New Zealand needs to transform its agricultural sector if the country is to meet its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, the nation’s new climate change minister has said.
Green Party leader James Shaw said New Zealand was a developed country but had an emission profile of a developing country due to agriculture, which accounted for nearly half of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made tackling climate change one of her top priorities and committed last month to erase the nation’s carbon footprint by 2050.
The 2050 target, supported by the Green Party, would put New Zealand in the vanguard of climate change with Norway aiming for net zero emission by 2030 and Sweden by 2045, both by buying international carbon credits and planting trees.
‘‘It’s really an economic transformation program that we’re embarking on in many ways,’’ Mr Shaw said on the sidelines of a meeting at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation on Saturday.
The new target came after a report released in March by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned New Zealand of environmental impacts from intensive dairy farming, road transport and industry.
While the country only accounted for a small share of global emissions and generated 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, it had the second-highest level of emissions per GDP unit in the OECD, it said.
The agreement set a goal of ending the fossil fuel era this century and to limit warming to ‘‘well below’’ 2°C above pre-industrial times, ideally 1.5°C.
Mr Shaw said becoming a carbon neutral country was New Zealand’s ‘‘best contribution to being able to maintain global temperature rise to 1.5°C’’.
He said to achieve its ambition, the new government was looking to establish a carbon budget system similar to the one overseen by Britain’s Committee on Climate Change.
This system restricts the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions the country can emit in certain periods, preparing reports for parliament on the progress made.