8 Jul 2015

Forest owners question emissions target

3:08 pm on 8 July 2015

The Government's announcement of a new greenhouse gas reduction target raises the question of how to achieve it, forest owners say.

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Photo: 123rf

The revised climate change goal is to reduce New Zealand's emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2005, New Zealand recorded its highest emission levels.

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser said that was a significant improvement on the current goal of 5 percent below 1990 emission levels by 2020.

However, opposition parties and environmental groups said it translated to a reduction of only 11 percent on 1990 levels.

They said the target should at least be comparable to the European Union's overall reduction target of 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels by 2030.

Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes said New Zealand could be in for a challenging time when it submitted the new target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) later this year, because it amounted to little progress on previous commitments.

"There was also another commitment made for a 10 to 20 percent reduction by 2020 from 1990 levels," he said.

"Now, that was a conditional target as opposed to the unconditional one - so if you want to compare this latest offering which is an 11 percent reduction, which is also conditional, then I can easily see why people are saying it's not very ambitious.

"It hasn't really gone any further than some of the things that we've seen on the table already."

He said New Zealand could expect to get "quite a bit of scrutiny and 'please explain' on this from other countries" heading into this year's major climate change conference in Paris.

Mr Rhodes said, as well as justifying New Zealand's revised emissions reduction target, the Government would also have to explain how it was going to get there.

"The real question is - what's the commitment by Government in policy terms to making it happen? Because even an 11 percent target [which] we can argue may be no further than what we've offered in the past... will still be a challenge for New Zealand.

"That's partly because we've made very little progress to date in the ETS [Emissions Trading Scheme], which is our key means of getting there, and has been lying somewhat dormant.

"The real question now is going to be - what is Government going to do to make this happen?"

Mr Rhodes said achieving even an 11 percent reduction was going to be a challenge because more than half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from farming, and most of the country's electricity was already generated from renewable energy sources.

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