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Announcing New Zealand’s low carbon future

Written By: - Date published: 6:05 am, May 10th, 2022 - 33 comments
Categories: climate change, james shaw - Tags: ,

Climate Minister James Shaw gave a 20 minute speech yesterday announcing the upcoming Emissions Reduction Plan,

In the months since I delivered that last speech, and whilst we’ve been developing the content of the Plan, we have seen first-hand the impact that the climate crisis is already having on our communities.

Repeated flooding, on a massive scale, in Gisborne and Tairāwhiti.

Incredible storm damage, over and over again, in Westport and Buller.

And at the same time droughts in Southland so severe that the Awarua–Waituna wetlands caught fire – in autumn.

The climate crisis is no longer something that’s happening to someone else, somewhere else, at some point in the future.

It’s happening to us. It’s happening here. It’s happening now.

And the best thing that we can do to prevent it from getting any worse, is to rapidly cut the pollution that we’re putting into the atmosphere.

Transcript is here.


There’s a lot in there, but as someone whose eyes glaze over at talk of carbon megatonnes and carbon credits, I found this surprisingly accessible.

Radio NZ has a good write up in climate reporter Hamish Cardwell’s analysis, including some history of the planning process, where we are at and links to explainers: Government plan to tackle climate change to be revealed.

Over the next few weeks a series of things will happen to set the stage for New Zealand’s low carbon future.

This Thursday parliament will debate. Shaw explains,

… the Climate Change Commission recommended that we hold a special Parliamentary debate on the first three emissions budgets, prior to the publication of the Emissions Reduction Plan itself.

This would allow each party to put its views on record and, at the same time, preserve each party’s ability to disagree on the policy prescription by which we collectively meet those emissions budgets.

After all, the first three emissions budgets take us through to 2035, which would span the life of several governments.

The following Monday will see the release of the Emissions Reduction Plan in detail, as well as Finance Minister Grant Robertson announcing the first investments from the Climate Emergency Response Fund. Climate is expected to feature heavily in the 2022 Budget on May 19th.

For critique of the speech,

Greenpeace NZ Emissions Reduction Plan must cut big dairy pollution to be credible

No Right Turn’s Climate Change: The new emissions budget

The first thing I want to say is thank-you James Shaw. Like many who are paying attention I find the realities of the climate crisis pretty hard going now, not least because we have been doing so little. This speech outlines not only the huge amount of work that’s been done in recent years, but that we now have the groundwork for actual, effective change. Credit to Shaw also for leading a plan that can survive a change of government.

As Shaw says, it’s not enough, we’re just getting started. But then it’s on all of us now, to make personal change, to bring this to our communities and workplaces, and to hold government to this promise. I’m personally less interested in the numbers stuff than I am in the cultural change that we need to vote in governments that will take the action that is needed. And the cultural change that will see us all step up and engage in a kind of ‘war effort’ across society.

While I don’t believe that neoliberal governments will lead fast enough, they can follow the cutting edge of climate activists and NGOs, and ultimately the voters. We also have to have people in government setting up the systemic changes now, and this is what I see here. Especially the scale – we have multiple Ministers and departments now actively engaged in a process where future governments are legally bound into taking action. That’s a huge number of people already working on this project and who will be in a position to do more as voters allow. That’s gold.

We are incredibly fortunate to have the Green Party and Te Pāti Māori in parliament who can push the progressive climate edge in ways that Labour for whatever reason can’t or won’t. We can hope for all three parties to be working together after the next election.

New Zealand has the opportunity to lead here. Not yet, but perhaps soon.

It’s possible for this to be both heartening and not enough. Read Greenpeace and NRT, because we have to understand where we are failing, but please also read/listen to James Shaw’s speech to see the good and the potential. Now is not the time for cynicism or despair. Shaw and a great many civil servants have given us something to work with, this is the beginning of a project that will outlast us all. We have to be able to work with what we have, and at the same time be willing to see how it can work out.

