A good thing

NZETS.jpgThere are signs that sanity might be emerging from the nitty gritty of the ETS review. On Friday Carbon News reported that Labour and the Greens had approached National to offer their support for an amended ETS, undercutting any influence ACT may have sought. Charles Chauvel, Labour’s climate spokesman, told Carbon News that it was a serious offer:

“It’s serious and thought-through,” he said. “We had a talk in our caucus and think it’s got to the point were they (the Government) have got themselves so tied up and captive to one side that if we don’t offer to be the circuit-breaker we won’t have an ETS.”

According to CN, climate minister Nick Smith had responded positively. That’s excellent news, because as I said in my submission to the ETS Review, the country really needs to build a long-term cross-party consensus on climate policy.

Also on Friday, in a press release about NZ’s stance in the next phase of K2 negotiations at Bonn, Smith took the opportunity to confirm that the government was still committed to “50 by 50”, and a global target for greenhouse gases:

“New Zealand supports a global goal of long-term stabilisation of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a concentration of no higher than 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalents. This goal will be kept under review based on latest available intergovernmental assessments of science,” says Dr Smith.

Good. That’s the first time I’ve seen Smith commit to a global target, but I’m not sure he realises what 450 ppm CO2e really means. Consider the more than slightly inconvenient fact that we’re already at 450 ppm CO2e, but much of that is being masked by aerosols (aerosols bring the warming effect back to about the same level as current CO2 levels — 387 ppm). He might have meant 450 ppm CO2, or perhaps be factoring in a substantial overshoot before achieving stabilisation. In any event, if New Zealand is going to accept emissions targets similar to other developed countries, we’ll have to do better than 50 by 50, or risk being seen as free-riders.
Finally: two good articles on what ETS “harmonisation” with Australia might mean. There’s a thorough analysis by top law firm Chapman Tripp here, and an interesting piece by Brian Fallow in the Herald here. Bottom line? Linking the schemes is possible, but given Australia’s very different emissions profile and scheme design, could mean watering the NZ ETS down significantly. It would also mean much more support for “trade exposed” businesses — so expect the usual suspects to rush to support linking the schemes.

[St Etienne]

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