Climate report poses tough challenges for New Zealand

The New Zealand minerals sector looks forward to engaging with government on its task of developing feasible, practicable and effective pathways for climate change action.

Straterra, the industry association representing the New Zealand minerals sector, was commenting on the draft advice the Climate Change Commission has provided on emissions budgets for transitioning to a net zero carbon New Zealand.

“There is much in the report we do not agree with, but it does highlight in many areas the real challenges New Zealand will face in seeking to reduce emissions,” Straterra chief executive Chris Baker says.

“The government’s policies for reducing emissions must maintain the competitiveness of effected sectors of the economy and not lead directly to increased global emissions.

“Options where we have an advantage such as electric vehicles and increased generation of renewable and low-emissions electricity are supported but we must be cautious where actions will simply encourage investment and jobs to go overseas and not reduce global emissions. The Commission touches on this risk but does not explore it in any detail.

“The report optimistically talks about replacing coal with biomass and electricity, but the challenges associated with this are substantial. For example, the area of land required for biomass cultivation would run into the millions of hectares.

“The costs of electricity need to be cost-effective for businesses switching away from coal, and there is no guarantee that this will be the case in the future – we are looking for the analysis and how that risk is to be managed.

“Developing mineral resources is an essential part of a low carbon economy, providing minerals needed for infrastructure and green technology, for example, wind turbines, battery technologies, electric vehicles and computer technology. We are pleased the Commission acknowledges the contributions of minerals in this way,” says Baker.

“We are also pleased to note that consistent with the advice already received, the Commission is not advocating a move towards 100% renewable electricity generation. There seems to be a growing recognition that this target would be counterproductive to reducing emissions overall.

“We will carefully scrutinise the document and make a submission as part of the consultation process. It will then be essential for the government to work closely with affected businesses as it considers the Commission’s advice.

“The key point to be made is that the government’s emission reduction policies must not reduce the international competitiveness of the tradable sector as this will simply shift production and emissions offshore with no benefit to New Zealand nor to the global climate.”