Helter smelter: NZ Aluminium Smelters wins the 2011 Roger Award

Simon Johnson reports that NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ have just won the 2011 Roger Award for Worst Transnational Corporation operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand, for milking the NZETS.

Every year the group Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) awards a Roger Award for bad multinational corporate behaviour. Past winners have been Warner Brothers for the Hobbit film employment law change and British American Tobacco.

Readers may recall I wrote some posts about the excessive allocation of free emissions units from the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme to NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ.

I concluded that in 2010 the Rio Tinto Alcan NZ received 135% more emissions units than it needed for its greenhouse emissions, as an undisclosed amount of units were to compensate it for undisclosed ETS-related electricity costs. In other words, Rio Tinto Alcan NZ would pay a higher ‘carbon’ price if it was exempt from the NZ ETS, as they would at least be paying some ‘carbon’ price as a ‘downstream’ electricity user.

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Why did Nick Smith hide the facts on forestry?

targetGovernment ministers have deliberately played down the role of forestry in meeting emissions targets, documents released under the Official Information Act suggest. Diligent digging at No Right Turn has uncovered a Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry paper [PDF] titled New forest planting and harvesting intentions under high carbon prices, which makes clear that forest planting will increase significantly under a stable Emissions Trading Scheme, and that even a modest ($20/tonne) carbon price could trigger planting of up to 100,000 hectares a year — a rate not seen since the forestry boom of the 1990s, and enough to offset a huge chunk of NZ’s emissions to 2020 and beyond. Climate change minister Nick Smith did not mention these figures during the target consultation process, though it is clear he must have known about them. His failure to front with the facts on forestry amounts to a clear attempt to manipulate public perception of the difficulty of meeting steep targets, and raises serious questions about the agenda driving government policy.

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Blackleg miner

NZcoal.jpgSolid Energy, NZ’s state-owned coal mining company, is promoting an alternative to an economy wide emissions trading scheme. According to Carbon News, the approach is being “heavily peddled to policy makers and others in Wellington”, and it is seen to have “great simplistic appeal”. Carbon News has made the document, A Durable Climate Change Strategy for New Zealand, available here.

The essence of the scheme, once you plough through Solid Energy’s reasons for disliking the ETS as currently proposed, is that the government should plant lots of trees, funded by a $1/tonne carbon levy applied across the economy. Lots and lots of trees — a million hectares of new exotic and native forest planted over the next 20-30 years. Solid Energy claims that “Kiwiforest” would provide enough cheap carbon sequestration to allow the economy to grow without the need to impose steep carbon prices. An ETS would only be introduced when there was a truly global interlinked network of carbon markets.

Sounds attractive, on the face of it. Who could object to planting lots of trees? Certainly not me. Unfortunately, as a national emissions strategy it looks too simplistic to be realistic, and on Solid Energy’s numbers delivers emissions reductions that aren’t credible.

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Goin’ back

FrenchPassVortex.jpg You may have thought I was on holiday, but in reality I was gathering blog-relevant material while eating and drinking too much on a catamaran tootling round D’Urville Island. I took a look at DOC’s new bush regeneration for carbon offsets project in Greville Harbour (from the beach), assessed fish stocks (with a rod and line) marvelling at barracouta chewing blue cod before they could be hauled into the boat, saw a seal tossing an octopus snack, enjoyed the company of Dusky dolphins, and ate rather too much crayfish. I’m a bit late for Seaweek, but given I’ve been on the sea most of the week, it deserves a plug.

Readers may recall I posted about von Karman vortices in clouds last week, and as Jamarh navigated French Pass, I saw another fine example as the tide flowed past the channel marker in the middle of the strait. You can clearly see the vortices forming as whirlpools downstream of the pillar.

And now, after a week without radio, TV or cellphone contact, I have some catching up to do…

Tell it like it is

NZETS.jpgThe select committee established to review the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is now accepting submissions, and controversy over the precise interpretation of the terms of reference is already looming. As I noted last year, the terms were drafted by ACT and adopted wholesale by the government, with the exception of the removal of a review of the science of climate change. That was replaced by this clause:

• identify the central/benchmark projections which are being used as the motivation for international agreements to combat climate change; and consider the uncertainties and risks surrounding these projections

The Standard considers that this opens the door to Rodney Hide and his mates in the ranks of the cranks, while David Farrar at Kiwiblog leaps to its defence:

So when you hear people rail against the considering the uncertainties and risks of projections, they are actually railing against people understanding the science, and reading the IPCC reports.

No, David, they are railing against the use of that clause to introduce a review of the underlying science — which is what Hide is adamant he’s going to do, and committee chairman Peter Dunne is equally certain he’ll veto. However, the precise wording of that section is so vague that it is capable of multiple interpretations. Time to pull it to pieces…

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