New Zealand’s Emission Reduction Plan

By Paul Callister and Robert McLachlan

Fifty years ago, on 26 November 1971, the film “Notes on a New Zealand City: Wellington”, directed by Paul Maunder, premiered on Wellington TV. The narrator asks if Wellington’s future will involve suburban sprawl, traffic, motorways, suburban shopping malls, and the decentralization of employment; or an alternative vision of medium-density apartments bringing a diversity of people into the inner city to live, work, and let their children watch the then-brand-new Cuba Street splash buckets. (And ride bicycles, many of which can be seen in the film.)

Although climate change isn’t mentioned in the film, the relevance could not be clearer. The extreme unsustainability of the path that was chosen fifty years ago is now understood in far greater detail. The necessity to rapidly and permanently reduce greenhouse gas emissions is merging with a renewed focus on the health, equity, community, biodiversity, and resource sustainability aspects of our cities, houses, transport, natural world, and industry – our entire way of life.

The Emissions Reduction Plan Discussion Document is full of good ideas. Public submissions close on 24 November. In our submission, we argue that, in addition, the plan should:

  1. Recognise that some individuals, companies, and activities are responsible for more present and historical emissions than others and that they should reduce their emissions more;
  2. Prioritise permanent gross emissions reductions over temporary reductions and temporary sequestration, and prioritise actions that hasten the phase out of the burning of fossil fuels for energy;
  3. As well as reducing the supply of greenhouse gas-intensive products, focus on reducing demand, via changes in consumption, shifts to low-greenhouse-gas alternatives, and the provision of public goods essential for wellbeing; and
  4. Reduce the carbon budgets so as to end to fossil fuel burning by 2050.

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