The Government has released its $2.9 billion plan to get Aotearoa to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Here are four of the key steps that will help New Zealand reach a net-zero future:

1. Scrap-and-replace trial to help families move to electric vehicles

A new Clean Car Upgrade scheme will help low and middle-income people buy low-emission cars in exchange for scrapping their old cars. 

The initial trial will start early next year with 2500 vehicles, costing $30 million. 

The full programme aims to be running by 2024/2025 and will cost $570m over four years.

About $20m will also be put towards a 'social leasing trial' for low-income families to lease electric vehicles from a community organisation. This will take place from early 2023 in three communities.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said the Government is also looking at capping the cost of buying an electric vehicle at $35,000 and offering a $10,000 subsidy to allow families to buy an electric vehicle or hybrid car.

Overall $1.2b of the Climate Emergency Response Fund will support people’s move to public transport, increase walking and cycling and accelerate the uptake of cleaner vehicles. This includes an investment in improving electric vehicle charging stations and a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035.

"That is expected to reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 181,000 cars off the road between now and 2035,” Wood said. 

2. Nationalised curbside waste collection service

Most New Zealanders will have access to a curbside food waste collection service by 2030. 

This will reduce and divert organic waste going to landfills.

All landfills that take household waste will also need to have gas capture systems by 2026. 

Landfill gas naturally occurs when organic material decomposes in landfills. This gas escapes into the atmosphere, producing methane and odours. 

Instead this gas can be captured and converted into a renewable energy resource. 

The Government will also be investing in waste infrastructure such as composting, and other organic processing and resource recovery facilities. 

This will cost $103m over four years.

3. Introducing a price on agricultural emissions from 2025

The Government will invest $710m over four years to help reduce agriculture emissions. 

The plan includes incentivising farmers to reduce their impact on the climate by being the first in the world to introduce a price on agricultural emissions from 2025.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said "our economic security depends on New Zealand's food and fibre sector”.

"It's our biggest export earner but also our largest contributor to emissions, and if we don't take action now we will be at risk as consumer preferences evolve."

The Government will invest $339m to accelerate the development of technologies and practices to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, including the establishment of the new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions.

4. Incorporating mātauranga Māori into New Zealand’s climate response

The plan also includes new avenues for Māori and the Government to work together. 

For example, developing a Māori climate strategy and action plan that will elevate te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori. 

A new platform will be established to enable tangata whenua to participate in the climate response and ensure funding and resourcing targets community action, kaupapa Māori, and tangata Māori actions and solutions.

The Government’s Vision Mātauranga policy centres the science and innovation potential of mātauranga Māori across priority investment areas. 

The Government is also committing to funding tikanga-based agriculture programmes to reduce emissions. 

‘A landmark day’ in New Zealand’s climate response

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today was a landmark day in New Zealand's climate history.

“This is a challenge I know New Zealand can succeed in. Our plan is achievable because it includes a role for the Government as well as for every community and sector of the economy.”

Ardern said addressing climate change now will bring down the cost of living for New Zealanders.

“Households are already seeing the impact of escalating petrol prices and this plan sets out practical ways to cut power, transport, and energy."

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said New Zealand is on track "to bend the curve of its emission downwards for the first time in history".

"The plan we have published today lays the path towards a net-zero future where more people can purchase EVs, our towns and cities have world-leading public and active transport infrastructure, our highest emitters have switched to clean and reliable energy, our farmers are growing food in ways that help the climate and more of our homes are warmer and more affordable to heat,” he said.

Emission targets still not enough

University of Otago’s Climate Change Research Network member and professor, Lisa Ellis, says while this climate change infrastructure will do its job eventually, Monday’s emissions budgets are “unfair and insufficient”. 

“We know that greenhouse gases must be halved by 2030 if we are to keep the hope of a climate-stable world alive, and emissions of short-lived, high-impact gases including methane must fall even faster,” Ellis said. 

“As a country with one of the world’s highest per capita emissions, we have a responsibility to do our fair share by taking prompt action to prevent runaway climate change.”

Top image: Traffic jam in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: iStock

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