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National took the right step last week in giving bi-partisan support to the Government for establishing a Climate Change Commission. It is the next logical step for New Zealand in tackling this global problem.

The science behind the climate change issue is that human activities are increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, warming the temperature and changing weather patterns. NZ contributes only 0.2% of global emissions with the big emitters being China and the US. Anything we do will only have a small effect. However, our emissions per person are high. We need to do our fair share and work with other nations to get emissions down.

National took ten important steps on climate change during our nine years in government. We insulated 320,000 homes. We increased the proportion of renewable electricity from 65% to 85%. We electrified Auckland’s trains and introduced incentives for electric cars. We established the national network of cycleways and reduced emissions from land fill by collecting and using the methane. We set the phase out plan for HFC gases used in our refrigerators and heat pumps. We initiated the $250 million global research alliance to find solutions to reducing emissions from agriculture.  

The most controversial step was introducing a cost on emissions with the Emission Trading Scheme.  We started with a 50% obligation in 2010 but then we ramped it up to 100% as the economy recovered from the GFC.

Our most important success was in helping secure the Paris Agreement in 2016.  I spent years working as Climate Change and Environment Minister with New Zealand’s diplomats helping get both developed and developing countries to commit to reduce emissions. New Zealand’s obligation is a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030.

The record since 1990 shows how hard a 30% cut will be over the next 12 years. NZ emissions grew by 13% during the Bolger/Shipley Government and another 10% during the Clark Government.  The Key/English Government, despite the population growing by 10% and the economy by 25%, did much better by reducing emissions by 2%. 

A sophisticated approach will be required to reduce emissions without losing jobs and reducing living standards. It is no good shutting down industries like dairy, meat, steel, cement, methanol or aluminium in New Zealand if production is transferred to other countries that are less efficient

A Climate Change Commission will help us meet our Paris targets by setting emission budgets and a timetable for reductions.  Cross party support will also help business plan for the long term.

I would encourage Nelsonians to attend the public meeting on the Commission proposal with Climate Change Minister James Shaw at Old Saint Johns next Tuesday 3 July 5pm-7pm. I’m attending to indicate my support and to ensure New Zealand continues to make progress.

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