Spotlight on New Zealand: Climate Targets and Outlook for Paris

Published on: May 19, 2015

Filed Under: New Zealand, News

New Zealand has yet to publish its intended Nationally Determined Contribution in the lead up to COP 21 in Paris. That said, public officials have indicated an intention to table New Zealand’s INDC by the middle of the year and have undertaken to directly consider the views of New Zealanders in setting the state’s climate response targets.


Public Consultation for New Zealand’s INDC

On the 7th of May, New Zealand’s Minister for Climate Change Issues, Hon Tim Groser, announced public consultation on New Zealand’s post 2020 climate change target. This target will make up a large component of the state’s intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).

To assist members of the public in expressing their views, the Government released a public discussion document and short video elaborating New Zealand’s circumstances in the lead up to COP 21. It also arranged numerous public meetings and hui around the country, in an effort to inform the public about how New Zealand’s climate change targets are to be decided. Details of meeting dates and venues (occurring throughout May), as well as information on how to make a submission, are available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.

Submissions on New Zealand’s targets close on June the 3rd. Interestingly, this date coincides with the next round of ADP negotiations occurring in Bonn, Germany. While this cannot be a coincidence, the public submissions will not inform New Zealand’s position at Bonn. They will barely be received, let alone compiled or assessed. If New Zealand is serious about taking the views of the public into account, one cannot help but wonder why public consultation was not undertaken sooner.

The Current State of Affairs

On the 1st of May, New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassador and lead negotiator for Paris, Jo Tyndall, gave a public lecture at the Victoria University of Wellington. There, she indicated that New Zealand’s INDC would likely be tabled “around the middle of the year.” We note that this leaves very little time to consider the views of submitters following the ADP negotiations at Bonn.

Tyndall also elaborated on her outlook for the upcoming Paris Conference, highlighting that “complete international participation” was the number one priority. She outlined her take on COP21 as an opportunity to set things in motion for the long-term, describing the likely agreement as one of “bounded flexibility” – that is, an agreement which creates long term norms and expectations, while maintaining short term flexibility in order to recognize a large variety of differentiated approaches. She indicated that sectorial approaches, accounting rules, and concentrated policies were unlikely to be unified at Paris; rather, states would be free to ‘pick and choose’ from a range of options tabled at Paris.

If, as Tyndall suggests, Paris does not result in agreed-upon on rules, it is hoped that at the very least it will result in a clear toolkit for the development of such rules in the future. The five-year period before the 2020 enforcement date will likely prove critical in the formation of such rules.

Regarding the draft text released after the first ADP session for 2015, Tyndall noted that it was more appropriate to describe this text as a “compilation of ideas” than as a true “negotiating text”. If the text is going to be useful come December, there is a need to clear out the duplications, clarify the language (to be treaty appropriate rather than permissive) and streamline the options (into single paragraphs that reflect key differences in viewpoint).

Ultimately, Tyndall was clear that, regardless of what happens in December, the Paris agreement alone will not be enough to stabilise temperature rise at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Nevertheless, it can set up a long term trajectory for doing so. Tyndall remains “cautiously optimistic”, noting that all of the major political players have committed to targets.

Simon Hillier and Tom Stuart

Image by Stewart Baird

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