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Opinion piece by Olexander Barnes

Suggesting a policy is full of hot air is a terrible cliché, but it happens to be the best one that we have when it comes to the Government’s newly announced CO2 reduction targets for 2030.

The Government has pledged that New Zealand will reduce its emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

This target pales in comparison to those of other countries around the world. Firstly most other countries are using 2020 as the year to have reduced their emissions to their target, as well as using 1990 as the baseline year.

Based on figures from Statistics New Zealand, in 2005 New Zealand had net emissions of 49.71 million metric tons, so a reduction of 30% would be a reduction of 14.9 million metric tons, meaning that in 2030 New Zealand would have annual net CO2 emissions of 34.81 million metrics tons.

The EU has set its targets of 20% reduction of 1990 levels by 2020 with an option of increasing the target to 30% if other nations follow suit.

Credit: Flickr User Johan Wieland

Denmark is streaks ahead of the rest of the world aiming to have reductions of 40% below 1990’s levels by 2020 as well as aiming to have 100% of its energy needs coming from renewable sources by 2050.

Even China, a so-called developing nation that has been seen for a long time as the major roadblock in meaningful CO2 reductions, has taken steps including a large investment in solar power and is putting a cap on coal consumption, to help curb their emission growth.

Several groups have come out in favour of the New Zealand Government’s plan, including Federated Farmers, who have said that they find the new targets to be ambitious.

Business New Zealand said that the new targets were challenging but achievable. BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly: “The new national target of 30% less emissions than 2005 by 2030 will not be easy to achieve, but many businesses are already showing leadership in moving in that direction”.

Several opposition parties and environmental groups have been highly critical of the Government’s targets which are some of the weakest in the world.

The Green Party called the targets “100% pure spin”. Green party spokesman on climate change Dr Kennedy Graham said that New Zealand can do much better and “our fair share is at least a 40 percent reduction on 1990 levels, and the Government’s target is not even close. “

The Labour Party accused the Government of not having a creditable climate change plan, as well as adding that Labour believes New Zealand must have ambitious targets on lowering carbon dioxide emissions from energy use, including transport, backed up by an independent climate commission tasked with carbon budgeting.

The environmental group Generation Zero said that they were disappointed with the Governments “shameful” post-2020 climate change target and that it will be completely unfair on young generations who will be left to deal with the cost of inaction.

New Zealand has long touted itself as a clean green country, yet once again this image is being threatened by a failure to address a climate change in any meaningful way, in favour of short-term economic goals.