The Government is planning to change the law to give itself another five months to come up with its much-anticipated plan for how New Zealand will reduce its carbon emissions.
Under the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, the Government is required to have published its first emissions budget for 2022 to 2025, as well as prospective budgets for the next two three-year periods, by December 31, 2021.
Under the Act, the Government also needs to have published an Emissions Reduction Plan before the start of the relevant budget period.
Cabinet has decided to change the law to give the Government until the end of May 2022 to publish this plan.
Officials are still figuring out whether the publication of emissions budgets will also be pushed out. This seems likely.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw blamed the hold-up on Covid-19.
“Cabinet’s decision allows organisations and communities key to the Emissions Reduction Plan’s success to focus on getting through the worst of the Covid outbreak before engaging with the plan,” he said.
Under the Act, the plan must include “sector-specific policies to reduce emissions and increase removals”, “improve the ability of those sectors to adapt to the effects of climate change”, and include a strategy to mitigate the impact reducing emissions will have on “employees and employers, regions, iwi and Māori, and wider communities, including the funding for any mitigation action”.
The Government will start a six-week consultation on what the plan should look like in October.
This follows the Climate Change Commission in June giving the Government its final advice (a 400-page report), including recommended emissions budgets and a high-level plan forward.
Commission Chairman Rod Carr in June noted New Zealand was starting from a worse position than the Commission had expected earlier in the year.
“We just need to get on with it now,” he said.
Shaw said pushing publication of the plan out to May allows the Government to align it with Budget 2022, “so people can see how its delivery will be supported through Government investment”.
ACT Climate Change spokesperson Simon Court had a go at the Government, saying: “Jacinda Ardern called climate change “her generation’s nuclear free moment,” and once even said it was “life or death”.
“And yet her government imported a million tonnes of coal last year - a record level, now it’s not even meeting its own standards. It’s a joke to say the Government is taking climate change seriously.”
BusinessNZ welcomed the extension.
"It’s not realistic to expect businesses under severe stress to consider plans that will have such long-term impact,” BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said.
"The emissions reduction plan will provide a blueprint for reductions initiatives over the next 14 years. So, it shouldn’t be rushed, and it should be developed with the greatest business input possible, to build maximum buy-in from the business community."