its reduction target under the new international climate change agreement will be 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It has since acknowledged that this is equivalent to an 11 per cent reduction below 1990 levels.

"This is the fourth target this government has issued. [See panel below] The three previous ones were not supported by policies designed to achieve those targets so were effectively meaningless. What we now need are policies that show the government is committed to achieving whatever target it sets," says Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

Mr Rhodes says the latest target is likely to be criticised locally and internationally as being inadequate.

"The fairness of this criticism depends to some extent on whether this is a conditional, aspirational, goal that may or may not be met. If so, then it is no improvement whatsoever on what New Zealand has already offered, in fact it is weaker given that it is another decade distant," he says.

"If it is genuinely going to be a target backed by government policy to ensure it happens, there will need to be major changes to the ETS in the upcoming review and we are pleased to note the emphasis ministers Groser and Goodhew have placed on this.

"New Zealand's circumstances are unique. More than half our emissions come from farming and most of our electricity is generated from renewables, so achieving even an 11 percent reduction will be a challenge.

"We may be able to do better than this, but we won't know what we can do until we have the ETS operating effectively. To date the ETS has been a failure. It hasn't encouraged consumers or industry to reduce their emissions and it certainly hasn't resulted in any sustained planting of carbon forests."


Slippery targets

The following emissions targets have been set by the government since it came to office in 2008:

1. An unconditional target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 emissions by 2020 (under Kyoto Protocol rules).

2. A pledge of a conditional target range of between 10 and 20 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 subject to several caveats.

3. A long-term target of a 50 per cent reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2050.

4. A 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.


For more information, ring David Rhodes, Tel 027 495 5525