Labour is promising a tough response to greenhouse gas emissions in its submission to the Government’s Climate Change consultation process.
But it stops short of endorsing its potential coalition partner, the Greens’ advocacy of a carbon tax.
Spokesperson Megan Woods says that the country needs certainty in its climate change policies and that many industries have made big investments to accommodate the Emissions Trading Scheme.
But though the party is rejecting a carbon tax it has instead left the door open to achieve some of the Greens targets, particularly their advocacy of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.
“We should certainly aim to have ambitious targets on lowering carbon dioxide emissions from energy use, including transport,” the document says.
“In principle, those targets should at least be comparable to what the EU has undertaken to do within its overall target of a 40% GHG emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2030.”
But on Tuesday when questioned about climate change by the Greens new Co-Leader, James Shaw, the Prime Minister specifically rejected the 40% target which he said was “far more significant than what the Government believes the economy can bear — a target of a 40 percent reduction on 1990 levels would be disastrous for the New Zealand economy.”
However one Wellington economic consultancy believes the impact may not be all that great.
Infometrics says that assuming a global price of carbon of $50 a tonne the cost to households of a 40% reduction would be $1800 — but at the same time they expect household income to rise by $31,000 over the next ten years.
Infometrics argues that we could only actually reach 20% of the target through physically cutting emissions which would mean we would need to cover the rest by purchasing emission units on the international market.
Significantly Labour leaves out any specific commitment for agriculture. Dr Woods says the science at present is not settled on any technological process to limit methane emissions.
But she is proposing the establishment of an Independent Climate Commission which would monitor the whole climate change situation and draw up a five year carbon budget which would set targets for emission reduction.
The submission is a key positioning statement by Labour, particularly in terms of its relationship with the Greens but also with the wider electorate as the climate change debate intensifies this year.