Many of the policies of the National-led coalition leading up to the elections concerned the rolling back (again) of regulations brought in by the previous government.
When it came to climate change and emissions much of the rhetoric coming from National was about the lack of the Labour Government making any progress on reducing emissions, and putting up to 20% of sheep and beef farms at risk through making agriculture liable for (some of) their emissions by 2025.
National’s main difference is to push out keeping agriculture out of the Emissions Trading Scheme but implement “a fair and sustainable pricing system for on-farm agricultural emissions by 2030 at the latest”. The also intend to politicise the pricing system by having a pricing board with a power of veto retained by the Ministers of Climate Change and Agriculture.
This board is to be established in 2024 to implement the pricing system.
However, when it comes to reducing emissions, even the plans by Labour, despite being a major reason many farmers who voted for Labour in the previous elections turned back to National (and Act), were still considered by many international observers to be woefully inadequate. Many critics and experts believe it was putting New Zealand in a position to fail to meet its commitments to being consistent with keeping climate warming below 1.5oC.
In fact in an assessment done prior to Cyclone Gabrielle put New Zealand in the “Highly Insufficient” category and more consistent with a 3-4c increase in warming if all countries adhered to the same policies.
So now we have the National led government which has just won the first Fossil of the Day award of the current Climate Conference COP 28. The awarding of the title is largely due to the National-led government’s campaign promise to revoke the previous government’s ban on offshore oil exploration. This also comes at the same time that the government has shut down the nearly completed investigation into “sustainable energy sources”. This did include the Lake Onslow option but was not solely looking at that. Perhaps now we will never know what the pros and cons of the different systems could have been.
Unfortunately while recognising that energy demands will increase by two thirds by 2050, there does not appear to be any coherent plan to bridge the gap (except perhaps gas).
The irony of the Government’s plans seems inconsistent with their signing of the commitment to cut carbon emissions in global food systems. This was done with over 100 other countries.
Much of the discussion around food at COP 28 appears to be putting a greater focus on food companies as well as food producing countries. New Zealand and our larger exporters could end up be firmly in the sights of this drive. What is more ironic is that the Government signed up for this in the same week as walking away from signing their support for the World Health Organisation, a far more benign organisation I would have thought. Perhaps it was due to the WHO having policies inconsistent with the governments cigarette polices.
New Zealand has always has a proud history of operating within and supporting the “international rules based system” so somewhat disappointing to see the governments inconsistent approach. Probably a consequence of a multiple party coalition.
On the plus side, if consumers and countries who import our primary products take the commitment to reduce food production emissions seriously, and if New Zealand can make meaningful progress with emissions reductions, then producers may benefit from positive feedback. Our grass-based systems compare well with the more intensive agricultural systems elsewhere on the globe and so long as there remains demand for them we may finally achieve the premiums that have been long promised. In the meantime, we can still look forward to the “stable government” that was a prominent promise made by Chris Luxon leading up to the election. To date, although still early days, I cannot recall a more disruptive time in New Zealand politics.
As Wendell Berry, the novelist and environmental activist wrote in his essay ‘In distrust of movements’: “Once we allow our language to mean anything that anybody wants it to mean, it becomes impossible to mean what we say.”