Bali background book: IPS examines NZ’s place in post-Kyoto deal-making

Towards a New Global Climate Treaty: Looking Beyond 2012, edited by Jonathan Boston, with contributions by Ralph Chapman, Pamela Chasek, Steve Hatfield-Dodds, Colin James, Lucas Kengmana, Adrian Macey and Murray Ward, Institute of Policy Studies, VUW, November 2007.

The Institute Of Policy Studies at VUW has played an influential role in the development of New Zealand’s climate policy, through books, seminars and conferences. Some of the stuff they organise is so interesting that it makes me (almost) wish I lived in Wellington. This latest book – a follow-up to last year’s excellent Confronting Climate Change – draws on a series of roundtable discussions hosted by the IPS during mid-2007. About 120 people from sectors with an interest in climate policy – energy, agriculture, industry and many others – took part, and their comments provide a counterpoint to the more theoretical considerations of the various chapter authors.

I’m not going to attempt a detailed review of the content of the book – it’s sometimes dense, detailed and theoretical – but it does provide an excellent overview of the domestic and international context for the post-Kyoto negotiations, as well as look in considerable depth at the policy objectives the government might adopt, and how that flows from – and impacts – sectoral interests. The chapter on forestry and land use change is particularly valuable, as is Jonathan Boston’s opening chapter, which gives a swift tour d’horizon of the current situation. Boston and Ralph Chapman’s summary of the current science and its implications for emissions reduction targets and stabilisation targets is also highly recommended.

You won’t find this at the top of the non-fiction charts, but if you really want to know what’s going on in climate policy development here and overseas, there is no better place to start.

NZ emissions trading scheme announced

NzetsDetails of the government’s planned emissions trading scheme (ETS) have been announced. Scoop has all the government speeches and press releases. I’m reading them at the moment, and will comment more later, but here are some highlights:

  • Foresters will receive the full value of carbon credits on new growth (from 1/1/2008) in post-1990 forests.
  • Agriculture will not be brought into the scheme until 2013.
  • NZ emissions units will be Kyoto-complaint and internationally tradeable (subject to some limits).
  • Some units will be allocated free, others auctioned.
  • Forestry will be first into the scheme in Jan 2008.
  • Transport’s next, in 2009, basically through fuel prices
  • Stationery energy (power generation) and heavy industry will enter in 2010, with no free allocation for electricity generators.
  • Farmers will get free allocation of units based on 90% of 2005 emissions, but details to be worked out

The government hopes that 90% of power generation will be from renewable sources by 2025. In transport, they want to cut per capita emissions in half by 2040, and encourage the wide use of electric vehicles. Goals for agriculture are more nebulous: to be the world leader in emissions reduction research, and to lead the world in agricultural emissions reductions. In forestry, they would like a net increase of 250,000ha in forest area by 2020.
The government has also released an update on our expected Kyoto deficit – up to 45.5 millions tonnes from 41.2 mT, mainly from increased dairy production. In the absence of any emissions reduction policy, the government projects this could rise to 65mT, but believes the ETS will cut the 2008-12 deficit to 25mT.
My first thought? Politically astute. By getting foresters on board with what amounts to a taxpayer subsidy, they get enough trees planted to offset a large chunk of the Kyoto liability, and buy time to bring agricultural emitters in to the scheme. More later.

Thursday build-up

With only a couple of days to the government’s big emissions trading announcement, the media are getting all excited. Colin James in the Herald grumbles about the lack of consultation and the need to build a consensus outside of Parliament, and then switches tack to suggest that the really important negotiations are to do with what follows Kyoto. Rod Oram in the Sunday Star Times suggests (rather more cogently) why there’s hope of action by the US, Australia and China. The Press, meanwhile, fears that some power companies might make windfall profits under emissions trading (step forward Meridian), and predicts that forestry could be the next big thing.

Exotic forest descriptions

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has released its annual National Exotic Forest Description report (HTML and PDFs), finding that New Zealand’s plantation forest area has declined for the second year in a row. From the MAF press release:

The 2006 survey indicates approximately 12,900 hectares of forest clear felled in the year to 31 March 2006 will not be replanted. This represents a third of the total area harvested. Most of this ‘deforestation’ occurred in the Central North Island and Canterbury, mostly converted to pasture.

NZ’s plantation forests cover about 1.8 million hectares in total, 70% in the North Island, and Pinus radiata, aka the Monterey pine, covers 89% of that land. Stuff, the Herald and No Right Turn point out the obvious – a loss of forest cover increases our Kyoto liability. Perhaps we should let all the wilding radiata grow, and count them as sinks instead… (that was irony, by the way).

$275 million for carbon farming in NZ

According to the Herald, Credit Suisse and Sustainable Forestry Management (SFM), a London-based ethical investment fund, have got US$200 million to invest in permanent forests in New Zealand. They want to farm carbon:

“We have the equity capital lined up,