A United Nations review has found a large credibility gap between New Zealand’s target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and the measures in place to achieve it. “It could find no plan for two-thirds or more of what is required to meet the target,” said Sustainability Council’s executive director, Simon Terry. “And it voices ‘great concern’ about whether New Zealand will put measures in place in time to do so.” New Zealand has tabled an offer, albeit a highly conditional one, to the international climate negotiations to reduce its emissions by between 10 and 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. Compared with projections for where emissions would be by then without any official measures to reduce them, that would be a reduction of 36 million-42 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.
A UN expert review team said the emissions trading scheme, the main mechanism through which the Government aims to meet the target, is expected to reduce emissions by only 12 million tonnes a year by 2020 – only a third of the reduction needed to meet the less ambitious end of the target range.
Pressure is growing on New Zealand’s government to meet its carbon emission reduction obligations. Failure to do so won’t go well with the expectations of an increasingly risk-aware global audience – something most politicians (and the current government more than others) seem to have difficulties grasping. Why should a country so remotely located and insignificantly small (compared to others) have to do its part to “save the planet” – Kiwis might wonder. The answer is simple: New Zealand’s economy is built on reputation and a promise to be clean, green and 100% pure. Food export and incoming tourism depend on this image, which has to be earned and is easily challenged, as the recent BBC hardtalk interrogation of NZ Prime Minister John Key showed. New Zealand’s political elite, it seems, still has to wake up to the fact that we live in a globally connected and interdependent world in which people far beyond national borders have become stakeholders in what a country does to protect the environment and the climate.
Picture credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video