Climate Change

Oxfam: NZ’s Paris target inequitable and insufficient

Oxfam New Zealand says drastic cuts to emissions are needed by the end of the decade if New Zealand wants to play its part in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, Marc Daalder reports

Oxfam New Zealand has blasted the Government's emissions reduction target under the Paris Agreement, saying it falls short of being consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees over the pre-industrial average and places an unfair burden on developing countries, including our Pacific neighbours, to reduce their own emissions.

The report found that, based on population at the time the climate accord was signed in 2015, New Zealand should reduce emissions to at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Given New Zealand's historical role in emitting a larger share of greenhouse gases in the past than our share of the global population, a truly equitable response would require reducing emissions to as much as 99 percent below 1990 levels by the end of the decade, Oxfam said.

At the moment, New Zealand's Paris target commits it to reducing emissions for the period 2021-2030 to 11 percent below 1990 levels - far below the level of cuts Oxfam says would be equitable and suitable.

Nonetheless, the organisation says, reductions on the order of 80 to 99 percent are unlikely to be actioned.

"It is unlikely that a New Zealand government would set a 2030 [Paris target] that demands such rapid emissions reductions. Achieving such high emission reductions domestically in that timeframe is also unlikely to be the most efficient or lowest cost way to cut that volume of emissions from the global total," the development agency wrote.

The assessment comes after the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) told Climate Change Minister James Shaw that the country's Paris target is not consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. However, the MfE estimate of what would be required (depicted in the chart below) was less drastic than Oxfam's.

"Oxfam’s report raises an important question about whether our target for the period 2021-2030 is consistent with the goal, unanimously agreed by Parliament last year, of limiting global warming to 1.5˚C above pre‑industrial levels," Shaw said.

The Climate Change Commission is currently reviewing New Zealand's Paris target and will be able to make recommendations on whether it should be strengthened in a report due back in February 2021.

"The Commission will advise on whether what we have committed to internationally is sufficient. If they conclude that there is more we need to do, the Commission will provide recommendations on how best to align our international targets with the Paris temperature goal. This will ensure we are playing our part globally," Shaw said.

"The science is absolutely clear that we need to make significant cuts in our emissions by the end of the decade and we are committed to making that happen."

Oxfam asked the commission to tell Shaw to "publicly acknowledge that New Zealand’s fair share of the global effort to limit warming would amount to cutting emissions by at least 80 percent by 2030 – or by at least 99 percent if we accepted our historical responsibility" and to enhance the ambition of the target as much as possible.

It also wants to see New Zealand commit to contributing more money to developing countries to aid their own emissions reductions and to have the Government set out clearly how much of the Paris target it expects to meet with carbon credits purchased from better-performing countries overseas.

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