Tuesday, 26 March 2019

PCE report on “Farms, forests and fossil fuels”: One lump or two?

by Catherine Leining, Policy Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research

On 26 March 2019, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) released a report on “Farms, forests and fossil fuels: The next great landscape transformation?” It looks at the challenges in decarbonising New Zealand’s economy and asks whether a fundamental restructure of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) will be needed. 

The PCE usefully reinforces three important points: targets and policies should reflect differences across greenhouse gases (GHGs), fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to reach zero during this century, and management of New Zealand’s land sector would be enhanced by a landscape approach that integrates climate change and other considerations.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Greenhouse gas recommendations from the Government’s Tax Working Group

by Catherine Leining, Policy Fellow at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research

On 21 February 2019, the Government’s Tax Working Group (TWG) issued a report with advice on using environmental taxes to manage greenhouse gas emissions. It recommended retaining the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) with reforms to provide greater guidance on price, generate revenue through auctioning, and enable periodic review. It also recommended extending emission pricing to biological emissions from the agriculture sector, whether through the NZ ETS or a complementary system. It suggested those changes can help drive behaviour change to reduce emissions, generate revenue supporting the transition to a more sustainable economy, and, in the longer term, broaden the overall tax base.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

"Beyond the Barricade" - The backstory from a musical tribute to emissions trading

By Catherine Leining, Policy Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research

In September 2018, the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) marked its first decade of operation. I was part of the core group of government officials who designed the system back in 2007 and 2008. Since then, I have continued to work both inside and outside of government to advance its progress. Having decided that the dramatic story of heartbreak and hope deserved nothing less than a little musical theatre, I filmed a short musical tribute on my iPhone. It made its debut at a birthday party for the NZ ETS at the Ministry for the Environment, and was posted online for fun together with a media release from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.

The idea came to me when I was washing the dinner dishes and puzzling over how to help people understand the story of what happened. Say the words "emissions trading" and many people glaze over and tune out. Most of the rest of them say something about "dodgy carbon credits," recalling how our emission price dropped very close to zero because of unlimited overseas units. The system has had no significant impact so far on domestic greenhouse gas emissions by the government's own admission. It has taken most of a decade for the emission price to recover to the point where we started.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Why NZ's emissions trading scheme should have an auction reserve price

By Dr Suzi Kerr and Catherine Leining, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research 

While people's eyes often glaze over when they hear the words “emissions trading”, we all respond to the price of carbon.

Back in 2010, when the carbon price was around NZ$20 per tonne, forest nurseries in New Zealand boosted production. But when prices plunged thereafter, hundreds of thousands of tree seedlings were destroyed rather than planted, wiping out both upfront investment and new forest growth.

Emission prices have since recovered but no one knows if this will last. With consultation underway on improving the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS), the government should seriously consider a "price floor" to rebuild confidence in low-emission investment. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Zero Carbon Bill Submission

by Catherine Leining and Suzi Kerr.
The New Zealand government has recently consulted on its proposal for a Zero Carbon Bill. This would:

  • set a new and more ambitious 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction target
  • establish interim five-year “emissions budgets” consistent with meeting those targets
  • require the government to issue plans for achieving its emissions budgets
  • require preparation of a national climate change risk assessment and national adaptation plan
  • set up a new independent Climate Change Commission to advise the government and monitor its progress.

Our full submission on the Zero Caron Bill is available here. In this blog we highlight five key opportunities to improve the government’s proposal.

Friday, 8 June 2018

E-Mission Possible roundtable summaries

by Catherine Leining and Ceridwyn Roberts, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research

The road to a net-zero future is paved with challenging questions for which there are no definitive answers – just choices to be made under uncertainty and consequences to be faced under risk. In order to shed new light on particularly thorny questions for NZ's low-emission transition Motu, Productivity Commission, the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Environmental Defence Society convened a series of roundtables.

We have now completed the summaries from all four E-Mission Possible Roundtables.  We received very positive feedback on all of the roundtables in the series, and want to thank everyone who contributed to their design, funding and implementation.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Budget 2018 and climate change

by Catherine Leining, Policy Fellow at Motu Research

When it comes to the climate change portfolio, Budget 2018 feels like the calm before the storm. It focuses more on policy processes for future action than catalysing action now. Budget allocations will support development of international carbon markets (key to helping New Zealand meet its 2030 target under the Paris Agreement), the Zero Carbon Act, the Climate Change Commission, and amendments to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS).