And so it begins. Nobody should be under any illusion how hard it has been to get ourselves to this point, as a country, with a real, budgeted plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To make a substantial difference by 2035.
It's a massive step. But it's not enough.
National has an interesting complaint. Party leader Christopher Luxon says, "The Government is proposing to give hundreds of millions of dollars to companies for investments they should be making anyway."
He's quite right. Corporate New Zealand controls most of the emissions, has come through the Covid crisis well (in most sectors) and has the resources to manage change. They should be leading the way to a low-emissions future.
But in what universe is that going to happen? So the Government is offering carrots. Is Luxon saying National would prefer to get out a big stick and beat them into line? Can't see it.
That stick, by the way, would include banning the importation of cars with petrol or diesel engines. The British Conservative Government is doing it by 2030, but National has never called for it here.
It would also involve banning offshore oil and gas exploration, which National opposes, and much stronger regulations for warmer homes, which the Green Building Council has repeatedly proposed but which National also opposes.
And, of course, it would reduce car dependency and create a pathway to reduce the dairy herd. National's quiet on those things too.
The political reality of climate action is that we want it, in general, but effective measures to achieve it can be hard sell. The task for this and every government we have from now on is to align economic and environmental goals, before each causes the collapse of the other. It's possible, but only to the extent the politicians think we're prepared to vote for it.
Labour, sadly, in the Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) announced yesterday, also has nothing to say about reducing the dairy herd, calling time on petrol engines or adopting a truly green set of building standards. But it does now have a plan, with specific measures and numbers and deadlines. Hooray. This is a first.
For the ERP to be really good, it would have addressed four issues. The first is the need for immediate action.
Professor Lisa Ellis, who teaches philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Otago: "We know that greenhouse gases must be halved by 2030 if we are to keep the hope of a climate-stable world alive, and emissions of short-lived, high-impact gases including methane must fall even faster."
That means what we do this decade has become much more important than what we do by the middle of next decade, or by 2050. Few policymakers have grasped this.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson's approach, right across the ERP, is to build steadily from a low base towards biggish changes by 2035. He fears faster change would be too disruptive, therefore too unpopular, therefore it won't last. Robertson says he wants to prove that targets can be set and achieved, without crisis. He wants to build the social licence for bigger steps to come.
So the 2025 target for emissions is 290 megatonnes (Mt), the projections are in the range of 289.6 Mt and 296.1 Mt, and the do-nothing alternative would take us to 301.5 Mt. Unfortunately, we're not doing much in the next three years.
A better plan would include some radical signature changes – like very cheap or free public transport. You could get us used to change that way, minister.
The second issue: universal application. In their joint statement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw declared: "Every sector to play its part across transport, waste, food production, manufacturing, building and construction."
Building and construction contributes 20 per cent of our carbon footprint, but Andrew Eagles of the Green Building Council is not impressed. "The big missing piece," he says, "is a plan for low-carbon, pollution-busting renos for hundreds of thousands of homes."
He's pleased about the inclusion of new-home standards that will "cut the energy needed to heat them by 40 per cent", but points out this was announced some time ago and officials are even now "wobbling on the timeframe".
Eagles says new homes in this country emit five times more carbon than they should, if they were playing their part to keep within 2 degrees of global warming.
The food producers should be happy. The new funding for a Centre for Climate Action on Agriculture Emissions will strengthen existing efforts to "unlock solutions to our largest emissions challenge - biogenic methane", as Mike Burrell of the Sustainable Business Council says.
But as mentioned above, for the climate and a range of other environmental reasons, we have too many cows. No amount of research will disguise that.
The key to reducing the herd is to help farmers manage their heavy debt loads. We've seen nothing about that yet. And there's no agreement yet on a mechanism for bringing farming into the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Burrell also talks enthusiastically about the "ambition to decarbonise the freight sector by 2050". But that's so late it's a fantasy date.
The ERP does propose "low-emissions trucks to transport food and other products, cutting freight emissions by 35 per cent by 2035". Those trucks will be valuable. But what the plan really needs is a big commitment to rail freight.
There's a start-slow-and-build-big plan for subsidies to help industries switch from coal and gas to electricity or other energy types. That's good, provided the changes are made as quickly as possible, and not as slowly as industry thinks it can get away with.
The "cash for clunkers" plan for old cars is also welcome, unless it turns out to be a replacement policy for banning the import of new petrol-fuelled cars. That would be ridiculous.
It's also good that more money will be available for bus drivers. Currently, bus service tenders are so prescribed, almost the only area providers can compete is wages. That's been terrible for the workers and the service.
There's $350 million allocated to "Transport Choices" which are supposed to reduce car dependency by providing more cycleways and public transport. It's not a lot. And the $40 million for helping to "decarbonise public transport by 2035" is hardly anything: it would pay for fewer than 100 buses.
The third big issue is how the ERP defines our place in the world. Incredibly, it falls short of our commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Total emissions from January 2022 until December 2030 are expected to total 595 Mt. But our "nationally determined contribution" – our Paris commitment – allows emissions of only 571 Mt from January 2021 to December 2030.
This will oblige us to buy carbon credits offshore. The ERP says $8.9 million will be spent over four years to develop "acceptable offshore mitigation", mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.
There's a fourth imperative for the Emissions Reduction Plan: cross-party commitment.
National revealed last week it would support the budgets, which is great. But yesterday Luxon called the ERP "classic Labour" and complained that "Robertson's big idea is to spend millions of dollars for more consultants, more working groups, and poorly focused initiatives, with no real milestones for success".
Let's take that at face value. Presumably, Luxon has a plan for faster decarbonisation and he will be sharing it with us shortly.
As for Robertson, he might want to say the ERP is full of milestones for measuring success. They might be weaker than we hoped, but they're definitely there.
Now all eyes are on Thursday's Budget, which the minister says will contain a few more climate-related announcements. Any chance he's been underpromising so he can overdeliver?