If the Government is serious about tackling climate change, it must give the Interim Climate Change Committee a longer leash to be able to look at the bigger picture, National’s Climate Change Spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“The scope of the committee’s terms of reference is extremely narrow, only allowing the committee to consider how the Government might bring agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme and plan for the transition to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035.
“Around 85 per cent of our electricity generation is already generated using renewables and the higher that percentage gets, the harder it becomes to make gains.
“And when it comes to agriculture and the ETS, if levied at the processor level with no technology available to effectively mitigate other than reducing stock numbers, it will just be a broad-based tax on farmers that will put us at a competitive disadvantage globally.
“Are these really the only things the Government wants the committee to focus on?
“It should widen the committee’s scope and allow it to consider things like our international targets and a more environmentally-friendly transport network.
“Transport has been the biggest contributor to the rise in our emissions since 1990. Between 1990 and 2015, our transport emissions rose by around 70 per cent with our fleet increasing in size by 1.5 million vehicles.
“We also happen to have one of the oldest, least efficient fleets in the developed world which only exacerbates the impact of the cars on our roads.
“It’s also remarkable that the Government would close the door on our oil and gas industry with no consultation, no cost-benefit analysis, and no regard for emerging technologies like carbon capture and storage, then days later announce this expert body on climate change.
“Surely that decision is something the committee of experts will have had an opinion on.
“It’s incredibly frustrating that the Minister is picking and choosing what requires expert advice and what should remain a political football.”
National Party Spokesperson for Climate Change Todd Muller welcomes the release of the draft report released by the Productivity Commission today but is warning of the risks of going too far too fast.
“The report calls for careful preparation and balance as we transition to a low emissions economy,” Mr Muller says.
“It builds on the significant work undertaken by the previous Government on increasing renewable energy, increasing the number of electric vehicles and reforming the Emissions Trading Scheme to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.
“National is proud to have signed New Zealand up to the Paris Agreement, committing to ambitious 2030 and 2050 emissions targets. We have done well holding emissions steady through a period of strong economic and population growth, with emissions intensity decreasing relative to GDP.
“We have to reduce emissions significantly to meet our international obligations, but it’s important that we transition in a way that maximises opportunity and minimises costs.
“It is also important to adjust at the pace of available technology and remain conscious of our competitors and the wider global response. For instance, bringing agriculture into the ETS would make us the only country in the world to expose our industry in this way, making us outliers, not leaders.
“Going too far too fast could decimate our most productive sectors, costing jobs and actually increasing global emissions. Introducing agriculture to the scheme at the very entry level of 90% free allocation and $50 a tonne would cost the agricultural sector $190 million a year.
“The more extreme estimates of carbon prices of $250 a tonne and no free allocation would cost the agricultural sector $9.7 billion a year and wipe out the entire industry.
“My concern is that if we push too hard and fast here, we could leave communities behind. The National Party will support the careful preparation and balance needed to ensure a just transition to a lower carbon economy.”
The Government’s raid on regional New Zealand is ramping up, with Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor telling farmers they’ll be taxed thousands for carbon emissions, National’s Nathan Guy and Todd Muller say.
“Mr O’Connor has reportedly told East Coast farmers they’ll be taxed around $5000 to offset their carbon emissions,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“He’s pulling numbers out of the air before the interim Climate Change Committee even begins its work.
“This will rip millions of dollars out of regional economies, leaving farmers with less to spend in their local communities, or for environmental initiatives like riparian planting along their waterways.
“It does nothing but place more pressure on farmers who are already feeling under attack by this Coalition Government. Farmers are already battling with increasing compliance costs and finding skilled labour, and are now facing paying more for carbon emissions and fuel, while getting fewer new roads, as well as having $100 million for irrigation projects ripped from their communities.
“This decision should be about investing wisely in technology not tax. That means partnering with farmers to help provide the ‘tools in the toolbox’ with scientific solutions,” Mr Guy says.
“For Mr O’Connor to stand in front of a room of East Coast farmers and send a clear signal that they will soon be paying for their carbon emissions really calls into question the integrity of the mandate of terms of reference the Interim Climate Change Committee is working to,” National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Is the committee going to be truly free to carry out an open minded, objective assessment of the merits of including agriculture in the ETS or is it setting out to confirm a predetermined outcome for the Government? We know what the Greens want but is that in the best interests of New Zealand?
“Mr O’Connor is assuming this is a done deal which makes an absolute mockery of the consultation process that is supposedly planned.
“The Agriculture Minister is talking about the Government making ‘hard decisions’ but it’s not them that will find it hard – it’s the farmers and growers and regional communities who are being forced to pay the price of its mounting bad ideas.
