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Government delays one of its “most significant” climate change policy changes

Wednesday 22 Dec 21 12:00pm


CABINET agreed on Monday to delay an amendment to the Resource Management Act that was trumpeted by climate change minister James Shaw as “one of the most significant policy changes to address climate change this term” when it was passed in June last year.

The amendment, which allows for consents to be declined on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Zero Carbon Act and New Zealand’s obligations under the Paris Accord, was due to come into force on December 31 this year.

Monday’s Cabinet decision - which was only made public via a Ministry for the Environment e-mail update on "the national direction of industrial heat"  - delays the amendment’s introduction until November 30 next year.

In a press release following the passing of the amendment in June last year,

James Shaw explained that under the RMA, prior to the amendment, Regional Councils couldn’t decline large climate-polluting projects – “even if they thought the climate impacts were problematic and should be considered."


“We’ve long called out this loophole that allowed the consenting of things like coal mines and fossil fuel power plants, without consideration of their impact on the climate,” James Shaw said.


“The late Jeanette Fitzsimons had a member’s bill on this and campaigned long and hard, right up until last year,” he said.


“In my view, this is one of the most significant policy changes to address climate change that we have done this term,” he said at the time.


James Shaw told Carbon News this morning he was disappointed by the delay and the party had disagreed with the proposal during consultation.


"The Green Party have fought for years to put climate change back in the RMA, so that consents for big polluting projects can be blocked, and Aotearoa NZ builds a cleaner, climate-friendly future," Shaw said.


"In my view, the delay to making these amendments is both unnecessary and contrary to the urgency with which the Government has agreed to tackle the climate crisis. We must do everything we can to lower our emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees – any decision inconsistent with that aim is, frankly, nonsensical.”


The exclamation given for the delay in The Ministry for the Environment email is that it will allow time to develop  “options for managing other greenhouse gas emissions (other than greenhouse gases emissions from industrial process heat) in the short term before the Natural and Built Environments Act and National Planning Framework are in place as part of the reform of the Resource Management System.”


The national direction on industrial process heat is expected to be approved by Cabinet in 2022.


A spokesperson for environment minister David Parker said he wasn't sure there was much to add to the MfE explanation.

Climate activist James Currie described the decision as “the worst Christmas present ever.”


“It’s gutting. This is arguably the key climate win of last year, and now Labour is backing down on it.


“Labour can't even keep to the few climate commitments they're making, let alone find the political will to do the other stuff that needs to be done – like phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and getting NZ off coal,” Currie said.


He said the timing of the decision suggested Cabinet was hoping it would go unnoticed with press gallery journalist largely already on holiday. “So much for transparency.”


Wellington Regional Councillor Thomas Nash, responding to a Tweet from Currie that broke the story, said: “Well that absolutely sucks and I say that as an RMA Commissioner who would like to be able to apply those new rules.”

Story copyright © Carbon News 2021
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