What the coalition agreements mean for climate change action
There are some unexpected provisions in the coalition agreements about climate, but the primary issue of meeting targets without a means to achieve them remains
Mōrena, and welcome to The Bulletin for Wednesday, November 29, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: smoke-free law reversal reverberates around the world; Deputy prime minister confirms he as ‘at war’ with the media; OCR isn’t expected to change, but the RBNZ’s mandate is but first, as Cop 28 kicks off in Dubai, what do the coalition agreements say about climate action?
Cop 28 host planned to use role to broker oil and gas deals
With the United Nations climate conference, Cop 28, due to start on November 30, the already controversial decision to host it in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, has become even more heated. Documents obtained by independent journalists at the Centre for Climate Reporting working alongside the BBC reveal the UAE planned to use its role as host as an opportunity to strike oil and gas deals. They include references to Adnoc, the UAE's state oil company, being “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas] opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia. A Colombian minister was told that Adnoc “stands ready” to support Colombia to develop its fossil fuel resources.
Cop 28’s focus on food presents huge challenge for New Zealand
The credibility of the climate talks has been in question for a while, but journalist Rod Oram, who is attending the talks, told Q&A’s Jack Tame that the location will intensify the forum. The European parliament has called for a global deal at the summit to phase out fossil fuels, aiming to add pressure on countries to tackle CO2-emitting oil and gas. This year’s conference will be the first to have a major focus on food. Oram says a roadmap being delivered by the UN on how to reduce emissions from food production and agriculture represents a “radical reinvention of farming” and that presents a huge challenge for New Zealand. As Stuff’s Olivia Wannan reports, an announcement from Fonterra has made it clear to its milk suppliers that they must “make a green shift before 2030”, with the company aiming to cut the average emissions of its milk by 22%. Wannan writes, “after an election that seemingly hit the brakes on farmers taking climate action, Fonterra just gave it a rev up.”
National party ‘painted itself into a corner’ on targets without a way to achieve them
Wannan has also done an excellent job of reviewing the coalition agreements to determine what they mean for climate change action here. As expected, Wannan writes, “the coalition government has hit the brakes on climate and environmental action”, but the agreements contain some unexpected provisions and even one or two positives. There is an unexpected provision to “allow for the exploration of natural geological hydrogen” and a nod from NZ First to “incentivise the uptake of emissions reduction mitigations, such as low-methane genetics, and low-methane-producing animal feed”. The primary issue remains, however. The Zero Carbon Act has survived, and we remain committed to the Paris Agreement. Climate policy analyst Paul Winton says, “the National party has painted itself into a corner by agreeing to meet the 2025 and 2030 national targets without a credible way to achieve them.”
No climate or environment minister in cabinet
There is also the matter of both the new climate change minister, Simon Watts, and the new environment minister Penny Simmonds, sitting outside cabinet. Christopher Luxon had pledged to have a climate minister in cabinet in September. As Wannan reports, Forest & Bird’s Nicola Toki says considering how New Zealand’s environment attracts tourists, it was “very unwise” to have the roles outside cabinet.
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Global attention on smoking law reversal
International media have picked up on the new government’s plan to reverse what was touted as “world first” smoke-free laws. The BBC reports that UK prime minister Rishi Sunak's position remained unchanged after New Zealand's reversal. New Zealand's laws were believed to have inspired the UK government to announce a similar smoking ban for young people. The news has been included in the New York Times (NYT) The Morning newsletter today and covered in the NYT. Time Magazine reports that “critics and health ministers have called the plan a win for the tobacco industry.” Here, the Herald’s Derek Cheng (paywalled) sifts through various studies to examine the claims that the laws would grow the black market for tobacco and harm small retailers. He concludes critics of the smoke-free laws “maybe” have a point. The Herald’s Audrey Young writes (paywalled) that the issue has shown prime minister Christopher Luxon “how easy it is to lose control of the narrative” and given him his first lesson on accountability.
