Questions about the National Government’s fitness to lead on climate issues are being raised as Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett prepares to sign the Paris climate agreement on behalf of New Zealand tomorrow.
Bennett is currently in New York, where she will sign the document and formally commit New Zealand to lowering its pollution emissions by 11% of what they were in 1990, by 2030.
But Greenpeace climate campaigner, Simon Boxer, says the signing is “nothing but a PR stunt” for the National Government, because it has no real plans to lower pollution.
“Until Paula Bennett does something real, like enforce the shutdown of New Zealand’s last remaining coal burners at Huntly Power Station, then jetting off around the world to sign a piece of paper is largely meaningless,” he says.
Last August, Huntly’s owner, Genesis Energy, announced it would be closing the coal part of the power plant by the end of 2018, saying New Zealand didn’t need it and it was too expensive to run.
But three months ago it was revealed that several of New Zealand’s electricity providers, including Meridian Energy, had been meeting with Genesis Energy to find a way to keep the coal units running.
Boxer says it’s time to “get real”.
“I’m sure the National Government would say Huntly’s coal burners aren’t their problem. But we’re talking about a fight to keep the dirtiest fuel in the world alive in New Zealand in 2016 – the Government can’t wash their hands of this,” he says.
“The extent of National’s climate change action plan is to keep drilling, fracking and burning coal, whilst offsetting our pollution by trading shonky carbon credits bought from organised crime gangs in Russia. It’s a complete sham.”
Earlier this week, a report from the Morgan Foundation revealed the NZ Government has been allowing businesses to buy fraudulent carbon credits from Russia and the Ukraine in order to ‘offset’ their emissions.
The countries use loopholes in international rules to create millions of false carbon credits that have no environmental benefit, and then sell them at bargain rates to the world market.
Boxer says it’s just another in a long line of examples of the National Government “ruining our international reputation” when it comes to the climate.
“If John Key was sincere about the promises he made in Paris, he would not allow further expansion of fossil fuels and he would invest in clean energy like wind and solar.
“But under the National Government, our emissions have actually increased.
“Key has had almost eight years to cut pollution, and in that time he’s failed to introduce a single piece of law to reduce climate pollution. It’s going to cost our economy billions in the future. Our communities are going to suffer.”