Hardhitting ETS report kicks off Rainbow Warrior tour of New Zealand

Feature story - March 4, 2008
On board the Rainbow Warrior this morning we marked the start of a six week 'Target Climate Change' tour of New Zealand with the release of a hard hitting report into the Government's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). We've said in the past that the Government's climate change policy is little more than hot air and, while the ETS was an improvement, it still lacks teeth.

New Zealand's Expanding Carbon Footprint Report

New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.

Target Climate Change banner unfurled on the Rainbow Warrior to mark the launch of the six week tour of New Zealand and the launch of the Greenpeace Emissions Trading Report

The report titled 'New Zealand's Expanding Carbon Footprint - Analysis of New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme: Major flaws and barriers to emission cuts highlights some major shortcomings in the ETS.

The single most important thing we could do as a country to tackle climate change is set a domestic emissions reduction target. An overall target is needed if New Zealand is to achieve any significant greenhouse gas emission reductions. As it stands the scheme will fail to produce any substantial reductions. That's why we are calling for all political parties to set a target of 30 per cent reductions by 2020.

As the Rainbow Warrior tours the country we will be urging New Zealanders to be more active in the fight against climate change and encouraging them, as individuals, communities and businesses, to adopt emission reduction targets in their own lives.

Why does NZ need emissions targets?

Countries already on target

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  • The UK has a target of 20 per cent by 2010. They'll reduce by at least 17 per cent by 2010, and are well on track to achieve 30 per cent cuts by 2020.
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  • Germany has a target of 40 per cent by 2020, which it's on track to meet.
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  • Sweden recently set an emission reduction target of 75-90 per cent by 2050.
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  • And even Australia, a former laggard when it comes to climate, and our main trading partner, has set a long term reduction target.
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  • Agriculture's Climate Challenge

New Zealand enjoys a 'clean and green' image, but appearances can be deceiving. Our record on greenhouse gas emissions is actually poor when compared to other developed countries.

We're among the worst in the industrialised world for emission increases, the greenhouse gas intensity of our economy is one of the highest among developed nations, and our individual carbon footprints leave us as one of the 12 biggest climate polluters per person..

And while we may be at the bottom of the world, we're far from immune to the consequences of climate change. Our economy is reliant on a healthy environment and a stable climate, and our agriculture, horticulture, tourism and forestry industries, which are already feeling the impacts of climate change, face big challenges ahead.

The recent Waikato droughts were the worst in over a century and 100 year storms, floods, droughts and rising sea levels are on the increase. Fonterra has estimated that the cost of this year's drought to dairy farmers alone will be over $500 million.

As we can't escape the effects of climate change, we should be doing everything we can to reduce our contribution to the problem.

New Zealand is unique for a developed country in that almost 50 per cent of our emissions come from the agriculture sector (the majority of which are from the dairy industry). One third of these emissions come from nitrous oxide (from livestock urine and artificial fertiliser) and two-thirds come from methane (primarily from livestock burping…the "fart" tax was in fact a misnomer).

Our poor record on climate change also threatens our "clean and green" trade image, which is counting more and more overseas. Our exporters should be doing everything they can to corner and monopolise that high end of the market. We need to act now to ensure the protection of New Zealand's environment and our economy.

Scientists say we have an eight to ten year window to implement real solutions if we hope to avoid dangerous climate change. This will occur if we allow global temperatures to increase by more than 2°C from pre-industrial times, after which we will face increasingly dramatic and unmanageable problems.

We CAN avoid this through a massive global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The solutions exist and, individuals, communities and governments all have a part to play in making this happen.

Political Powers

Our economy depends on our clean, green image, and our Politicians have a mandate to act on our behalf and be leaders on climate change both at home, and abroad.

On the surface, it looks like we're doing a lot. The Labour-led Government and the Green Party recently developed a 10 year ban on new fossil fuel electricity generation, and set a 90 per cent renewable energy target for 2025.

It has also introduced an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) under which polluting sectors must, over time, cover the cost of their greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is that if you charge polluters for their emissions they'll be more likely to take action to reduce them, for example by shifting investment into cleaner technologies.

Sounds good in theory, but, WE NEED A TARGET! Setting an emissions reduction target is a simple, logical and critical step in preventing dangerous climate change. It means everyone has something to aim for. Putting in place climate policies with no associated reduction target is like driving round in a car with no destination in mind.

That's why Greenpeace is asking not only the Labour-led Government but all political parties to set a target of 30 per cent reductions by 2020 for New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.

This target would bring us into line with more progressive nations who have already committed to similar targets and will help ensure we make the cuts that science shows are needed to avoid the worst climate impacts.

Our politicians cannot claim to be serious about tackling climate change without putting in place a strong emission reduction target.

Agriculture's Climate Challenge

The catch is, a target of 30 per cent by 2020 cannot be reached without help from the agriculture sector, and the government has exempted it from the ETS until 2013.

The agricultural sector has an opportunity to lead the world in low greenhouse emission farming through the adoption of best practice measures that are already available and starting to be implemented on farms in New Zealand. Being clean and green is starting to count when a product hits shelves overseas and all our exporters should be doing everything they can to corner and monopolise that high end of the market.  Some farmers could even eventually make money out of selling credits for their good work.

But in order to get there, the industry must take responsibility for their massive contribution to New Zealand's skyrocketing emissions.  They need to come in to the emissions trading scheme within two years.

Most kiwis want real action on climate change. All of us - individuals, communities, businesses, and agricultural producers - need to contribute to the emission reduction effort. This is vital in order to REALLY tackle climate change.

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