Capsule Votes – Climate Change Edition: How the Parties Stack Up On The Issues YOU Care Most About

Which issues do you feel most strongly about as the election looms? We asked our readers this on social media – and you answered with five issues that are top of mind right now: the cost of living, health, education, childcare and climate change. So we’ve TRAWLED through party policy, and here we’ve broken down the policies on these five issues in this series in the lead-up to the election. We’ve covered cost of livinghealthcare and Education so far, and up next – climate change. What measures are the political parties planning to take to help keen our planet habitable?

Read on, especially if you’re not sure who you’re giving your vote to just yet!

Note – we don’t have the scope to mention absolutely everything, but we’ll bullet-point the key moves and measures that we think you’ll care about, and we encourage you to head to the individual parties’ websites for more in-depth details.

Climate Change

Climate change will affect us, at least to some extent, in our lifetimes – and will definitely affect the lives of our children and grandchildren.

There’s not much time to limit global warming to 1.5˚C (above pre-industrial levels): the tipping point beyond which the chances of extreme flooding, drought, wildfires, etcetera will increase dramatically – something we got a taste of in Aotearoa during the extreme-weather events of 2023.

We’ve set domestic and international climate-change targets. Under the Paris Agreement, by 2030 we must reduce net greenhouse-gas emissions to 50% below our gross 2005 levels. And the Zero Carbon Act commits New Zealand to reaching net zero greenhouse-gas emissions (other than for biogenic methane) by 2050.

So we have a path to walk. The question is: how will we get there?

Will political parties really do their damnedest to bring about change, take ‘half-measures’ to placate different groups, or kick the can down the road? Will they establish things or abolish things? What’s the plan?

Labour would:

  • Continue with climate-mitigation policies and initiatives already underway, including putting money from the Emissions Trading Scheme (the government gets roughly $2.5 billion every year by taxing polluters through the ETS to drive emissions reduction) into the Climate Emergency Response Fund (designed to address long-term climate-change challenges). CERF funds things like the Clean Car Discount (a scheme to encourage the purchase of low-emissions vehicles) – and the Government’s Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund that helps organisations (like NZ Steel and Fonterra) switch to lower-polluting tech such as replacing fossil-fuel-burning boilers.
  • Maintain the target of 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
  • Deliver ‘Empowering New Zealand’: a 12-point plan to increase the generation of renewable electricity including hydro, geothermal and wind.
  • Establish a Minister for Just Transitions to oversee New Zealand’s transition toward a low-emissions economy.
  • Create a second Emissions Reduction Plan to follow the first, to keep us on track to meet our targets.
  • Improving the Emissions Trading Scheme, as recommended by the Climate Change Commission (which provides the government with advice, monitoring and reporting).
  • Invest a further $300 million in NZ Green Investment Finance: a Crown-owned green investment bank established to accelerate investment in order to enable a low-carbon future.
  • Deliver a climate-adaptation and managed-retreat framework to support local communities facing severe-weather events.
  • Bring agricultural emissions into the ETS by 2025 (agriculture is the only sector of our economy that doesn’t yet pay for its emissions).

National would:

  • Look to double the amount of renewable-electricity generation – particularly solar, wind and geothermal.
  • Implement its major policy Electrify NZ, which focuses on decarbonisation through electrification, given electrification can drastically lower emissions. This would make it easier to build power stations, wind farms and other infrastructure in order to better use electricity, and to drive investment in renewable-electricity generation.
  • End or weaken various emissions-reductions initiatives currently in operation. For instance, National would stop using ETS revenue to subsidise companies’ emissions-reduction projects through the Government’s Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund – arguing that companies should reduce emissions without any government help.
  • Use several billion dollars currently going to the Climate Emergency Response Fund to instead help fund tax cuts.
  • Fund NZ Green Investment Finance.
  • Review methane-emissions targets, trying to find a sustainable pathway to bring down agricultural emissions in this important economic sector.
  • Delay implementing agricultural-emissions pricing into the ETS until 2030.
  • Support the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions: a joint venture between the current government and agribusiness leaders, aimed at developing new tools and technology to reduce farm emissions.
  • Scrap the EV-subsidising Clean Car Discount – a scheme to encourage the purchase of low-emissions vehicles – arguing it favours wealthier New Zealanders. Instead, it will build 10,000 new EV chargers.
  • Reverse the ban on new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration.

The Green Party would:

  • Require government decision-making to be based on New Zealand’s commitment to limit global warming to 1.5˚.
  • Set up a stand-alone Ministry for Climate Change to lead mitigation and adaptation.
  • Enable the independent Climate Change Commission to set the supply of units in the ETS.
  • Introduce a price on agricultural emissions and make them part of the ETS. 
  • Expand the ETS to incorporate all forms of carbon sequestration proven by science, such as restoring coastal wetlands.
  • Introduce regulatory levers and other mechanisms to rapidly phase out fossil fuels, foster energy conservation and efficiency, and enable appropriate renewable-energy development.
  • Continue the ban on all oil and gas exploration.

ACT would:

  • Replace the Zero Carbon Act with a plan to tie New Zealand’s carbon price to those paid by our top five trading partners.
  • Scrap target to reduce net emissions by 50% below gross 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Abolish entities including the Climate Emergency Response Fund, the Climate Change Commission, and the GIDI fund.
  • Give ETS revenue to individuals as a Carbon Tax Refund.
  • Have MPs sit for four days a week for 23 weeks a year, instead of three days a week for 30 weeks a year, to reduce the number of flights that politicians take.

NZ First would:

  • Establish a Ministry for Energy and a Fuel Security Plan.
  • Incentivise the uptake of emissions-reduction technology, such as low-methane genetics, and low-methane-producing animal food
  • Not support emissions pricing unless it’s something adopted by trading partners.

Te Pāti Māori would:

  • Ban oil and gas exploration.
  • Develop a national Māori strategy for renewable energy and clean technology so that the government’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency strategy involves whānau, hapū and iwi.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) would:

  • Introduce a fixed cap on ETS units so, rather than just encouraging companies to offset their emissions, it also actively encourages them to decrease their emissions overall.

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