Date posted: 24/07/2019 3 min read

NZ members have a range of views over climate change targets

Consultation reveals member support for a durable climate change framework but there are differences of opinion over emissions targets.

In brief

  • There is strong support for a long-term durable framework for New Zealand’s response to climate change
  • A diverse group of members engaged with CA ANZ to inform its position on the Zero Carbon Bill
  • Members support separate targets for fossil fuel and biological emissions

Members of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand have expressed a wide range of views over targets for cuts to greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand farms.

CA ANZ engaged with a diverse group of members to inform the policy positions taken in its submission on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill. Members expressed across-the-board support for a long-term durable framework for New Zealand's response to climate change.

However, differences emerged over the proposed targets for reductions to the agriculture sector's methane emissions.

"Many of our rural members feel strongly that the targets for methane cuts have to take into account the financial and community impacts on where they live and work," said Karen McWilliams, CA ANZ's Business Reform Leader.

"In listening to their views, in addition to those members who strongly supported legislated net-zero emissions targets, CA ANZ was able to form a policy position in the public interest.

"The framework has to be fair and equitable across all sectors."

The Zero Carbon Bill provides a framework for climate change policies as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. Under that agreement, New Zealand is committed to make its "best efforts" towards climate neutrality, or a net zero target, by the second half of this century, covering emissions from all greenhouse gases.

"Some members highlighted the increasing urgency of the situation and did not want any further delays by the Government in setting that net zero target."
Karen McWilliams, Business Reform Leader

CA ANZ's submission on the Bill:

  • Supported creating a long-term durable framework for responding to climate change.
  • Encouraged the transition to a low-emissions economy to be considered as a part of the broader vision for New Zealand in 2050.
  • Asked for the framework to be fair and equitable, with contributions by sector taking into account the effect of emitters in that sector.
  • Supported treating biological emissions and fossil fuel emissions separately in the legislation.
  • Supported setting a net zero emissions target for emissions, excluding biogenic methane, by 2050.
  • Supported a net target for biogenic methane, but recommended further consideration on the target level and date before it is legislated.
  • Suggested consideration of a gross zero target for fossil fuel emissions by 2050.
  • Supported the functions of the Climate Change Commission. However, recommended the commission be allowed to initiate its own research to promote awareness of climate change.

"As we suggested in our submission, all sectors should be provided with the same tools to offset emissions," McWilliams said.

"For example, farmers should be able to offset their methane emissions with trees on their farms rather than having to deal with the complexity of buying carbon credits through the Emissions Trading Scheme.

"In fact, we suggest that all forms of on-farm forest sinks should be recognised in this process including small forests, such as shelter belts, that do not currently meet the forest definition in the ETS."

In mid July, the Government and farming leaders announced an agreement to implement farm-level pricing of climate change emissions from the agriculture sector by 2025. The Government has launched a consultation document on how to bring agriculture into ETS.

Setting targets

Members in the rural sector supported the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's call for two separate targets for the second half of this century: a zero gross target for fossil fuel emissions and a reduction of biological emissions based on the advice of the new Climate Change Commission. The Zero Carbon Bill should give the commission power to advise the Government on an appropriate long-term net target, and target date, for biogenic methane reductions.

"Taking into account the perspectives our members have expressed on targets, CA ANZ has supported a legislated target of net zero emissions, excluding biogenic methane, by 2050," McWilliams said.

"Some members highlighted the increasing urgency of the situation and did not want any further delays by the Government in setting that net zero target."

Member feedback

CA ANZ sought member feedback on the Zero Carbon Bill to inform its submission. This feedback included:

"Climate change will affect everything! My work, my profession, but more importantly my life, my children and the world we will leave them. The net zero targets may be very late, but we hope they will not be too late."

"The people in my community on the East Coast are bearing the brunt of this Bill. I realise it is hard to see from Wellington." "There is a lot at stake for not only rural New Zealand but the average New Zealand standard of living."

"As Chartered Accountants in the commercial environment, we need to know the types of changes that are being proposed, and detailed and complete information about how those changes are to be implemented. This will allow us to be able to support our clients across all industries, as they work through both the process and the cost of compliance."

"A member's clients were very concerned about the wide scale buying of productive farmland for planting into blanket forestry. This is actually already happening in rural NZ and should be a major concern to NZ Inc."

CA ANZ’s submission

We say the Zero Carbon Bill is an opportunity to set in place a durable and world-leading response to climate change.

Read submission

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As the drive for more useful climate-related information advances, it is becoming increasingly important for Chartered Accountants to understand what disclosures are required.

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