Friday, December 8, 2023

Methane targets to be reviewed

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The Climate Change Commission has been asked to review New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, in particular biogenic methane emissions, with farmer groups urging it to make sure they are fair and appropriate.
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Climate Change Minister James Shaw wants the commission to consider whether NZ’s commitment under the Paris Agreement, signed in early 2016 and unanimously agreed by Parliament last year, of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels goes far enough.

In asking for the review Shaw has given the commission specific terms of reference that seek advice on the potential reductions in biogenic methane emissions that might eventually be required by NZ as part of a global effort to limit the average temperature increase to 1.5C.

The commission is not required to consider the current target range for biogenic methane specified in the Zero Carbon Act, which is to reduce those emissions by 24% to 47% below 2017 levels by 2050, including to 10% below 2017 levels by 2030.

Instead, the advice is intended to provide greater certainty for planning purposes about the eventual reductions in those emissions that might be required in the future.

DairyNZ is urging the commission to bring NZ’s international emissions reduction targets in line with domestic targets legislated in the Zero Carbon Act by taking a split-gas approach. 

Chief executive Tim Mackle says NZ last year took a world-leading approach by legislating a split-gas target in the Zero Carbon Act, recognising methane is a short-lived gas and requires a different approach to the long-lived carbon dioxide.

“While we need to take carbon to zero we can achieve a situation where we are no longer adding to global warming by reducing and stabilising our methane emissions.”

NZ’s international target is expressed as a reduction of all greenhouse gases by 30% on 2005 levels.

“This is a misalignment with our domestic policy and what the science has said on methane. Having an international target that splits the gases will send a much clearer signal to the international community on why NZ’s approach is in line with a 1.5C target.

“It will also allow us to put something on the table that is domestically achievable and it will support policy alignment with what was legislated last year through the Zero Carbon Bill.

“While the commission is reviewing our Paris commitments it should also be reviewing our domestic targets – particularly the methane reduction target which is set as a broad range – to ensure they are fair and appropriate in a NZ context.

Beef + Lamb North Island environment policy manager Dylan Muggeridge said B+LNZ supports the split-gas approach in the Zero Carbon Act but is unhappy with the level of the target because it does not believe it is in line with the latest available science. 

“We hope the Climate Commission’s work will unpick this.

“We know from the Government’s own projections that the nationally determined contribution (NDC) currently set is already extremely ambitious and arguably more ambitious than the targets in the Zero Carbon Act. 

“NZ is unlikely to meet this NDC without a significant contribution from purchasing international offsets. 

“Any increase in the ambition of this NDC would require an even greater reliance on international offsets and an even greater rate of afforestation, which we are deeply concerned about.”

Federated Farmers climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard says if the ability for NZ to meet its emissions targets is being questioned then more attention needs to be put on other ways of achieving them, such as fast-forwarding more renewable energy projects like increased electrification instead of relying on coal as an energy source.

“We need a massive increase in renewable energy generation.”

That need is not being met with hydro generation projects like the one proposed for the Waitaha River in Westland being blocked while people don’t like the idea of wind turbines in their neighbourhoods.

The Paris Agreement requires all signatories to submit stronger plans by the end of this year on how they will deal with their GHG emissions. 

Only Chile, the Marshall Islands, Suriname, Norway and Moldova have submitted updated plans for action and the COP26 United Nations climate change conference that was due to be held in Glasgow in November has been postponed till next year, at a date still to be confirmed, leading to concerns some countries might hold off on more rigorous commitments.

As the commission’s review of targets will not be received till early next year NZ will not meet the goal of submitting a stronger plan by the end of the year but should be able to do so before the rescheduled conference.

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