Let’s not blow the chance to lead change

More feedback on the NZ Insitute’s “fast follower” proposal, this time from business commentator Rod Oram in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times. Rod’s take is very similar to mine, though from a different perspective, and so I’m very pleased to welcome Rod as our third guest blogger – and reproduce that SST column in full. It’s a very good read…

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Fast follow-up

 Wp-Content Uploads 2007 10 Nzifollow My critique of the NZI’s “fast follower” report – described as “spirited” by Nevil Gibson in the NBR – has received a swift response from the NZI. We’re Right Behind You was written by NZI chief executive David Skilling and researcher Danielle Boven. Danielle interviewed me about climate issues earlier this year, and has taken the trouble to prepare an extended response to my criticisms. It’s too long to post as a comment, so Danielle becomes HT’s second guest blogger (IPCC lead author Jim Renwick was the first). I have not edited her words, but do offer some comment at the end. Note: Danielle refers in several places to papers 1 & 2. The first paper is the one published this week, the second a forthcoming one which will consider other aspects of climate policy. Over to Danielle….

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To boldly follow…?

NzifollowThe New Zealand Institute, the politically neutral think tank born of the “Knowledge Wave” conference, has been making waves of a different kind today with its new, and rather idiosyncratic take on how NZ should approach emissions reductions. The report, part of a series on climate change, is called “We’re Right Behind You” [PDF], and advocates a “fast follower” approach to emissions reductions – which apparently means reneging on our Kyoto commitments. The report recommends that:

…it seems appropriate and realistic for New Zealand to undertake to reduce its net emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 rather than by 2012. We recommend that New Zealand should seek to avoid the obligation to purchase carbon credits associated with the decision to delay achieving its Kyoto committment by 2012.

This effectively means withdrawing from Kyoto, and as you might expect this “considered analysis” has been welcomed by the big emitters. I was interviewed by one of the authors of the report back in June, before HT was published, and in a swift email exchange this morning I promised to read the report thoroughly before rushing to any judgement (unlike some). So, my timely (but not rushed) view of this contribution to the policy debate?

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Big emitters bite back

 Wp-Content Uploads 2007 09 Nzets1-4NZ’s big greenhouse gas emitters have begun a push back against the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and energy strategy. Last week an industry group including the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Federated Farmers, the Major Electricity Users Group, Business Roundtable, the Chambers Of Commerce, and others wrote to Helen Clark warning that, as Colin Espiner in The Press reported, “the Government’s proposed Energy Trading Scheme (ETS) is being rushed through Parliament without adequate consultation with industry. It says the Government is refusing to release any economic analysis to back its claims the new system will have a negligible impact on economic growth.” Fran O’Sullivan in the Herald provided more context, with news of the first meeting of the government’s Climate Change Leadership Forum, but it’s clear that a coordinated effort to derail the ETS is under way.

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Tuesday linkfest

Labour weekend means just that, chez Hot Topic. Catching up with farm work, planting the vege garden, getting a sore back – all in a weekend’s work. But climate change waits for no man, so here’s a compendium of stuff that caught my attention over the last few days.

  • Contact Energy has announced plans for a huge – 218 turbine, 650MW – wind farm called Hauauru ma raki, to be built on a remote site south of Port Waikato. NZ turbine builder Windflow Technology has announced plans for new models designed to work in India and China, and Meridian has sent wind experts to Scott Base in Antarctica to advise on building wind turbines to reduce fossil fuel requirements. According to Stuff, they think it could be easier than building in Wellington.
  • Still more on the Arctic summer: the NSIDC updates its coverage with some excellent animations, while Cryosphere Today adds an archive of maps of atmospheric conditions over the summer, and introduces a web app that allows iPhone users to monitor sea ice conditions. Another reason why I want one. Technology Review visits Greenland to meet the teams measuring the melt, and down south, satellites spot a huge berg breaking off the Pine Island Glacier.
  • On the roof of the world, the Nepali Times reports Kiwi guides describing how the disappearance of ice on the planet’s biggest mountains is changing the climbs.
  • Two more good articles from TR: Fixing the Power Grid describes how big batteries (capable of supplying 1MW+ for hours at a time) can provide back up for grid problems, and Tiny Solar Cells looks at nanowire solar cells made by a team at Harvard.
  • Carbon emissions from shipping could be as much as twice those from aviation, according to a report from Intertanko. Strong growth in trade has driven emissions to 1.2 billion tonnes oer annum. Meanwhile, the Herald reports on aviation’s attempts to be seen to be more climate friendly – and Richard Branson’s efforts to beat Air New Zealand to the first use of biofuels in jets.
  • CO2 absorption in the Atlantic has nosedived, adding to concerns that the ocean carbon sink may be reducing – leaving more of our emissions in the atmosphere [University of East Anglia].
  • Coral reef specialists have issued a call to action on the impact of climate change: “We call on all societies and governments to immediately and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Without targeted reductions, the ongoing damage to coral reefs from global warming will soon be irreversible.”
  • The Daily Telegraph [UK] is in the process of becoming enthusiastically green. Latest evidence is a nifty widget – the Telegraph Earth Pulse – which monitors climate and general environment news.
  • A dairy farm can produce as much sewage as a small town (see North & South current issue), but worms can turn it all into mellow compost according to US researchers.
  • It looks like a “three-wheeled technicolour shoehorn”, but the No More Gas will do 75 mph and has a range of 30 miles. OK for getting around town, but I’d still prefer a Tesla Roadster…
  • The financial word is getting the climate message: Deutsche Bank thinks that efforts to combat climate change will drive an investment “megatrend”, Morgan Stanley estimates that global sales of wind, solar and geothermal power and biofuels could be US$1 trillion a year by 2030, and HSBC is launching a climate change investment fund for investors who want to track companies active in the field.
  • HT tends to steer clear of dsicussing peak oil, but the Guardian [UK] covers a new report that claims that we passed peak oil last year, and that global oil production will be halved by 2030. Adds a certain piquancy to energy strategy…