“If we force agriculture into the ETS before this technology is available it will amount to nothing more than another unfair tax on farmers and regional New Zealand.”
National stands behind New Zealand’s international commitments to reducing emissions but has cautioned against drastic action which will unfairly impact New Zealand farmers and businesses, spokesperson for Climate Change Todd Muller says.
“The Government has today established an Interim Climate Change Committee that will work on New Zealand’s efforts to meet our international climate change commitments – and right away set it the task of targeting regional New Zealand.
“New Zealand’s international commitments were made by the previous National Government because we believe New Zealand can and should play its part – but that we must do so in a sustainable way.
“We must also do it in a way that recognises the unique challenges we face – including the fact half of our emissions come from agriculture and we don’t yet have a cost effective way of mitigating them.
“But the fact the first task the Government’s committee has been assigned is how to bring agriculture into New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme shows a worrying lack of concern for our farmers and economy.
“Forcing agriculture into the ETS before we have the technology available to reduce emissions without culling stock will amount to nothing more than another unfair tax on farmers and regional New Zealand.
“The target of 100 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2035 also shows the Government does not fully understand the complexities of the challenge – or how vulnerable such a reliance could leave New Zealand’s electricity network.
“There are other issues where the committee’s efforts and considerable experience and expertise would be better focused in the meantime, for example how we might achieve a faster and broader economy-wide uptake of renewable transport.
“So far this just looks like another win for the Greens over NZ First and a raid on regional New Zealand.”
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller’s Members’ Bill which would give clarity around dividend rules has been drawn from the ballot and will be debated in Parliament.
“I am pleased that my Members’ Bill, the Companies (Clarification of Dividend Rules in Companies) Amendment Bill, has been drawn from the ballot. This Bill would amend the Companies Act 1993 to provide legal certainty around dividend rules,” Mr Muller says.
“There is currently doubt about the ability of a company’s constitution to provide for ‘dry shares’. These are shares which do not carry dividend rights in prescribed circumstances and are typically used in cooperatives when the shareholder no longer supplies the cooperative.
“Currently, section 36 of the Act suggests that provision for dry shares can be made in the constitution of a company. However, section 53 can be read in a manner that would seem to negate that right. This amendment seeks to clear up this historic confusion, which will provide much more clarity for cooperatives and shareholders.
“This simple amendment is supported by Cooperative Business New Zealand and makes it categorically clear that the constitution of a company can provide that shares in a class do not confer a right to receive dividends in the circumstances specified in the constitution.
“Zespri has also welcomed the clarity this Member’s Bill would offer on this point which has created challenges for them in the past as a grower-owned organisation. This change would help simplify the shareholding rules for both Zespri and their kiwifruit grower-shareholders.
“Most of my professional career has been in New Zealand’s agricultural sector, where cooperatives flourish, and I know from first-hand experience the challenges that have occurred around the interpretation of the current act.
“The passage of this Bill will build on the work that the previous National Government carried out to make doing business in New Zealand easier. I will be seeking cross-party support for this Bill from first to final reading.”
The National Party welcomes a report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) outlining recommendations on how New Zealand can transition to a low carbon economy, Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“National is up for the conversation about the steps we can take as a country to transition to a lower carbon economy. We all want to ensure that our natural environment can be enjoyed by our children and their children but it must be done carefully so as not to shock established sectors.
“There are a number of very substantive proposals in the report, which we will discuss as a Caucus, but it's good that the PCE has acknowledged a Climate Change Commission would need to take into account New Zealand’s particular and specific circumstances.
“We believe it is possible to drive environmental improvements while continuing economic growth, but we need to make sure we get the balance right.
“The Government has signalled it will seek Opposition feedback in drafting climate change legislation and we look forward to that,” Mr Muller says.
The Government needs to explain how it will ensure Māori continue to make real progress, after axing the public targets which have helped drive improvements in everything from education to immunisation, National’s Crown/Iwi Relations spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“The Better Public Services targets have had an immense impact on the lives of New Zealanders – and led to real improvement in the lives of Māori.
“The National-led Government focused on working alongside Māori to make real inroads in areas including child immunisations, crime, economic development, education and domestic violence, leading to real results including:
- Almost 75 per cent of Māori 18-year-olds achieved NCEA Level 2 in 2016, up from just 57 per cent in 2011
- 95 per cent of Māori children are now participating in early childhood education, up from 90 per cent in 2011
- The number of children who experience physical abuse has reduced by 3 per cent – significantly better than the total population
- A 38 per cent reduction in Māori Youth Offending between 2010 and 2016
- 6 per cent of 8-month-old Māori children were immunised in 2016, up from 75.1 n 2012
“These represent real progress for Māori, and a platform to continue to build on and that’s exactly what should be happening.