Deputy prime minister confirms he is ‘at war’ with the media
Deputy prime minister Winston Peters continues to claim that the media had been “bribed” through the Public Interest Journal Fund (PIJF) yesterday. As reporters left the first cabinet meeting, Peters addressed them, saying, “Before you go, can you tell the public what you had to sign up to, to get the money. Before you ask one more question, tell the public what you signed up to, to get the money. It's called transparency, okay? Thank you very much. Thank you”. Peters spoke to The Platform yesterday and agreed he was “at war” with the press gallery and mainstream media. Prime minister Christopher Luxon was asked about the comment earlier and said he had not seen them. He later ignored a follow-up question. 1News’ Anna Murray explains RNZ and TVNZ’s statutory editorial independence, and RNZ outlines what the PIJF fund did and did not cover. David Seymour has called Peters’ claims “not quite plausible” and “not passing the sniff test”, saying journalists are “pretty fierce about that independence”, but he remained critical of the policy more generally.
Andrew Shaw resigned from the board of NZ on Air yesterday after calling Peters “malicious” and the “worst of this gang of thugs” on LinkedIn in response to Peters’ comments about the media. NZ On Air is a Crown entity, and board members are meant to follow a code of conduct issued by the Public Service Commissioner, which includes being politically impartial.
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The Reserve Bank is expected to hold the OCR
There’s an official cash rate announcement today, the last for the year, and the consensus view is that the Reserve Bank will hold the rate where it is at 5.5% as it has done for the last four announcements. Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr says, “We remain of the view that the RBNZ has done more than enough to cool the economy and drive inflation back down to the 2.0% target midpoint.” As he did last year, delivering his “just cool the jets” line, RBNZ governor Adrian Orr will speak about the monetary policy committee’s thinking. That’s what people will be watching. If there is any hint of a rate cut in the future, markets are likely to price it in. Westpac chief economist Kelly Eckhold said the bank “was likely to talk tough about remaining where it was” for that reason.
The new government has also talked tough about the RBNZ, pledging to remove its dual mandate, which has given it a focus on inflation and maximum sustainable employment since 2018. Shanti Mathias explains the RBNZ’s dual mandate. BusinessDesk’s Rebecca Howard writes (paywalled) that the coalition agreements go further, with Act requiring the new government to take advice on giving the bank specific time targets on getting consumer price index increases back to between 1 - 3%, rather than “over the medium term”.
Click and Collect
New health minister, Dr Shane Reti, promises increased security in all 20 of the country’s emergency departments in time for Christmas
Landlords set for early tax refunds under a coalition agreement that accelerates a policy that allows them to reduce their tax bills. Analysis suggests the policy will cost close to $3b.
Public transport fares in Auckland will rise by 6.2% in February 2024
Northland leaders are happy the new government has committed to building a four-lane highway alternative for the Brynderwyn Hills
A cohort of kākāpō were returned to the mainland (to a sanctuary) in August for the first time in recent history, but a few of them are being sent back to an island after escape attempts
Feeling clever? Click here to play 1Q, Aotearoa’s newest, shortest daily quiz.
Alice Neville presents a handy guide to the meaning of the word “waka” for anyone who might need it. Luke Fitzmaurice-Brown explains how stripping our child protection law of its Tiriti provisions would be a huge step backwards. For The Cost of Being, a tech worker in her 50s shares what she spends. Sam Brooks speaks to artists and sector leaders about the massive CNZ funding changes. Matariki Williams reviews Rewi, a new book about a visionary New Zealand architect.
The Real Pod’s final episode will be streaming live on YouTube starting at 12pm today. Join Jane Yee, Alex Casey and Duncan Greive as they gather in the studio one last time to farewell The Spinoff’s longest-running podcast.
FYI: it looks like our site has a few issues this morning, so I can’t bring you this morning’s leads, but rest assured, we’re on it, and they’ll be up soon.
The Blacks Caps make a strong start against Bangladesh
Multiple companies across New Zealand and Australia claim they're still waiting to be paid for their work during the Fifa World Cup
Amateur sports clubs are struggling with a new law that requires they re-register under the new Incorporated Societies Act 2022 or face involuntary dissolution
Coming next week: Last Home Renters
Retirement was once synonymous with relaxation, but what if your income is $550 a week and you can’t find somewhere to live? Last Home Renters follows Rodney Patea as he struggles to find an affordable long-term rental while surrounded by large empty holiday mansions in the place he calls home on the Coromandel peninsula. The 15-minute documentary premieres on December 5 on The Spinoff.
Last Home Renters is made with the support of NZ On Air.
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