$4.5b climate change fund to include te ao Māori

By James Perry

Māori will have a more substantial presence in response to climate change in the government's latest move to avoid the impacts of global warming on Aotearoa.

Today, the government committed $4.5b to the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) from revenue gathered from the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Some $710m of that will be directed towards reducing agricultural emissions and expanding the contribution of forestry to reducing carbon. Associate Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri says the fund, which will see more than $250m pumped into forestry, will help iwi to lower their carbon emissions in their growing primary sector businesses.

“Māori agribusiness has a big role to play in the years ahead as we make the most of blending our traditional knowledge to protect the land and environment and help drive productivity,”  Whaitiri says.

"It’s about determining the most appropriate uses for our whenua, adopting new technology to reduce emissions, and providing on the ground support to make the changes.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the plan was created on a set of principles that included Te Tiriti o Waitangi and equity as well as focusing on building a more productive and sustainable economy while addressing the many climate change-related 'crises' in Aotearoa and across the globe. 

Te Ao Māori approach

The government also confirmed a Māori government advisory board, a Māori specific climate strategy would be created, and added funding to support Mātauranga Māori solutions to the climate issues.

To that end, one of the criteria for CERF funding in this year's government budget requires any prospective initiatives to support a te ao Māori approach to the climate response. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government's Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), which aims to tackle the climate crisis fast approaching the 1.5C threshold, is achievable and will bring down the cost of living for households.

“Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will shield households from the volatility of international price hikes while reducing transport and energy bills. 

“Households are already seeing the impact of escalating petrol prices and this plan sets out practical ways to cut power, transport and other costs by taking climate-friendly actions. 

“Cutting agriculture emissions and greening our exports protects our brand in a market where international consumers are looking for products produced with care for the climate."

Social car-leasing

The ERP will also provide targeted assistance to low- and middle-income households to transition to low-emission vehicles.

The Clean Car Upgrade will see 2500 vehicles provided initially in a trial to help whānau who have been unable to trade their vehicles for cleaner vehicles despite the government's Clean Car Discount scheme.

“Through supporting the uptake of cleaner vehicles, we are not only helping families do their bit for our planet but also protecting them and our economy from future economic shocks and high fuel prices," Transport Minister Michael Wood says. "This will also help safeguard New Zealand by reducing our international dependency on fossil fuels.

Shaw says, “Families who trade in their vehicle will receive support for the purchase of EVs, PHEVs and hybrids. By taking advantage of the Clean Car Upgrade, families will not only benefit from lower transport costs but will also be able to replace their high-emitting older vehicles with a safe and sustainable alternative.

“For some families owning a vehicle is a luxury, which is why we are also trialling a social leasing scheme that will support low-income families to lease a safe, low-emission vehicle from a community organisation. The trial is expected to operate from early 2023 in three communities to test its effectiveness across New Zealand. This will provide a leg up to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to shift to a low-emission vehicle, helping them reduce their living costs and get ahead."

In addition to the number of initiatives announced today by the government, Finance Minister Grant Robertson more will be revealed in this year's Budget, due to be presented on Thursday.