Climate change: It’s economic, not environmental, says James Shaw

Rural Exchange 09/06/2018

New Zealand's plan to tackle climate change took another step last week, with Climate Change Minister James Shaw launching a public consultation for the Zero Carbon Bill.

The consultation will focus on the direction the Zero Carbon Act will go, particularly whether a new emissions reduction target for 2050 should treat all gases that cause climate change the same. 

Mr Shaw told Rural Exchange that climate change is rooted in the way New Zealand manages its various industries.

Climate Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

“People keep saying it’s an environmental problem; actually, I’d say it’s an economic problem with environmental consequences.”

Mr Shaw pointed out that Zero Carbon Bill is designed to “guide the economy” in a certain direction over the course of the next three decades in order to mitigate New Zealand’s carbon footprint.

Such legislation is essential for Kiwis to have their say, he explained, which is precisely why the Minister has launched the 6-week consultation.

I’d say it’s an economic problem with environmental consequences.

The public consultation will prompt nationwide public meetings and online submissions for the Government to gather people’s views.

“I think it’s really important every Kiwi has the opportunity to have some input.”

Mr Shaw said that public opinion doesn’t necessarily need to be backed by scientific evidence, as the Government wants to hear different perspectives.

“We’ve actually got plenty of input from the science community. And we need to hear a broad range of views,” he told Rural Exchange.

When asked by host Sarah Perriam whether soil carbon will be part of the climate change conversation, Mr Shaw agreed that New Zealand needs to invest in the science of it.

Mr Shaw compared the future of the Zero Carbon Act with the time former US president John F Kennedy asked Congress for money to send a man to the moon.

“[Kennedy] actually said in his speech ‘we don’t know how to do it right now’… But you make a commitment to something, and then you invest in the science and the technology.”

Beef + Lamb New Zealand supports the option for splitting gases into long-lived gases and short-lived gases, where long-lived gases are aimed for net zero by 2050 while short-lived gases (like methane) are stabilised.

Federated Farmers dairy sector chair Andrew Hoggard told The AM Show on Thursday that farmers want to see the Zero Carbon Bill recognise the difference between methane and carbon dioxide.

But the agricultural leader said farmers have "some trepidation" that taking steps to protect the environment may have an unnecessary impact on the farming community.

Watch the full interview with James Shaw above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.