The New Zealand government announced this afternoon that NZ would table a conditional emissions target of between 10% and 20% cuts on 1990 levels by 2020 [Scoop, Herald]. The range is supposed to allow for a response to the progress of international negotiations, and the conditions are that there should be a comprehensive international agreement that (according to the MoE Q+A):
…sets the world on a pathway to limit temperature rise to not more than 2Â°C; developed countries make comparable efforts to those of New Zealand; advanced and major emitting developing countries take action fully commensurate with their respective capabilities; there is an effective set of rules for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); and there is full recourse to a broad and efficient international carbon market.
Climate minister Nick Smith says that the target will be achieved by a mixture of domestic emission reductions, the storage of carbon in forests, and the purchase of emission reductions from other countries. The MoE Q+A page lists the measures in place to help NZ reduce emissions (#25): it amounts to a watered down emissions trading scheme, a $323 million home insulation and clean heating fund, a new Centre for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research, incentives for new energy technologies like sustainable biofuels, electric cars and solar water systems, Resource Management Act reforms and a National Policy Statement to support renewable electricity generation. No mention of forestry. Are the trees expected to plant themselves?
The target range comes as no surprise, given the signals emerging from the government over recent weeks, but the modest nature of the target and the fact that it is all conditional puts NZ in a weak position internationally. Smith & Co continue to insist that their targets, based on “50 by 50”, are in line with what the science is telling us, but that is only true if they cherry pick the most optimistic IPCC scenario, and ignore the evidence that’s been emerging over the last two years. This is not mysterious stuff, not news. The science and policy community has told the government the facts — it looks like they have chosen to ignore them and pander to those who would rather do nothing.
It is now transparently obvious that this National-led government simply does not understand the real challenges presented by climate change. They do not appreciate the full seriousness of the situation that confronts the planet, they underestimate the need to act, and they have completely failed to make any coherent assessment of what could be done. That amounts to gross incompetence, and they should be held to account for it, both at the ballot box and in the court of public opinion.