What can I add to the millions of words in dozens of languages that have already been written by the thousands of journalists and commentators around the Paris Agreement? We now have a globally binding agreement that really looks like it could curtail the use of a fuel that has been central to our way of life for more than 150 years.
Of course, if we’d managed to actually make deep cuts in emissions 25 years ago, getting governments to limit warming to 1.5 degrees would have been an awful prospect – who would want that much warming. When I started working on this, it might have been possible to have no warming at all.
And if industrialised countries had actually made deep cuts in emissions when they said they would, would we even be having an argument about equity? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but let’s look forward here. What’s in this agreement?
Continue reading “Paris: winners and losers”
I’ve been in Paris for over a week now, and the speed at which everything goes past, including time, is frightening. I think the 40,000 expected have now all arrived. I’m getting worried the only Eiffel Tower I’ll see is the one made of red folding chairs at the end of the “Champs Elysee” at the meeting.
We began last week with the Heads of State arriving and making grand statements about grandchildren, climate impacts, the importance of the issue, etc..
Arnold Schwarzenegger was here today, Richard Branson was here yesterday. We’ve had Leo Dicaprio, Sean Penn, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle: a veritable feast of celebrity and wisdom. Ben & Jerry’s are giving out free ice cream.
There’s been major announcements on progress from climate finance, to cities taking action, and absolutely everything and anything to do with climate change and workers, and indigenous peoples, and everything else under the sun. There’s a lot of noise, everyone trying to get their message heard. My quote of the day today was a journalist saying “my inbox is my enemy.”
Now we’re into the second week and the French Presidency is doing its best to keep this show on the road. After a week of officials fighting over the text, we saw the Draft Paris Outcome (note: not “agreement” but “outcome”) posted on the UNFCCC website on Saturday, and government ministers took over from officials on Sunday. Continue reading “1.5 to stay alive: big issues for small countries as Paris climate talks get down to nitty gritty”
Sarah Thomson, the Waikato law student who made news last month when she announced her intention to sue the New Zealand government for its weak climate targets, has launched a crowd-funding campaign to help cover the costs of a judicial review. The Give A Little campaign, created by former Hamilton City councillor Daphne Bell, launched today. At the time of writing it has already raised over $1,000.
Mrs Bell explained why she supports Sarah’s initiative:
The Give A Little page will enable the many people around the country who support her an easy and practical way to help. They include those who cheered her speeches at the climate change marches in Auckland and Hamilton, and many more around New Zealand who applaud her ground-breaking legal action.
At the Auckland climate march last month, Sarah said:
“It is young people who will pay the true cost of today’s inaction. Our government has a duty to its people, to ensure a safe place for us and our children to live. But, if they are not fulfilling that duty, it is up to us to demand action.”
Although Sarah’s lawyers are donating their time, money is still needed for the filing fee at the High Court, other legal costs and disbursements and associated costs for Sarah relating to her court action — which will be heard in Wellington. Expert witnesses already lined up to give evidence include Jim Hansen and professor Jim Renwick of VUW.
Any money not used will be kept in a solicitor’s trust account and disbursed to a registered environmental charity or charities.
If you have a few dollars to spare, why not Give A Little in a good cause? At the very least, Sarah’s action will remind John Key and new climate minister Paula Bennett that they owe a duty of care to everyone in New Zealand, not just their fossil fool friends.
At the end of last week, with the deadline for submissions on a post-2020 target for New Zealand emissions rapidly approaching, the Ministry for the Environment released a second set of economic cost estimates for various emissions targets. These cost estimates are substantially lower, the Ministry admits, than the costs in the consultation document issued by the MfE on May 7th. As it happens, neither the Infometrics modelling used in the consultation document or the newly-published Landcare Research is terribly helpful when considering policy options, as I shall discuss later, but for the time being consider the usefulness of a “consultation” process where the following is true:
- Announce a four week consultation period on May 7, starting then, to conclude four weeks later.
- Publish a consultation document that plays up the costs of action and plays down the costs of inaction — calculated by Treasury to be up to $52bn.
- Conduct a rushed series of consultation meetings around the country to which no ministers front up.
- Release the economic modelling relied on for the cost estimates in the consultation document 10 days after the process begins, well after the consultation meetings have started.
- Release a second economic modelling report showing costs to be less than the original document presents just over a week before submissions close.
If that’s not a prescription for a Mickey Mouse consultation process that’s designed to pay only lip service to public concern, a disgraceful political sham that should have officials — who are expected to be resolutely non-partisan and to serve the public interest — hanging their heads in shame, then I’m a maker of fine Low Country cheeses.
But it gets worse. An examination of the economic modelling commissioned by the MfE shows that the whole process was set up to exaggerate the costs of cutting New Zealand’s emissions.
Continue reading “It’s deja vu all over again: NZ consultation on climate target set up to be a farce”
Today’s news that the US and China have agreed a long term policy to reduce carbon emissions is being hailed as a “game-changer” in international climate negotiations. China has agreed to cap its emissions in 2030 — the first time it has committed to anything more than a reduction in the carbon intensity of its emissions, while the US will aim to cut emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2025, up from its current target of 17% by 2020. [BBC, Guardian, Climate Progress.] Meanwhile, NZ’s third term National government is being warned by its own civil servants that its current emissions policy settings commit the country to substantial emissions increases over the same time frame.
With the world’s two largest emitters — between them they account for 45% of total emissions — agreeing to work together for the first time, prospects for a global deal in Paris next year look brighter than before. However, the cuts on the table do not look like enough to keep the planet on a trajectory to 2 degrees of warming or less. Associate professor Peter Christoff of the University of Melbourne explains (via The Conversation):
These commitments will frame the levels of ambition required of other states at Paris next year. Climate modellers will no doubt now be rushing to determine what these new commitments, if delivered successfully, will mean for combating global warming.
The US and Chinese cuts, significant though they are, will not be enough to limit the total increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide unless other states engage in truly radical reductions.
In other words, global emissions are likely to continue to grow, probably until 2030, which will make it impossible to hold global warming below the world’s agreed limit of 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.
In New Zealand the briefings for incoming ministers in the new government — same as the old lot, in climate relevant ministries — have been remarkably blunt in their assessment of the task the country faces. Continue reading “China and US reach emissions deal, NZ govt warned its policies are failing”