33 comments on “Announcing New Zealand’s low carbon future ”

  1. adam 1

    Oh I wonder if a local government will get into Hydrothermal Conversion (HTC) now there is some funds being put up.

    Glad there is a Climate Emergency Response Fund to draw from, as we need it.

    It's a start, and thank goodness for a start. But agree with the other critics – could be better.

    Feels a tad timid.

  2. Grey Area 2

    Timid is a good way to describe it. Yes it's a start but it's dispiriting when the biggest climate polluter is given a free pass. Shaw has done what he can but it's only as much as Labour, bureaucrats, and the farming lobby have allowed him to and we know it's nowhere nearly enough.

    And the we've got the wreckers National and the madness of ACT waiting in the wings as an alternative.

  3. But then it’s on all of us now, to make personal change, . . .

    Like not salivating about tourist numbers approaching pre-pandemic proportions, or our poor deprived elite youth planning their long deferred OEs.

    • roblogic 3.1

      So the ordinary people will be sacrificing while the big emitters do nothing. FFS. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions. Until those profit theiving, cost externalising criminals are apprehended nothing significant will change.

  4. Grey Area 4

    As Yoda might put it: The power of denial is strong in these people".

  5. Robert Guyton 5

    National is supporting the budgets.

    That reveals so much about James Shaw’s extraordinary abilities.

    That ACT aren't, speaks volumes about their disconnect from the real world.

    Shaw has not yet landed the full rescue package we need but he's done more than anyone else could have, to move us all closer to what has to be done.

    For this, he is widely admired in parliament. Those who witness his work, know he is the best person for the role.

    • Robert-To Party Vote Green next year would be a step towards the "full rescue package".

    • AB 5.2

      National are supporting the targets – but when in office are unlikely to support the practical means of actually achieving them. The first part is about neutralising climate change as a 2023 election issue, the second part is about looking after the interests of their key supporters and donors.

      So politically, it may have been better to come up with something that National couldn't agree to – and then hope that they are destroyed in a fiery conflagration of outrage at their suicidal intransigence. That's a risky approach – but by playing it safe I suspect it makes a 2023 Nat victory, and therefore worse climate outcomes, more likely.

    • Mike the Lefty 5.3

      It would be more accurate to say that National was supporting the intent and aims of the climate action budget.

      But when it comes to actual deeds, I expect National will fall back to its default position that everything is being done too fast and that farmers are taking on an unfair share of the liabilities.

      Still, it gives a glimmer of hope, I think, in contrast to the National Party of a couple of decades ago that denied that climate change even existed.

  6. PsyclingLeft.Always 6

    Get damaging heavy truck trailer units off roads. Onto Rail, incl Light Rail. Coastal shipping. The solution has been there for years. :


    "Instead of more roads, what about more rail? James Dann draws up a plan on how he’d improve Christchurch with a brand new transport system centred on heavy and light rail."


    Of course the Nats and Lobbyists against :


    And IMO so called "Green" Hydrogen is no answer :

    "Krumdieck said surplus energy from Manapouri should be used to develop a national transport system starting from Invercargill and extending throughout the South Island, before crossing Cook Strait.

    KiwiRail could be a key part of the development, which would provide thousands of jobs."


    Also IMO I see the push to get everyone into an EV is virtue signalling.

    Are they truly Sustainable? The Batteries for a starter….

    And where is the Infrastructure to support them?

    • KJT 6.1

      EV's, like other carbon reduction policies, are a part of the solution.

      It is not helpful to dismiss them as "virtue signalling" when they get well off individuals, the biggest users of unecessary travel, out of their gas guzzlers. Any reduction in hydrocarbon use, decreases our hemorrhaging of foreign exchange to oil companies and countries such as Saudi Arabia, as a bonus. As for infrastructure. Look up EV chargers.

      The trucking lobby are one of the National parties major funders. As well as one source of after politics "jobs for the boys" for ex National MP' s. Something that those of us supporting coastal shipping, have seen for decades. Already the clown that is the new National candidate for Tauranga, is promising "more roads".

