NZ emissions target announced: unambitious, ineffective and morally repugnant

ASTargets.jpgClimate change minister Tim Groser today released New Zealand’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (pdf) to emissions reductions after 2020 — a 30% decrease on gross emissions in 2005, equivalent to an 11% reduction on 1990 levels. Groser’s press release described this as a “more ambitious climate change target” and “a significant increase on our current target of five per cent below 1990 emission levels by 2020.” This can only be true for definitions of “ambitious” and “significant” that include doing sweet Fanny Adams. The minister is spinning like a top.

Groser was given free reign to continue his dissembling by Radio New Zealand’s political editor Brent Edwards on Checkpoint this evening. Just before the end of the segment, Groser waxes lyrical about the costs of action — “$1,270 a year” — and then makes this amazing counterfactual statement (roughly transcribed):

The burden of advice from our officials and the independent think tanks that have done the modelling is that this is all cost and it has to be born by someone.

Some facts for the minister: the modelling released by his officials as part of the consultation process, the results of which have been so comprehensively ignored, did not consider the costs of inaction, did not model the co-benefits of action or of innovation, and modelled costs were compared to an unrealistic baseline of no government action to reduce emissions at all.

In other words, the minister was being grossly misleading in what he said. If he does not know that’s what his department’s economic modelling said, then he is failing in his ministerial responsibilities on this most serious of issues and should be held to account. If he does know that’s what the modelling said, but was prepared to misrepresent it to RNZ’s political editor and the wider National Radio audience, then he is guilty of telling a deliberate falsehood, and should resign. Either way, Groser was being glib, arrogant and ignorant — an unedifying sight in a senior minister.

There is no sign in the target announcement made today, or in any part of this government’s climate policy that they understand the true seriousness of the issue that confronts NZ and the planet as a whole. They appear to have no appreciation of the strategic and management blunders they are making, all in the name of keeping semi-mythical costs down. The new target, described by Professor Ralph Sims as “low ambition”, doesn’t even set NZ on course for the government’s own 50% reduction by 2050 commitment, let alone address the need for a more credible 100% reduction by that date.

The legacy that Groser and the Key government will leave to the future will not be a new flag, it will be a New Zealand crippled by their smug, arrogant and morally repugnant climate inaction.

See also:

MfE page on new target.

Summary of submissions made to the consultation process.

NZ Herald: Climate change pledge “highly conditional”

Green Party: Govt’s emissions reduction target 100% pure spin

Labour: Government has no credible climate change plan

Science Media Centre: expert reaction

For more reaction, see

8 thoughts on “NZ emissions target announced: unambitious, ineffective and morally repugnant”

  1. Nobody could sensibly have ever expected the National government to act meaningfully on climate.

    They are climate science deniers and market worshipers to the core.

  2. Groser and co are no doubt congratulating themselves on how clever they’ve been. Do we continue to willing engage in this charade?
    This issue is being dealt with using a very similar process to changing the flag – and yet there is no equivalence.

  3. I agree with your comments about Tim Groser, and I would love to see some way to get him to engage seriously with the point made by the submitters – but how? Nevertheless if the 11% reduction target is achieved it will be good progress towards 2050.

    1990 emissions 66.7 Mt CO2e
    2013 emissions 81 Mt CO2e
    2030 target 59.2 Mt CO2e (-11% on 1990)
    2050 target 33.3 Mt CO2e (-50% on 1990)

    So it looks to me like we need to cut emissions by 1.3 Mt/yr to 2030 and also by 1.3 Mt/yr in 2030-2050. The 2030 target lies exactly on a straight line between 2013 and 2050 – maybe that’s how it was produced!

    Comments in the media that the target represents a slowing down of our emissions cuts, and not on track for 2050, don’t seem correct to me. They represent a massive acceleration compared to our current (pathetic) performance.

    The important issue to me is that we have made no progress at all so far, and have no effective strategy in place for the future. That is what makes it such a challenge.

    The UK is now down 36% on 1990 levels, or about 1.4% a year. That is what we have to do too, starting now. More would be better, and achievable, but let’s get to 1.4% a year first.

    1. The trouble is there is a target – but no plan – other than fiddling with the ETS. During the rounds of consultations the panel were asked directly how our current “kyoto acounting” produced nett emissions which were well below our Gross emissions. Of course the answer was the purchase from overseas of highly suspect carbon credits at ridiculously low prices. This sort of nonsense cannot be allowed to continue and NZ must work to genuinely reduce its carbon emissions rather than rely on the efforts of others.
      At present there is no plan by Government, and we will achieve nothing except a continued increase in gross emissions until our economy falls off the rails, as it inevitably will, with such mismanagement.

  4. Robert M, you say “Nevertheless if the 11% reduction target is achieved it will be good progress towards 2050”.
    Yeah! It would be!
    I think we need to understand that this target, just like its predecessors, is a complete fiction. Groser and National have no intention of ever adopting any measure that will make NZ’s greenhouse gases deviate from continued ‘business as usual’ growth.
    Note that the website says; “New Zealand will meet these responsibility targets through a mix of domestic emission reductions, the removal of carbon dioxide by forests and participation in international carbon markets.”

    Brian Fallow says the MFE’s (dodgy) economic modelling assumes 80% of the “reduction” will be “met” by buying international carbon units. On that basis, they can then just repeat the Kyoto Gross-Net forest accounting fudge of saying the baseline is ‘gross’ or total emissions and that the target will be ‘net’ including credits for afforestation and reforestation. There we have it! Zero domestic reductions in emissions.

    Note also the very conditional language in the INDC sent to the UNFCCC and in Groser’s press release.

    The target is provisional and conditional on 1) access to carbon markets, 2) land use and forest rules NZ agrees with (presumably to keep the Kyoto Gross Net fudge), and 3) effective and affordable mitigation technology for agriculture.

    On that basis, NZ might start to reduce domestic emissions but only if the rest of the world at the UNFCCC Paris December 2015 meeting bends over backwards to meet Tim Groser’s unattainable provisos.

    Whatever approach Paris 2015 takes and whether it “succeeds” or not, the rules of whatever agreement, if there is one, will probably take several more years to thrash out. All of which enables NZ to claim the conditions haven’t been met, so no reductions. Even if some perfect rules appear, NZ can say “Sorry our little-battling-punching-above-its-weight Agricultural Research Centre still hasn’t given us affordable mitigation for pastoral agriculture. This is real “heads we win, tails the atmosphere loses” approach.

    1. ^^^^^ This.
      Groser and co have no intention of doing anything constructive with respect to meeting this most flimsiest of targets. The whole process has been a complete sham.
      An excellent summary Mr F

  5. `This is real “heads we win, tails the atmosphere loses” approach.
    No its more heads or tails we loose. The atmosphere (and the planet) will continue as it has for billions of years regardless of the existence or otherwise of the human species.
    Its not the planet we need be concerned with its our existence on it.
    With the current disastrous effect of barely one degree under our belt why would any sane person want to contemplate a two degrees limit and there’s many who are happy to entertain three or four degrees.
    We are sleep walking to our demise. Thanks Tiny Tim and Shonkey.

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