The decision to keep the Huntly coal thermal power station open for another four years is not only contrary to all New Zealand’s commitments and climate targets, it also sends the Ministry for the Environment’s projections of stabilising energy emissions to 2020 up in a cloud of coal smoke.
We seem to have had an extra dose of announcements and activities about climate change in an action-packed month of April.
In the wake of the Morgan Foundations hard-hitting report “Climate Cheats”, Simon Johnson (aka Mr February) asks if New Zealand Steel received millions of emission units for free under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme industrial allocation provisions and yet still bought millions of the dubious international Russian units (ERUs) to make windfall arbitrage profits.
The Morgan Foundation’s latest report “Climate Cheats” has been sizzling across the various media in the last week. The language of the report is refreshingly non-neutral and unashamedly emotive. It is in equal parts compelling and condemning.
Carbon credit scheme a farce, reported the Herald. Climate change cheating, said Radio New Zealand. Dodgy deals, climate swindle, climate fraudsters, junk carbon scam, said report author Geoff Simmons.
As a consequence, “Climate Cheats” is an easy and engaging read – no mean feat given the topic – that is also thoroughly well-researched. It really is a ‘high integrity’ credit to it’s authors (if you pardon the pun).
In this post I want to look specifically at one particular type of corporate conduct – arbitrage profiteering – covered in “Climate Cheats”.
I wonder if Paula Bennett thought she would get a soft jokey interview with that nice young man Jack Tame. She certainly didn’t. Tame takes the interview 110% seriously. He does not smile. He delivers his questions and his interruptions through a taught stone-face. And his questions are good questions.
We perhaps need to remember about a year ago, Jack Tame stood in for Mike Hosking on ‘Mike’s Minute’ and gave us a month of refreshingly different short pieces to camera. In that month, Jack Tame talked about climate change. And he concluded with a minute titled climate tipping points. So Tame takes climate change and climate change policy seriously.
Tame gives Bennett a couple of minutes to gush enthusiastically about the signing of the Paris Agreement. Then he cuts straight to the Morgan Foundation’s Climate Cheats report which alleges that the New Zealand Government was complicit in allowing dubious international carbon credits (Russian and Ukrainian and emission reduction units or ‘ERUs’) into the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.
Why would Fonterra spend several million dollars on a process lasting nearly a year, seeking planning consent for a huge new milk drier that it knows will never be built? Perhaps that’s not a lot of money to them – after all, one million is only three months’ salary for their CEO.
Fonterra’s proposed Studholme project, just outside of Waimate in South Canterbury, would see two new spray driers powered by two immense coal boilers – one 65MW, the other 50.
This is the biggest new coal burning project in the country, with the hearing happening just as our Minister for Climate Change is about to travel to New York to sign the Paris agreement where we undertook to reduce our greenhouse emissions a totally inadequate 11% below 1990 levels. (It’s even more inadequate when creative accounting turns this into more like +10%).
Expert panels to deliver up-to-date overview of climate risks and mitigation options
Last year the Royal Society of NZ set up two panels to look at what our current understanding of climate change means for New Zealand, and the findings are due to be published over the next two weeks. The first report, Climate Change Implications for New Zealand, will be released on Tuesday, April 19th. It was put together by a team led by VUW’s Prof Jim Renwick, with a brief to:
“prepare a succinct summary of existing New Zealand information around the risks associated with recent and projected trends in greenhouse gas emissions, and the likely consequences for New Zealand in future decades and centuries.”
The Implications report will be launched at the RSNZ in Wellington at 11 am on Tuesday (free admission, register here), and the Mitigation report will be launched at the same venue in Wellington on the 27th (register here), and in Auckland on the 29th (register here). The RSNZ has also arranged a series of talks by international experts Prof Jean Palutikof (Co-chair of IPCC 5th Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) and Prof Jim Skea, co-Chair of IPCC Working Group 3, on to accompany the reports. Details here.
I’ll have more on what the reports have to say after their release, but they promise to provide a very useful overview of what we’re confronting, and how we might move forward to address the problem. At the very least they should offer a concise framework for policy-makers and politicians to work with.