      • PsyclingLeft.Always 6.1.1

        IMO that IS virtue signalling. As those "well off individuals" are the classic case. As…"Look at my Tesla….how Enviro I am".

        What was Its Carbon footprint…being made? Rare Metals mined?

        Theres a case for SMALL EV's…but not EV TRUCKS as has been talked up.

        An Expert…

        "Every electric car represents the embedded energy cost of a vehicle built in an overseas factory. There is the battery cost, not to mention the cost of all the road and parking infrastructure that goes with car use.

        Why not spend the same money reinventing everyday life so it runs just as well on walking, e-bikes, locally-built delivery “golf carts”, and public transport?

        Krumdieck says parking space takes up a third of inner cities. All that land could be freed for compact apartment complexes instead."


        And on the green Hydrogen lobbyists….

        "Hydrogen cars nothing but greenwash: expert"

        "Professor Susan Krumdieck remains unconvinced. “I would be actually excited if I saw Toyota announcing it will stop making it’s gas guzzlers and is starting to ramp down how many cars it manufactures, has opened up a battery recycling system, and is moving into new areas like electric bikes. “


        And absolutely we need to Go Rail. Coastal Shipping. Design cities FOR People…and Walking/Cycling/Public Transport.(CHCH rebuild should be that.)

        Maybe the latest news on NZ Sea level rise/Coast sinking will have a focusing effect. I truly hope so.

        • KJT

          "What was Its Carbon footprint…being made? Rare Metals mined?"

          A bloody sight less than a BMW 7 series.

          The goal is emmisions reduction. If it makes wealthy people feel good while doing it. Who cares.
          It is early days for electric vehicles yet. We need the well off starting to use them, to allow development, innovation, such as battery technology, and increased availability.

          And. While hydrogen is not a serious option for land transport, why go to all that infrastructure expense and poor EROEI when you can supply electricity to land transport directly, it could be for ships. Including coastal shipping.

          One of the obstacles to doing anything about AGW are purists, who reject any solution that is not perfect, when the whole range of solutions, including EV's, AND all the other things you mentioned, and a lot more, are required.

          • PsyclingLeft.Always

            huh? Lol. Are you calling me a "purist"? I've provided Expert links. And many alternatives. Maybe READ the Links I provided. And get over yourself.

            • KJT

              I'm on

            • KJT

              Read those links, and comments like them, years ago.

              "Why not spend the same money reinventing everyday life so it runs just as well on walking, e-bikes, locally-built delivery “golf carts”, and public transport?"

              Been on here, and elsewhere, advocating all of those, many times.

              That is only a part of the answer though.

              We need to do much more.

              EV's play a part, even if a small one. Developing efficient electric transport for people and freight means we need to improve electric transport technology and infrastructure. Everyone who buys an electric car is investing in that.

              Reduced energy use, more sustainable energy supply, and stopping infinite increases in resource use, are all required.

              Why object to steps towards it, even if small?

        • Chris T

          Tend to agree with this tbf

          Not saying it is worse, but EV's are certainly no miracle alternative people try to make out they are.

          Purely personal opinion obviously and just from certain things I have read, like tyre wear etc.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    There is much to be done.

    But the aquaculture sector, which is remarkably sensitive to temperature fluctuations, is being assisted to transition to a less vulnerable ground based model.

    It might be valuable to let the big dairy BAU advocates meet the company that lost fish to rising temperatures in the Marlborough Sounds.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    Something I have heard being floated from time to time, but never seemed to be given much serious consideration is tidal generation.

    I would be interested on thoughts on that. From the point of view of an energy source, it would have to be one of the most reliable available, so long as the moon doesn't float off into space. And we have an enormous coastline. So, if it was going to be viable for anyone, NZ would have to be a good candidate.

    I guess maintenance could be a bit tricky. But it can't be insurmountable.

