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TOP's Policy Priorities

Climate Change Action

Meaningful action on climate change

TOP’s Priorities are:

  • Wean our country off fossil fuels by 2050. If we are smart, we can do this in a way that improves our overall prosperity.
  • TOP would ‘dump the junk’ credits held by the government by cancelling surplus credits as at 2020 and ensuring our Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) stays closed to international trade. 
  • Ensure the Emissions Trading Scheme works properly, ploughing all revenue from a higher carbon price into helping households and businesses become more energy efficient, reducing their costs and emissions.
  • Ensure all large new investments take into account our low carbon future.
  • Reforest 1.1m ha of erosion prone land as soon as possible.
  • On agriculture, improving water quality will be our first priority, but this will help reduce nitrous oxide emissions (and possibly methane also). 

The science is clear; climate change is real and as a result we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by 2050. This is a great challenge for the world, but as a nation we should embrace the opportunity to reduce emissions. After nine years of doing nothing we are slipping behind other countries.

New Zealand is an innovative, adaptable nation. We can lead the world on reducing emissions, and even better we can profit from that leadership. Delay will not only load more costs onto future generations, it will also cost us precious opportunities to develop new technologies and markets.

TOP aims to take the most efficient and effective path to a low carbon economy. There is no time for delay, nor for a sentimental focus on any particular technology.

In the first instance that means focusing on doing the things that have the lowest cost, or may even save us money. Investment in energy efficiency will actually save many households and businesses money as well as reducing emissions. We also have 1.1m hectares of erosion-prone land that should be forested as soon as possible to reduce emissions, stop soil erosion and improve our rivers and lakes. 

We will fund this by ensuring that the Emissions Trading Scheme is a true cap and trade scheme. It will remain closed to foreign units, with government auctioning off its allowance.  This will push the price of carbon up over time. 

At the same time we have to be careful to ensure any new investments made don’t lock us into a dependence on fossil fuels past 2050. This means ending the bias towards roads over rail and shipping, and ensuring that all major new investments take into account the true cost of carbon. Local Authorities need to be able to implement charges to control traffic congestion in peak times and raise revenue to invest in public transport.

Regardless of our actions to reduce emissions, some communities such as South Dunedin will be impacted by sea level rise within our lifetime. A large disaster, far greater than the Christchurch earthquake is looming. This however is completely predictable, and as The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment recommends we need to discuss this issue now so that individuals, local authorities and government are all fully aware of their rights and responsibilities. 

Download the full policy document

FAQs

TOP and The Greens share the same aim of a zero carbon economy by 2050, however TOP wants to get there in the most efficient way possible. We want to use a price mechanism – the Emissions Trading Scheme – to incentivise change. The price of carbon will rise to reflect the challenge we have in reducing our emissions as per the 2030 target. The revenue generated will be redirected into growing trees (particularly on erosion prone land) and improving energy efficiency in households and businesses.

By contrast the Greens are suggesting a carbon tax (with a fixed price, which will be less effective at changing behaviour) and will return all revenue in tax cuts. 

A bad builder always blame his tools. The ETS is just a tool, and it is only as good as the person wielding it. The problem with the ETS is that the National Government allowed it to become polluted by cheap, fraudulent, foreign junk carbon credits from the Ukraine and Russia. New Zealand was the largest user of these credits per capita which put our money in the hands of foreign criminals, devastated our ETS, increased emissions and caused forests to be cut down and converted to dairy. It is a shameful record.

Regulation and taxes are also tools, and can also be misused and abused in the wrong hands. 

Science is rarely conclusive. However, the scientific consensus is that it is more than 95% likely to be man made. Delaying action on the basis of a less than 5% chance could end up being a very expensive strategy. And if you don’t believe the scientific consensus then you’re on the wrong website. 

Climate change isn’t going away, so we will need to be fossil fuel free by 2050. The longer we delay the greater the cost of transition will become. We will also miss out on potential business opportunities that will appear during the transition.

The actions we are suggesting to start with make sense to do regardless of reducing emissions; planting erosion prone land will stabilise soil and improve water quality, while improving the energy efficiency of households and businesses will save everyone money and make us more competitive. What’s not to like? 

We don’t favour any particular technology that might help us get rid of fossil fuels. It is all about getting the right incentives in place and letting people decide what to do. At the moment solar may be economic in some parts of New Zealand but generally there are better investments we can make to reduce emissions. 

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