Briefing paper

When the facts change: how the ICCC saved New Zealand from a policy disaster

Global environmental change Climate change mitigation Energy Energy industries Renewable energy New Zealand

The government’s decision to put the 100% renewables policy on ice and prioritise other more effective emissions policies was because an expert committee dared to rewrite its terms of reference and do something the government had not asked for: test the policy.

And it was not just any policy but the flagship environmental policy of a newly elected government. Enshrined in the coalition agreement between Labour and the Greens, the policy committed the country to generating all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035 in “normal hydrological years”.

Analysis by the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC) showed that although 100% renewables would lower electricity sector emissions, it would also raise the cost of electricity – this jeopardises far greater emissions reductions elsewhere in the economy. Effectively, 100% renewables would make New Zealand’s overall emissions targets even harder to achieve.

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