    • weka 8.1

      I think the UK has done this, so might be useful to look at their experience? I'd say two immediate problems to resolve: environmental impact, and designing and maintaining for extreme weather events.

      • simbit 8.1.1

        Once interviewed a fella who had designed (but not built) a generator that used the ocean swell to generate electricity. Basically a triangular shaped platform with three independently operating sections that drove a centrally turbine. Clever. Would have minimal environmental impact as it was offshore.

        • weka

          creatures live in the sea. I'm sure we can design small scale. I'm doubtful that large scale would have no impact.

          • simbit

            Impacts can be positive e.g., offshore turbines provide shelter for sealife. I'm not selling them but I am still burning oil…

      • Macro 8.1.2

        Thank you for a very good post on this topic weka.

        And in reply to ts and yourself wrt tidal generation there have been proposals for tidal generation in NZ but as usual, quick as a flash – nothing happens.

        Here is an article from 2011 on one proposal for the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour which received some support. http://hot-topic.co.nz/just-as-the-tide-was-flowing/

        There was another proposal, around the same time, for the Cook Strait which would have been a very useful adjunct for electrical energy to the Greater Wellington region. But not sure where that proposal has gone

    • Ad 8.2

      It comes up occasionally but the only place that ever got close was off Pouto Point on the north end of the Kaipara over a decade ago.

      Local people objected to potential harm to fish.

      No one's put much effort into tidal after that.

    • Poission 8.3

      Not needed,there is sufficient resource in solar alone with existing housing having a potential of twice the total NZ electricity generation.

      Residential housing uses as much as Industrial manufacturing ( which includes pulp and paper,metals,dairy etc.) the consumption growth is not in industry it is in residential use.Most industries already have both business cases for enhanced energy efficiency.

      • tsmithfield 8.3.1

        I agree with domestic solar and actually posted about that the other day. Whether there would be enough with existing houses is questionable given that a lot of houses aren't orientated ideally for solar. Also, our need for power generation will be increasing with the transition towards electric vehicles.

        So far as tidal generation goes, there is this one in the UK. A bit fugly I must admit, but probably no worse than wind farms. We would need to find a way to stop Hectors dolphins and the like being sucked in.

        I agree with Weka's point that there would be environmental issues to consider, but the environmental impact would be a lot less than a new dam I would expect.

        On the point of weather durability, the one linked to is being installed in the UK where they get fairly severe weather from time to time.

        • Poission

          Local production and distribution limits the transmission and distribution loss (waste averted) this is equivalent to either all the wind or coal generation.

          Total line loss 2021 2901 gwh.

  9. Jenny how to get there 9

    The government today released its first three emissions budgets, covering the periods 2022-25, 2026-30, and 2031-35…..
    …..it's going to take until the second period to get back below 1990 emissions levels.


    2031 and 2035, (the second period), we might see emissions reduced to 1990 levels.

    OH, Ka-ay

    • The world will likely exceed 1.5C between 2026 and 2042 in scenarios where emissions are not rapidly reduced, with a central estimate of between 2030 and 2032.
    • The 2C threshold will likely be exceeded between 2034 and 2052 in the highest emissions scenario, with a median year of 2043.
    • In a scenario of modest mitigation – where emissions remain close to current levels – the 2C threshold would be exceeded between 2038 and 2072, with a median of 2052.


    Can anyone see the disconnect?

    Who are we kidding?

  10. Labour_Voter 10

    India is burning coal like anything to tackle their current power crisis during summer.

    Now Europe is also planning to burn coal with stoppage of gas and crude supplies from Russia.

    Whatever we do in terms of emission reductions, India (and China) will blow it away in 30 minutes. What is the point here?

    • weka 10.1

      all small countries add to an India or a China. Someone has to go first, we can't expect India or China to cut emissions if we don't. We're all in this together.

    • pat 10.2

      The point is to ensure we can continue into the future….difficult to do when everything falls over.

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