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Bold action now ‘smarter, cheaper’

Editorial

The Climate Change Commission’s final report out yesterday contained some bad news in the fact steeper emission cuts are required over the next 15 years than in its draft advice from January — because it was able to use a more recent emissions inventory, from 2019, that shows larger cuts are now needed to make targeted reductions.

That tougher path to our goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 highlights another takeaway which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has emphasised: bold action now is “smarter and cheaper” in the long run. The commission says taking its advice will cut 0.5 percent from annual GDP by 2035, growing to a 1.2 percent annual cut by 2050, and that this is half the impact on the economy in 2050 than if we were to carry on as usual.

Draft advice that the country needed to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by 2, 17 and 36 percent by 2025, 2030 and 2035 respectively has increased to cuts of 12, 27 and 42 percent; for long-lived gases like carbon dioxide the corresponding targeted cuts are 15, 38 and 63 percent; for methane emissions from livestock the targets are 8, 12 and 17 percent cuts.

Included in the recommendations are a ban on imports of petrol and diesel cars by no later than 2035 (and ideally 2030), the planting of 380,000ha of new exotic forestry by 2035, and a 13.6 percent reduction in livestock numbers by 2030.

The recommended livestock cull is based on the country producing the same amount of milk and meat, using fewer animals. It has been revised down from 15 percent, after feedback that it would be hard to cut agricultural emissions by just improving farming techniques. The commission expects low-methane sheep to play an important role.

Federated Farmers has called for more funding support, and specialists, to ensure farmers have access to the science and technology needed.

Forestry groups have expressed concern that the commission poses a risk to forest planting rates by saying the Emissions Trading Scheme as it is will “incentivise more production forestry than needed”.

With our electricity an efficient and green source of power, the commission wants the Government to set a date after which homes and businesses cannot connect to the natural gas network — suggesting 2025 — and the phasing out of natural gas appliances in the 2030s. The rising cost of carbon pollution under the ETS also means gas, petrol and diesel will get increasingly expensive.