• By Lindsay & Lynda Jeffs

The timelines for emission reduction are too slow

The following is an abridged version of Carbon Neutral Waiheke’s submission to the Government’s Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, written by Lynda Jeffs.

Carbon Neutral Waiheke (CNW) is a group of concerned citizens committed to addressing the issues of climate change and its ramifications for our environment, local economy, culture and way of life.

CNW thanks the New Zealand Government for its work in the area of climate change and the introduction of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill into Parliament with the aim of providing a framework by which the nation can develop appropriate climate change policies.

CNW cautiously supports the overall mechanisms outlined in the Bill to achieve its climate change policies, however, as a community-based organisation CNW has several concerns regarding the potential impacts, both positive and negative, on the community as a result of specific elements contained in the proposed Bill.

Context

Waiheke Island is situated in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park and therefore its citizens, business, local and central government have several unique responsibilities for the care of the surrounding seas, the marine environment and flora and fauna to ensure that carbon sequestering options are maximised.

The population is renowned for its activism, concern for the environment, interest in social justice and political engagement and the goal to achieve net zero carbon emission for the island by 2030 was formally adopted by the Waiheke Local Board in 2019.

As an island with defined boundaries Waiheke has the potential to be a test case for many of the policies, regulations and procedures which will result from the passage of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.

Specific Concerns

The Statement of Purpose is too weak. We suggest that it be strengthened to:

“provide a framework by which New Zealand will urgently develop and implement clear and stable climate change policies that meet the goal of the Paris Agreement of limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, reflecting New Zealand’s highest possible ambition through greenhouse gas emissions targets that end its contribution to global temperature increases by 2030.“

Such a statement would ensure the nation meets its “fair share’ of the global burden; fulfils its obligations under the Paris Agreement of setting targets that reflect its “highest possible ambition”; demonstrates the urgency of the climate crisis; and positions New Zealand as a climate leader, not a laggard, in decarbonising the economy.

CNW contends the Climate Change Commission should be an independent body, like the Reserve Bank, reporting to the public through Parliament with sufficient powers to set, monitor and enforce emission targets and budgets.

The timelines for emission reduction are too slow. Climate science reports tell us that global warming is accelerating faster than predicted. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 Special Climate Report gives us only 11 years to make the necessary, rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society needed to prevent a climate catastrophe.

CNW is concerned that many of the clauses in the Bill place an overwhelming emphasis on outdated 20th century economic rational rather than 21st century economic understanding.

CNW is concerned that the proposed Bill provides no critique of the implausible idea of continuous economic growth and actually continues support for the ‘market’ to provide social and environmental corrections to our actions. This emphasis on economic imperatives and the lack of legal accountability will make it difficult for the Government to set realistic emission budgets and provide reasonable predictability to businesses, investors, communities, iwi and households.

It is a myth to think that doing more of the same will result in any reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Denying environmental imperatives will only make the demise of civilisation as we know it more likely. The targets, as outlined in this Bill, do not address the speed of change required, are inadequate to meet the stated purpose and are potentially subject to political manipulation.

CNW believes that a responsible emission target would be a single target approach of net zero emissions by 2030 which is essential if the results of the climate crisis are to be averted.

The establishment of specific emission budgets, including the visibility of three emission budgets at one time, is useful but stronger enforcement mechanisms including penalties are needed for failure to meet any of the agreed targets and budgets to ensure an accelerated transition to a net zero carbon future.

As New Zealanders we need to measure our carbon impact; consider innovative approaches to reduce our carbon footprint and rethink our entitlement to continue our existing way of life (including travel, transport, consumption, waste and land-use patterns).

“We must start thinking about and acting for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren’s future, before it is too late.” (Bill Kinghorn, Carbon Neutral Waiheke, Seven Sharp TV programme, 18 March 2019)

CNW supports the requirement for national adaptation planning including a national climate risk assessment, a national adaptation plan, progress reports and the power to request provision of information. However, we suggest that:

  • The reporting of climate risks should be mandatory, to ensure that comprehensive policies are developed to enable individuals, businesses and communities to manage climate risk and fulfill the public’s requirements for open and transparent governance.

  • Local government and local boards should be required and supported to provide their own climate change risk assessment and produce their own mitigation and adaptation plans which should align with local government long-term plans and result in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Local government should be encouraged to be innovative in seeking climate mitigation and adaptation strategies to promote the shift away from the use of fossil fuels and support the development of off-the-grid power, water and gas technology and better methods of handling waste to support improved community resilience.

  • Local planning bylaws need to be refocused to consider climate change implications and local boards should retain the ability to maintain rural/urban boundaries, provide protection for established trees, promote widespread tree planting and wetland restoration.

  • The Resource Management Act which forbids the consideration of climate change risks in criteria for applications for resource use, must be repealed or Clause 104E and 70A amended immediately as they undermines the purpose of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.

  • The Building Act and transport and infrastructure plans need also to consider climate change implications. The importance of protecting infrastructure against sea level rises, coastal erosion, storm surges should be mandatory. The interdependence of engineering principles involved in the design, construction and maintenance of water sensitive roading, storm water management, water and sewerage reticulation need to be identified and reported as part of climate change risk assessments.

  • The Bill needs to support community resilience measures including public education and behavioural change to enable citizens to engage actively in the decrease of greenhouse gases emissions and the increase in sequestering of carbon.

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