End Aotearoa’s production of greenhouse emissions.
What Must Be Done
- Immediately cease government funding and subsidies for high emitters and high emission activities.
- End coal, oil and gas extraction and imports.
- Bring in a form of universal rationing/quota scheme such as tradable energy quotas (TEQ) or tradable carbon credits (TCC) to reduce emissions in an equitable and planned manner.
- Shift funding away from motorways and other car infrastructure to facilities for walking, cycling, low-emission rail and shipping, and a linked-up national public transport system.
- Expand low-carbon alternatives to domestic and international air travel, including inter-city rail, coastal shipping, and increased use of virtual conferencing.
- Expand alternative low-emission technologies for transport, agriculture, etc.
- Cease industrial agriculture, including intensive dairying, with support to farmers to shift to regenerative agriculture systems and/or rewilding.
- Reduce imports of goods and services with high embedded emissions, and localise production of as many essential goods as possible.
We must reduce emissions
The facts are clear – if countries take these actions we have a fighting chance of keeping global warming under 2°C. If we don’t, we won’t.
The single most important action to stop runaway global warming is to cap fossil fuel use and scale it down, on a binding annual schedule, until in Aotearoa the industry is mostly dismantled by around 2030.
The IPCC notes that globally we need to cut emissions by 45 per cent this decade and end them by 2050. However:
“Zero by 2050 is a global average target. A fair-share approach would require rich countries to eliminate most fossil fuel use by no later than 2030 or 2035, to give poorer countries more time to transition.”Hickel 2021
Recent research on how to reduce global CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 found that simply substituting renewable energy for fossil fuels at current rates of use will not keep global heating below 1.5 degrees. Instead, total energy consumption itself needs to halve over the next three decades based on 2019 levels.
Buying our way out with offsets
For some time now New Zealand has met its emission reduction commitments largely by offsetting them – that is, buying credits by funding reforestation projects overseas. While this does support those countries, it does nothing to reduce NZ’s own actual emissions. A better way forward is to fund climate adaptation in those countries directly, and take responsibility for our own emissions.
Removing subsidies for high-emitters
New Zealand is a leading advocate for reducing, and ultimately eliminating, fossil fuel subsidies internationally, as a way of tackling global warming. But this is not being done at home.
- Direct subsidies – government support through tax breaks and funding exploration data and research rose from $6 million in 2009 to $46 million today.
- Indirect subsidies – the cost to the taxpayer of government spending on infrastructure to maintain the sprawling (and aging) fossil-based energy system, and the cost impact that burning fossil fuels has on our health and climate.
- Free carbon credits – companies within the Emission Trading Scheme must pay a carbon credit for every tonne of greenhouse gases they emit. They can buy credits from other companies or directly from the Government. For the last decade, a small number of companies have received free credits equating to 90 per cent of their emissions. The reasoning is that these companies are particularly exposed to international competition.
Subsidising fossil fuel production in these ways creates a barrier for cleaner technologies to enter the market and reduces incentives to produce and use fossil fuels more efficiently.
Since 2019 the Government has wound down its support for the oil industry. However ACC, National Provident and Government Superannuation funds are still free to keep investing in fossil fuel producers far into the future.
Rationing schemes, such as Tradable Energy Quotas are an equitable transparent way of allowing a country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by gradually reducing the amount of energy it uses. It provides certainty of controlling emissions in a way not possible with schemes which attempt to control emissions by manipulating prices for fossil fuels, such as our Emissions Trading Scheme or a carbon tax.
“All adult citizens, driving age and over, get the same number of free quota units to ensure their year’s energy security, and these are topped up weekly so everyone always has a full year’s supply. This gives people time to adjust to what they know will be fewer free quotas in each subsequent year of the program. That certainty of declining supply focuses the attention and motivates everyone to make changes to reduce fossil fuel use in coming years.”Jack Santa Barbara 2022
Low-carbon transport to suit localised living
We must plan NOW for a future where fuel is scarce and rationed, by building the infrastructure for a society where work, education, food production etc are much more localised and less transport is needed.
“Turning our backs on planning for cars doesn’t mean they will be banned, or not provided for. But all effort and investment in transport from now on must be in access, not mobility… New investment will be in building resilient places where walking, cycling and shared transport are prioritised..”Bridget Doran
“To repurpose road space is actually the cheapest thing we can do…. And for urban New Zealanders, the single most important thing to do is to change our transport habits. …. especially in Auckland, where 40 per cent of our emissions come from transport.”Simon Wilson
End industrial agriculture
The rapid expansion of intensive irrigated dairying from 1990 onwards resulted in agriculture being responsible for about half of Aotearoa’s greenhouse gas emissions – mostly methane and also nitrous oxides. This does not account for the emission embedded in the coal used to dry milk powder or in the palm kernel imported as stock feed. It also does not account for the indirect costs in terms of nitrate-polluted soil and waterways, damaged ecosystems and health impacts.
Farm-related emissions rose steadily from 1990s and are still rising, contributing to Aotearoa’s very high per capita emissions rate.
The farming sector is not included in the Emissions Trading Scheme, so in effect does not bear any of the cost of its greenhouse gas emissions. The sector is currently engaged with the government in discussions (He Waka Eke Noa) as to how farmers would join the ETS.
It’s been suggested that farmers should be gifted a one-off $12 billion payment to stop dairying and convert to industries with a lower carbon footprint, especially in high-risk areas like Canterbury, and has been done at Lake Taupo and Rotorua.
Imported goods’ contribution to emissions
In 2019, greenhouse gas emissions embodied in our imported goods and services accounted for 51 percent of our carbon footprint.
Carbon Trust research in 2011 showed that about 25% of all CO2 emissions from human activities ‘flow’ (i.e. are imported or exported) from one country to another.
About half consisted of emissions associated with commodities such as steel, cement and chemicals, and half in semi-finished/finished products such as motor vehicles, clothing or industrial machinery and equipment.
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