Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Agriculture ruled out in Emissions Trading Scheme review

Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said the review would consider how the scheme would have to change to help ensure New Zealand could meet its new post 2020 target. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said the review would consider how the scheme would have to change to help ensure New Zealand could meet its new post 2020 target. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government has started its review of the Emissions Trading Scheme but has ruled out any consideration of agriculture in that review.

The review would consider how the scheme would have to change to help ensure New Zealand could meet its new post 2020 target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said.

Almost half of New Zealand's emissions are from agriculture and it is not included in the scheme. Mr Groser ruled out re-considering that despite the Ministry for the Environment saying in a briefing paper last month it did expect agriculture to be considered.

On the same day he left for key climate change talks in Paris, Mr Groser released a discussion paper setting out the issues for consideration.

They include whether high-polluting industries such as fossil fuels, waste and energy should meet the full obligation for their emissions rather than half.

Although agriculture was initially to have been phased in to the scheme, National put that on ice when it came into Government in 2008.

In the last review in 2011, the Government did consider agriculture but instead put that on hold indefinitely, saying it would not do so unless there were economically viable and practical technologies to reduce the emissions.

Mr Groser said the Government was investing in research and development to find ways to reduce agricultural emissions and would continue to work with the farming sector to "incentivise" it to adopt new technologies as they became available.

"However, the full inclusion of agriculture in the ETS remains off the table at present."

The Ministry's briefing paper said research on agricultural emissions were unlikely to have any impact in the short term and there were few options to reduce agricultural emissions other than reducing the number of stock. It warned that, overall, the scheme was having little impact on emissions and changes were needed.

The emissions trading scheme is the Government's key mechanism for reducing emissions. It requires all sectors other than agriculture to report on emissions and surrender units to the Government.

Submissions on the priority issues close on February 19, 2016 and other issues on April 30, 2016.

Mr Groser left for Paris today to take part in critical climate change talks where New Zealand will present its new target.

Before the Government adopted its new target in July, the target for emissions reductions was 5 per cent below 1990 emission levels by 2020.

The Paris talks are aimed at reaching a new global agreement on climate change and committing to keeping global warming below 2C.

One of the key planks of a new agreement would be New Zealand's proposal on its legal form to ensure legally binding obligations such as reporting emissions and setting targets, Mr Groser said.

The discussion document is at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate-change/new-zealand-emissions-trading-scheme-review-2015-16-discussion-document

The Green Party says the Government's move to take agriculture off the table was a show of bad faith in the lead up to global climate talks in Paris.

Kennedy Graham, the Green Party's climate change spokesman, said agriculture will be a key part of discussions at the Paris climate talks where the aim is a global agreement to restrict global warming.

"It shows it shows extremely bad faith for the Government to take it off the table before a deal has even been reached."

He said the review was a chance to ensure the ETS did what it was intended to do - reduce emissions.

"National is doing a long-term disservice to farmers who need to start having a discussion now about how and when farmers should be exposed to an emissions price."

He said National had repeatedly watered down the ETS to the point its own review showed it had been ineffective.

- NZ Herald

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