The Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett wasn’t commenting last night on a major critique of the way the Government is managing climate change issues.
Ms Bennet’s office said she was in the central North Island.
However she is expected to give a keynote address at a National Party conference over the weekend on climate change.
Back in Wellington, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, once again called on the Government to acknowledge the economic risks posed by climate change.
Her call came in a submission to Ms Bennet’s review of climate change policy.
Her major concerns will be familiar to anyone who has followed Ms Wright’s climate change publications and her submissions to Select Committees.
She wants the Government to start taking the economic effects of climate change seriously.
She has previously suggested that the Minister of Finance establish a taskforce to look at this but so far she hasn’t got any traction in the Beehive on her proposal.
So in her submission, she proposes that Minister of Finance and the Minister for Climate Change Issues develop principles and guidelines for assessing the economic and financial risks associated with climate change for different sectors of the economy.
She says the economy faces physical risks such events like floods and storms that are expected to become more frequent and more damaging as the climate changes.
“These will decrease the value of assets and make them more expensive and difficult to insure,” she says.
“One certain physical change is the rising level of the sea – around the New Zealand coast several billion dollars of buildings and infrastructure are less than 50 centimetres above the spring high tide mark.”
Commenting on New Zealand’s current goals, she notes that though the Government has committed to having 90% of its energy produced by renewable sources by 2025
“Yet the country’s electricity regulator, the Electricity Authority has no mandate to consider climate change.”
She is, however, vague on how the Government might reduce the use of fossil fuel in transport and agriculture.
But she does raise a key question with respect to agriculture.
“It will be very difficult to meet our Paris target if the agricultural sector does not begin to take some responsibility for methane and nitrous oxide,” she says.
“Other emitters and the taxpayer will become increasingly ‘squeezed’”
She says the policy debate is polarised.
“Some argue that that the agricultural greenhouse gases should be included in the ETS; others make the opposite case.
“This particular dispute, however, lies within a bigger question – what should we do about these emissions?
“It is a question we must begin to address.
“Our efforts to answer this question will be more efficient and more constructive if we have a common understanding of the basic science.
“This is why I have begun work on a report aimed at developing such an understanding.”
Commenting on the report, Labours climate change spokesperson, Megan Woods said it was time for the Government to open its ears, particularly as Dr Wright’s report came on top of a Royal Society report on Climate Change from earlier in the week.
Dr Woods was also pleased that Dr Wright was moving towards Labour’s proposal of an independent climate change body.
Dr Wright has suggested the establishment of a new agency or unit within an existing agency with the function of producing independent and transparent analyses to inform both decision-makers and the people of New Zealand.