This is a guest post by Professor Euan Mason of the School of Forestry at the University of Canterbury. It is cross-posted from his Photosynthesis blog.
New Zealand’s climate change policy failure is the main feature of the 2014 report on New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme (ETS). More than 95% of surrendered credits were imports, and the cost to emitters was approximately 10 cents per imported ‘hot air’ credit during most of 2014, compared to an average of approximately $4 for New Zealand Units (NZUs), our domestic carbon credits, during that year. In addition, during 2014 taxpayers gave 4.4 million NZUs to ‘trade exposed’ industries, representing a windfall for them of approximately $17 million, which is their allocation multiplied by the difference in price between domestic and imported credits; we essentially paid them to pollute. Given the low cost of imported ‘hot air’ carbon credits and the fact that we paid people to pollute, it is unsurprising that New Zealand now lags behind almost all of the rest of the world in its climate change response.
Since imported credits were outlawed earlier this year our NZU price has gradually risen to around $7/credit. This price is much too low to encourage the level of tree planting we need in order to avoid a blowout in our carbon accounts during the 2020s as trees planted during the 1990s are harvested. Figure 3 of the ‘Facts and Figures’ report shows that only 42% of post-1989 forests are registered in the ETS. Figure 4 shows the dramatic reduction in new forest planting and the resumption of deforestation that coincided with imports of cheap ‘hot air’ credits that began in earnest towards the end of 2011. Continue reading “Latest NZ ETS report: policy failure is main feature”
A controversial decision to make foresters the only emitters banned from using cheap foreign carbon credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions is under review. The provision was slipped through without warning as part of the Government’s Budget in May, and came into effect immediately.
The Government remains mum on New Zealand’s 2030 emissions reduction target. New Zealand did not make any mention of its 2030 target at last month’s Climate Summit in New York, at which United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked world leaders to give an indication of the commitments they would make at international climate change negotiations in Paris in December.
This guest post by Professor Euan Mason of the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry first appeared at his Photosynthesis blog. His analysis of the NZ and global position, and assessment of the potential forestry response is so interesting that I asked his permission to repost it here.
New Zealand’s initial attempt to mitigate the problem of climate change is moribund, so why is this? The Kyoto Protocol, which we ratified in 1997, bound us to keep our net emissions at 1990 gross emission levels between 2008 and 2012, but also tied us to particular patterns of thinking about greenhouse gases. Not all of these patterns are rational, nor are they all helpful. Nonetheless, with a rather unique emissions profile for a “first world” nation, we could offer the world valuable solutions for developing nations if only we would accept the opportunity. Forestry could easily make us fully greenhouse gas neutral while solving erosion problems and improving profitability of our hill country farms, but for this we need a rational approach to emissions trading and commitment from our populace.
In this article I shall outline some of the key modes of thinking introduced by the Kyoto Protocol; highlight where we are going wrong with emissions trading; and show how forestry could be at the heart of solutions to this global problem.
Climate change minister Tim Groser has finally got around to announcing that New Zealand’s emissions reduction target for 2020 will be a 5 percent reduction on 1990 levels — a significant step back from NZ’s previous conditional commitment to make cuts in the 10 to 20 percent range. Since the Key government refused to join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol last year, this target is being adopted under the wider UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and therefore has no penalties (or incentives) attached. Groser’s announcement claims:
The target is affordable and demonstrates that New Zealand is doing its fair share to address global climate change. In deciding this target, the Government has carefully balanced the cost to New Zealand households and businesses against taking ambitious action to tackle climate change.
This is an unconditional target to take responsibility for our emissions, and gives certainty to domestic stakeholders.
Groser also claims that the new target “compares favourably with our traditional partners’ actions” — but fails to note that it’s way out of line with UK and EU commitments to cuts of 30% and 20% over the same period.
The announcement will come as little surprise in the context of recent government actions — in particular Groser’s reckless mismanagement of the emissions trading scheme, which is now leading to huge and expensive dislocation in the forestry sector.
Further context for Groser’s approach to climate policy came in a reply to a series of questions from Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham at Question Time on August 8th. Asked to reconcile sanctioning a new West Coast coal mine with climate action, Groser made himself completely clear:
We will not sacrifice everything to the altar of climate change.
Failing to take climate change seriously — by failing to cut emissions and doing nothing to encourage prudent adaptation — will sacrifice the entire country to the effects of climate change. By refusing to bite the bullet, Groser and his cabinet colleagues put easy money now ahead of our future wellbeing. Or, perhaps, any future worth having.
In which I guest-post as myself and describe a carbon forest sink project I am involved in and our debate about whether we should provide carbon offsets to anyone as part of the project. I originally wrote this for the Greens Frogblog
Simon Johnson is a conservationist, tramper, accountant, former DOC worker and resource management consultant. Simon also blogs periodically at Hot-Topic.co.nz. In this guest post he writes about carbon offsetting from the point of view of a carbon forest.
I am one of the trustees of a small 47-hectare carbon forest sink and native re-vegetation project and mountain bike park; “Project Rameka” in the east Takaka hills in Golden Bay.
It’s really a response to climate change made by two of my old friends, Bronwen Wall and Jonathan Kennett, who bought the land in 2008. Bronwen and Jonathan decided to apply their experience organising native planting projects in Wellington to climate change after reading the 2007 fourth report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
It’s been embraced enthusiastically by the Golden Bay community who do the planting, pest control and track work through Project Rameka Inc.
The land is owned by a trust and I am one of the trustees. I did the early accounting for the trust and prepared the application to get the land into the Permanent Forest Sinks Iniative (PFSI).
In return for a 50-year covenant restricting the land use to forest, we receive about 800 carbon credits (specifically assigned amount units) per year for Project Rameka. These units started life as part of New Zealand’s 1990 baseline amount of ‘Kyoto’ units under the Kyoto Protocol.
How many units we get is based on the amount of carbon withdrawn from the atmosphere by the trees. Thanks to the Golden Bay weather, plants grow really quickly. So we really are storing carbon. We have seen 3cm annual growth rings in the few pines we have removed.