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]

Telling porkies to Parliament

NZETS.jpgThe Emissions Trading Scheme Review committee has released the first batch of submissions it has received — those made by organisations and individuals who have already made their presentations to the committee. There are some heavy hitters in there: from New Zealand’s science and policy community there’s the Climate Change Centre (a joint venture between the University of Canterbury and Victoria University of Wellington, plus all the Crown Research Institutes – from NIWA to AgResearch), VUW’s Climate Change Research Institute, and GNS Science, and from the world of commerce, we have the Business Roundtable‘s “evidence”. Why the quote marks? Because the Roundtable’s submission is a fact-free farrago of nonsense.

Continue reading “Telling porkies to Parliament”

Tangled up in blue (first reprise)

Key.jpgThe government’s demolition of New Zealand’s climate policy is continuing apace. This week, as part of cost-cutting and restructuring at the Ministry for Environment, they have chopped the carbon neutral public service programme. This comes on top of Gerry Brownlee’s removal of the moratorium on new thermal generation, the curious case of the ETS scheme that’s on hold and yet being reintroduced at the same time, and prime minister John Key’s apparent lack of conviction about the severity of climate change. Commenting on the changes at MfE, environment minister Nick Smith offered these pearls of wisdom (Stuff):

“It’s not government policy that we should move to a carbon neutral public service. That was a cheap slogan from the previous government. I’ve heard awful stories of senior public servants … spending an hour on how they might reorganise their rubbish.”

Smith appears happy to decide policy based on hearsay. Not a good look for a senior politician. The carbon neutral public service (CNPS) scheme was never going to make a huge difference to New Zealand’s emissions, but it was a way for the apparatus of government to show that it was taking the problem seriously. By acting — and crucially, purchasing goods and services — with lower carbon emissions in mind, it was sending a useful economic signal into the world beyond Wellington. Take that signal away, and the message is all too clear. The Department of Conservation will also be left in the lurch, as a number of their trial native bush regeneration for carbon offset schemes were earmarked for the CNPS.

Another worrying sign is that Smith has appointed a former Business NZ climate policy analyst to his political team. According to Carbon News, George Riddell played a key role in developing Business NZ’s climate and emissions trading policy — which is currently to delay implementing the ETS to 2013.

Put all this together and you get a very clear impression of a government that does not have a real grasp of the danger of climate change, or the need to implement coherent climate policy. Worse, they give every impression of being in the pockets of the big emitters and big business interests. So far, all the new government has done is to pull down the climate policy of the last administration, but has given no hint of what it might put in its place.

It’s high time John Key and Nick Smith stopped playing politics and started taking this issue seriously. A coherent statement of their appreciation of the size of the problem and the policy levers they intend pulling might be a good place to start.

[KT Tunstall, and very good indeed…]


dunne.jpgAccording to Carbon News (also at Scoop), the extension of the deadline for submissions to the ETS Review committee last week came at the request of major emitters who feared that committee chair Peter Dunne’s refusal to listen to arguments about climate science would mean their views would be ignored.

Sources say that the Greenhouse Policy Coalition – whose members include New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, New Zealand Steel, Fonterra, the Coal Association, Carter Holt Harvey, Norske Skog Tasman, Winstone Pulp, Pan Pacific Forest Products, SCA Hygiene, Business New Zealand, Solid Energy and Methanex – realised that it was in danger of not being heard because its submission failed to meet Dunne’s criteria.

The organisation asked for more time to come up with an acceptable submission, and it is understood that several members of the coalition then also asked for extensions. (Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O’Reilly has confirmed to Carbon News that his organisation asked for more time).

The clear inference is that the GPC and its members had prepared submissions that included attempts to call the basic science of global warming into doubt — or would at the very least fall foul of Dunne’s insistence that he would not hear arguments from “groups wanting to re-litigate the science of climate change”. Some of New Zealand’s largest corporates were prepared to stand up in front of the review committee and argue — what? That the world’s cooling? That the risks are overstated? That CO2 is not a greenhouse gas? The intellectual dishonesty of a group apparently prepared to line up with the cranks and argue black is white in order to defend its narrow economic interests beggars belief.

Meanwhile, lest the Greenhouse Policy Coalition forget the reason why emissions reductions are important and urgent, a prominent climate scientist not called Hansen has warned that climate change is proceeding faster than projected in the IPCC’s Fourth Report [BBC, Reuters]. Chris Field, a professor of biology and of earth system science at Stanford, and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference last week that recent studies showed that:

…in a business-as-usual world, higher temperatures could ignite tropical forests and melt the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gas that could raise global temperatures even more—a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control by the end of the century.

Field also considers that aggressive action to reduce emissions brings multiple benefits:

“What have we learned since the fourth assessment? We now know that, without effective action, climate change is going to be larger and more difficult to deal with than we thought. If you look at the set of things that we can do as a society, taking aggressive action on climate seems like one that has the best possibility of a win-win. It can stimulate the economy, allow us to address critical environmental problems, and insure that we leave a sustainable world for our children and grandchildren. Somehow we have to find a way to kick the process into high gear. We really have very little time.”

That should be required reading for the CEOs of the companies that fund the Greenhouse Policy Coalition. Unless, of course, they define their economic interests as more important than the survival of our civilisation.

[Roxy Music]