Climate Change Minister James Shaw today launched a six-week consultation on the government's Zero Carbon bill, legislation that will include a new 2050 emissions reduction target.
"The Zero Carbon Bill is about providing stability and predictability, by setting out a clear path and a plan to upgrade our economy and help ensure a stable climate for the future," Shaw said in a statement.
Shortly after being elected, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the government would set a target of a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050, with legally binding emissions reduction targets and carbon budgets to keep New Zealand on track to this goal.
Consultation on the bill will run for six weeks from June 7 to July 19. Once the bill has been introduced to parliament, a select committee process will follow and the aim is to pass it by mid-2019, according to Shaw.
Under current commitments, New Zealand has a target of a 50 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 but "a strong 2050 emissions reduction target will show the world we mean what we say and give us a moral mandate to encourage other bigger countries to do their bit too," said Shaw.
The consultation document will focus on key questions such as whether a new emissions reduction target for 2050 should treat all gases that cause climate change the same, or take a different approach to different gases depending on whether they cause short-term or long-term warming.
The discussion document looks at three different options. The first would be new zero carbon dioxide by 2050, which would reduce net carbon dioxide emissions in New Zealand but not other gases like methane or nitrous oxide, which predominantly come from agriculture. The second is net zero long-lived gases and stabilised short-lived gases by 2050, which would reduce emissions of long-lived gases (including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) in New Zealand to net zero by 2050, while stabilising emissions of short-lived gases (including methane). The final option is net zero emissions by 2050.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand called for a tailored approach to emissions. "We support the government's proposal to explore further a split gas approach, which takes into account the differing effects of long-term gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide and short-term gases such as methane on the environment," it said.
The consultation will also look at how to ensure settings laid down in law provide the necessary certainty to business and communities and the right balance of power between the Independent Climate Change Commission and the government of the day. It will also look at how to manage the impacts of climate change and develop a plan to adapt.
According to the discussion document, New Zealand is already feeling the effects of a changing climate. In the past 100 years, seas have risen around 14 to 22 centimetres in New Zealand ports.
"Also, the costs we face are continuing to rise. As an example, in the past 10 years, the cost of weather events to our transport network has risen from about $20 million per year to over $90m per year," it said.
The 2013 drought in the North Island cost the economy about $1.5 billion, and climate change will make droughts like this more likely.
Insurance Council NZ chief executive Tim Grafton welcomed the next step to implementing legislation, and said that this year "severe weather has cost more than $173m and that's without the final figures for cyclones Fehi or Gita or provisional figures for the Rotorua and Hawke's Bay floodings."
The storms are "evidence of the very real impacts of climate change and of the importance of a long-term commitment to identify, monitor and address climate change risks."
DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said "we look forward to the certainty that the Zero Carbon Act, once introduced, will provide the dairy sector ... There is a need for all sectors to be aligned and accountable towards a common goal which will see New Zealand achieve a low carbon economy."