Tuesday 17th April 2018
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Inclusion of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme is a step closer with the appointment of a six-member Interim Climate Change Committee.
Announced by Climate Change Minister James Shaw this afternoon, the interim committee has two specific tasks to complete ahead of the creation of a permanent body under the Zero Carbon Bill, which Parliament is considering at the moment, prior to the creation of a permanent Climate Commission next May.
The panel will be chaired by David Prentice, a professional engineer, former managing director of Opus International, and chair of Business New Zealand’s infrastructure sub-group, with Lisa Tumahai, the kaiwhakahaere (CEO) of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, the South Island’s largest tribal incorporation, with substantial agricultural holdings, in the role of deputy chair.
Also on the committee is the immediate past Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, former Meridian Energy CEO Keith Turner, leading climate change economist Suzi Kerr, and agricultural greenhouse gas research expert Harry Clark,
The first and most controversial task is to determine how agricultural emissions – nitrous oxide and methane, which collectively account for around half the country’s total contribution to greenhouse gases – should be included in the ETS.
The coalition agreement that allowed a government to be formed last October included agreement that 5 percent of agricultural GHGs should enter the ETS.
The second issue is to start planning for transition to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035, assuming normal hydrological conditions.
"These are two of the most politically charged questions" in the government's climate change action agenda, said Shaw, with the committee and commission intended to take an independent view and make recommendations.
The interim committee is tasked with making recommendations which the government will only consider around mid-2019, following examination by the permanent commission. Some but not all members of the interim committee are expected to be appointed to the commission.
A key issue will be whether to include both nitrous oxide and methane, or just nitrous oxide, given the absence of technological fixes to the methane gas produced by cows and sheep.
Methane is a far more powerful GHG than carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide, but is comparatively short-lived.
The new Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, has spoken publicly about the potential wisdom of only including nitrous oxide in the first instance.
The committee's terms of reference include whether to include agriculture in the ETS at all and where the point of obligation for declaring emissions should be applied.
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