“Taking these goals away will mean a less-focused public service, right when it was preparing to take the next steps to really dig into the hard core drivers of deprivation and to make real, long term changes for the better.
“Put bluntly, you can’t meaningfully progress on these complex societal challenges if you aren’t prepared to articulate and measure the change you seek – you just end up with words and good intentions.
“Coupled with this Government’s arrogant and paternalistic approach to Maori leadership there’s a real chance that this recent progress will be halted and that cannot be allowed to happen.
“The Government needs to show leadership and work with Maori, not abdicate its accountability while dictating an unclear path to progress.”
National MPs Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty and Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel have today launched a campaign to ensure the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.
“The previous National-led Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand, including the delivery of not only the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL) and the Katikati bypass, but also a full four-lane motorway from Tauranga to Katikati,” Mr Simpson says.
“These projects would greatly improve safety and travel times, better connect our regions and boost regional economic growth. However, the new Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, has now indicated a number of these projects are under review.
“The by-pass of Katikati was warmly welcomed locally and this critical investment must go ahead with construction of the TNL beginning this year as planned. The road must also go all the way to Tauranga because that stretch of highway is currently one of the most dangerous in the country.”
“The Road of National Significance that includes the TNL would see a continuous four-lane State Highway with wide lanes, grade separated intersections and other safety measures stretching from Tauranga to Katikati,” Mr Muller says.
“I am particularly focused on ensuring our Omokoroa community is provided with a grade separated connection onto State Highway 2, and the work has to start immediately.
“This investment is critically important for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty region and the Government has wrongly thrown the project into uncertainty.
“Our local National team will be pushing the Government to commit to the project and we encourage the public to show their support and ensure our region’s voice is heard loud and clear through signing this petition.”
The petition can be found here.
Today’s reduction of transition measures for New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme sets up this year’s important climate change debate, National Party Climate Change Spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“January 1st is a key date in New Zealand’s climate change policy as we take the next step in removing the one-for-two transitional measures for Kiwi businesses,” Mr Muller says.
“From today the 67 per cent surrender obligation for emissions units for 2017 increases to 83 per cent in advance of a full surrender obligation for all sectors in the New Zealand ETS from 1 January next year.
“These changes set the scene for this year’s debate on climate change when the new Government intends to re-visit New Zealand’s climate charge targets and set up an Independent Climate Commission.
“It’s important that new Minister James Shaw ensures the significant climate change discussions that await both Parliament and communities across New Zealand this year are anchored in sound evidence and supported by considered reflection, not adversarial rhetoric.
“Today’s changes confirm the Government does not enter this debate with a blank sheet, but a detailed series of actions already committed to by the previous Government.
“The phasing out of transition measures is one of a raft of actions the previous National-led Government had underway in order to meet its commitment to the Paris Accord and head towards the demanding 2050 target of 50 per cent fewer emissions than our 1990 levels.
“An informed discussion on further ambition to current targets may well have some merit, but it must be characterised by acknowledgement of the progress already made, and a dispassionate evidence-based assessment on how change will impact day-to-day lives of our people.
“We will not progress a useful nationwide discussion on climate change if politicians quickly move to partisan defence of either their record or their ambition and cloaking their respective arguments with the perceived failures of each other’s visions.
“I welcome this year’s climate change debate,” Mr Muller says. “But it must be informed by the best available science and practice, and continue to have the feel of proportionality.
“The National Party is up for it, I hope the Government is too.”
Businesses and communities around New Zealand will be welcoming the Government’s announcement that it will take its time introducing new climate change legislation, National Party Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Legislation like this has the potential to materially change our trajectory as a country. If done badly, it could have real consequences to New Zealand’s communities and the businesses and families that make them up, so this conversation must not be rushed.
“Transitioning to a lower carbon economy may provide real economic opportunities in clean tech industries, but it could also cause significant shock and pain to our established sectors - and economic prosperity - if it is not managed in a way that is proportional to our impact, or if it is disconnected with what our trading partners are considering.
“The Coalition Government inherits a strong framework to reduce our carbon emissions profile over time. The National Government committed to the Paris Agreement in 2015 and ratified it last year. It’s our strong view that any extension to the 2030 and 2050 commitments will need considered in consultation with stakeholders across all our communities.
“The Government has signalled it will seek Opposition feedback and support in drafting climate change legislation, which we look forward to. I’m particularly interested in testing how a successful model like the UK Independent Climate Commission might work here.
“Our primary focus for the conversations ahead of us is that any transition to a low carbon economy must ensure local communities can adjust and thrive, rather than seeking accolades from the UN.