The bevy of regulatory impact statements and Bill of Rights Act reviews that accompany various Cabinet decisions and pieces of legislation will now have a new companion: a climate impacts assessment.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced that these reports “will be mandatory for policy and legislative proposals that are designed to reduce emissions, or which are likely to have consequential impacts on greenhouse emissions greater than 250,000 tonnes a year”.

“This could have quite a significant effect on helping to get all of Government aligned around the goals of the targets outlined in the Zero Carbon Act and in the Paris Agreement,” Shaw said.

The assessments will be carried out using a Ministry for the Environment tool developed to estimate emissions impacts.

“I’m delighted that we’ve developed a tool for the whole government to easily assess whether policies we’re considering at Cabinet will increase or reduce the emissions that impact on New Zealanders’ quality of life in decades to come,” Shaw said.

Shaw had previously introduced a members bill that would make such assessments mandatory for all legislation. He told Newsroom that this version of the policy was broader in scope because it also applied to Cabinet decisions. The 250,000-tonne baseline was necessary because “if we didn’t set a minimum level, you would end up having to do this work on literally every single decision, and that really isn’t practical”.

The 250,000-tonne figure represents around one third of a percent of New Zealand’s annual gross greenhouse emissions.

Greenpeace New Zealand’s Gen Toop told Newsroom that “it’s great that the Government will be required to have the climate emergency front of mind when making big decisions”.

“We already have several toothless climate tools like the watered down Zero Carbon Act and an Emissions Trading Scheme which exempts agriculture. So, we hope that this new tool will help the Government create legislation to directly and immediately cut emissions,” Toop added.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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