With the first week of 2020 target consultations out of the way, here are a few reflections on what I heard in Christchurch, what happened elsewhere, and what the world’s been up to. Perhaps most hearteningly, the G8 nations (USA, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada & Italy) agreed that they would aim at limiting climate change to 2ÂºC of warming, target 80% emissions cuts for rich nations, and 50% cuts globally. Even if that’s not enough (Ban Ki Moon wasn’t all that impressed), it is at least a start. Meanwhile, the G5 group (China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa), also meeting at L’Aquila in Italy, called for rich nations to adopt a 40% by 2020 target. The international dynamics in the run-up to Copenhagen are all too clear…
Reports from this week’s 2020 target consultation meetings suggest that Nick Smith and Tim Groser (replaced in Christchurch by Adrian Macey, NZ’s climate ambassador) have had to face up to pretty solid support for a 40% target. Greenpeace laid on a star-studded night in Auckland (Jim Salinger told me today he enjoyed his date with Lucy Lawless), and there were certainly plenty of Sign On and 350.org people in the Christchurch session, as well as another voluble Gareth. The ODT and 350.org.nz report that Dunedin was much the same.
My reactions to Nick Smith’s presentation in Christchurch were mixed. He made all the right noises about supporting action, and emphasised that he was willing to work with Labour to achieve a lasting policy consensus — which is a key step in delivering certainty on the long term direction of policy. I have no doubt, given his comments, that an emissions trading scheme will emerge from the ETS Review process, but remain somewhat sceptical about how watered-down it will be. Smith was too keen to emphasise how hard it would be to make emissions cuts, yet did little more than pay lip service to the carbon sink side of the equation, and seemed able to quote at will from the Greenhouse Policy Coalition’s recent “40% will be too expensive” economic forecast.
I sat with AndrewH, and saw more than a few familiar faces in the crowd. It may have been the only public meeting in NZ history when two alumni of St Catherine’s College made short speeches (hi Rhys). Did I imagine seeing Smith and Macey sit up a little when I challenged them to move from 50 by 50? Overall, I was impressed with the passion of the contributions made from the floor, except possibly for the poor soul who spoke last. He spoke glowingly of Ian Wishart’s Air Con (to a smattering of polite boos), only to be advised by the Minister that Gareth Morgan’s Poles Apart was the better, and more accurate, reference.
The targets roadshow continues next week with public meetings in Hamilton, Napier, New Plymouth and Nelson. The ministers also have a session at the Institute of Policy Studies at VUW on the 15th which is by invitation only (I’d love to hear the proceedings) and a meeting with the Iwi Leadership Group. You can make submissions direct to Nick at n.smith AT ministers.govt.nz, and he will be taking part in a webcast panel discussion live online on Monday 20 July at 7-30pm here. Questions in advance to: 2020target AT mfe.govt.nz. No excuses. Make your voice heard.