The government has announced a new climate change target that aims to reduce New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2020 and a review this year of the existing Emissions Trade Scheme as part of its policy mix to meet the new targets.
Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser said the new target was a significant increase on its current target of 5% below 1990 emission levels by 2020. It was equivalent to a reduction of 11% below the 1990 emissions levels by 2030 and is similar to the approach of other significant players including the US and Canada, Mr Groser said.
The target will be economy-wide including agriculture and forestry and covers all greenhouse gases.
The intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) will be submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and remains provisional pending confirmation of the approaches to be taken in accounting for the land sector and confirmation of access to carbon markets.
All countries are expected to table targets as part of work toward a new climate change agreement to be concluded at the COP21 meeting in Paris in December.
"While New Zealand's emissions are small on a global scale, we are keen to make a fair and ambitious contribution to the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the most harmful effects of climate change," Groser said.
Already 80 percent of New Zealand's electricity is renewable and around half our emissions come from food production for which there aren't yet cost-effective technologies to reduce them.
That means there are fewer opportunities for New Zealand to reduce its emissions right now, Groser said. However, he's optimistic about the future as the investment in agricultural research begins to bear fruit and the cost of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles continues to fall. "In five to 10 years we'll be in a good position to reduce our emissions in both agriculture and transport," he said.
The government has committed $45 million to the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases out to June 2019 and a further $48.5 million through the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre for research into technology to reduce agriculture greenhouse gas emissions.
The detailed rules and guidelines for national reduction targets are unlikely to be set until after the Paris meeting.
"To achieve domestic reductions and to do so at an affordable cost, we have identified a need for cost-effective mitigation technology and in particular that our continuing investment in agricultural research delivers results that can be commercialised within the time period covered by this contribution," the INDC statement said.
In 2013 New Zealand produced 400 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per unit of GDP, of which 48.4% came from agriculture and 21.9% from transport.
New Zealand's longer term emissions target is to reduce emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.
A University of Waikato study out today said New Zealand businesses want the government to show greater leadership around carbon, waste and water issues.
The study's findings are important for the government as it prepares for Paris climate change conference later this year, said report co-authors Associate Professor Eva Collins and Professor Juliet Roper from the University's management school.
Associate Professor Collins said there is a general consensus that New Zealand's 'clean and green' brand is critical to exports and could be jeopardised if environmental problems are not addressed.
However, many businesses are reluctant to invest more in sustainability initiatives until the government provides long-term regulatory certainty and levels the playing field, she said. Lack of government leadership has seen companies stop measuring their carbon footprint or put their carbon strategies on hold.
The findings are based on a 2013 survey of 520 business owners, the fourth carried out as part of a Marsden-funded research project examining New Zealand's sustainability practices over the past decade.
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