This year New Zealand was one of 17 developed countries whose quantified emission reduction targets for 2020 were assessed as part of a newly established international assessment and review process under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The purpose of these assessments was to provide a mechanism to engage, assess and compare the progress of developed countries in meeting their emission reduction targets.
A description of the process can be found here and the following are links to New Zealand’s First Biennial Report to the UNFCCC and question/answer sheets.
The first multilateral assessment of New Zealand took place in the second week of the 20th Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru in December 2014. During this assessment New Zealand presented its progress toward achieving its 2020 emission reductions targets and responded to probing questions from other countries afterwards.
New Zealand's multilateral assessment can be watched here.
The presentation itself was lacking in detail, consisting mostly of beautiful pictures of New Zealand and blanket statements about meeting emission targets.
A whole host of different countries lined up to get more information on New Zealand's top-down approach to projecting emission reductions from policies and measures, key emissions policies, its Emissions Trading Scheme and the validity of New Zealand’s unconditional and conditional targets for 2020 in light of the 2 degree C global goal.
Here is a summary of some key points from the assessment presentation:
- Some domestic emissions reductions have been made but actual emissions have increased by 25% from 1990 to 2012 (excluding land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF)).
- The first Kyoto commitment period target of a zero net increase from 1990 gross emissions over 2008 to 2012 will be met through international emissions trading.
- New Zealand has an unconditional target to reduce emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2020.
- New Zealand plans to meet its 2020 target through a combination of domestic emission reductions, domestic forest sinks, the use of international market mechanisms, and application of the unit surplus from the first Kyoto commitment period.
- New Zealand's primary mitigation tool is the NZ ETS, which will be reviewed in 2015.
Other mitigation initiatives noted include:
- The renewable electricity target for 2025
- The Afforestation Grant Scheme
- Research to develop methane vaccines
- Heavy vehicle fuel efficiency improvements
- Promotion of fuel-efficient tyres
- Energy-efficiency improvements in meat and dairy plants.
The presentation did not explain how New Zealand intended to apply its surplus Kyoto units from CP1 or participate in international market mechanisms from its position outside the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.
When a question was asked about transport and agriculture (two big sectors for emissions), there was no mention of public transport as an emission reduction tool, and electric vehicles were characterised as a promising future technology that was not currently economically feasible at scale. The response on agriculture focused on the emission intensity improvements shown so far and the effort going into research and development.
The basic message from New Zealand was that the country was doing its “fair share” of global emissions reductions and the expectation is that the other bigger economies will need to step up before New Zealand considers raising its targets.
With this, New Zealand has placed itself as a follower rather than a leader in the fight against climate change, choosing to take a low-effort path. This is despite being in a position to do much better – we have the potential to increase renewable energy use for electricity, industrial heat and transport; an abundance of ingenuity and natural resources which lend themselves to the development of clean technologies; and a smaller, more manageable economy and environment in which to implement innovation.
With appropriate policies and investment, New Zealand could take the opportunity to leverage its resources and show that its international reputation as a clean and green country is not just about beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes, but also that it can play a big part in creating a sustainable future for all of us.