The other side of the world

Imagine this: the country’s leading business organisation — noted for its robust espousal of free markets and business freedom — takes the government to task for not doing enough, fast enough to get emissions on a downward path. So it releases four roadmaps, for the power, industrial, energy and transport sectors designed to deliver emissions reductions of 30% by 2020 (overview here). Fantastic, eh? Sadly, it’s not happening here. The organisation in question is the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI told Business Green:

“Achieving all of this in the ambitious timeframe that has been set will require massive investment of private capital, much of it from abroad,” he said. “But this will only be forthcoming if there is certainty about the direction of government policy, a robust price for carbon, a clear planning and regulatory structure, the right regime for tax and intellectual property, and the skills that will be needed to bring all this new kit to market.”

The contrast with the situation in Godzone could not be more stark. A couple of months ago, Carbon News reported on a draft of Business NZ‘s submission to the ETS Review committee:

New Zealand needs to stop ETS implementation until the rest of the world decides what it is doing, avoiding imposing an emission prices ahead of the rest of the world

We have the most “punitive” ETS in the world (all sectors and all-gases)

The Government will raise more revenue than needed to meet the actual cost of paying for any excess emissions commitment under Kyoto

The ETS is “rushed” (even though it has now been nearly 15 years since the Kyoto commitment was made and nothing major, except the ETS, has been done in response)

Agriculture will suffer if the ETS covers that sector’s gases before others in the world do so.

Couple that with the nonsense contained in the Business Roundtable’s ETS Review submission, and a clear picture emerges. The core of the New Zealand business world just doesn’t understand the climate problem — or have any real ideas for dealing with it. There are good guys in the business world — most notably the Business Council for Sustainable Development — but they struggle to be heard amongst the cacophony from the big emitters and their representatives.

Time for our business leaders to start living in the real world, not in some fantasy where their actions have no consequences, climate change is someone else’s problem, and taxpayers pay all their bills. But I’m not holding my breath.

[KT Tunstall]

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]

Home thoughts from abroad

BBC.gif Aunty Beeb has taken a look at New Zealand’s carbon ambitions. A report headlined “Attempting to ‘kick the carbon habit” gives a pretty good overview of the special problems – and advantages – that NZ has. There’s a decent plug for Grove Mill wines and their carbon zero status, plenty of room for the PM to tout her carbon ambitions, and a chance for the Greens to point out how our imported cheap cars pose a problem for transport emissions. It also gives National’s Nick Smith a chance to act all pessimistic about the prospects for agricultural emission reductions.

“The truth is that we are only just starting to nail the science of how to measure the amount of methane and nitrous oxide from agricultural production. I think it is a matter of decades rather than years before there’ll be the sort of breakthroughs that enable us to bring those emissions down.”

Decades? Has Dr Smith never heard of nitrification inhibitors, or about breakthrough research on methanogens? Or – perish the thought – land use change to low emissions crops? If he has his hands on National’s carbon policy, then I am extremely concerned about what might happen after the election if National form the core of the next government.

Luckily, there’s not one word in the BBC story about the ETS and its difficulties. That was a narrow escape. If the world gets to hear that emissions trading scheme is in trouble and that our low carbon talk is just hot air, then all our image building will be wasted. Nick Smith would do well to reflect on that.

A rainbow (warrior) in curved air

RW08.jpg Second conference in a week in Wellington: this time the LexisNexis climate change symposium with lots of lawyers and a very impressive speaker list – and an invite to the Rainbow Warrior for a webcast climate change debate between David Parker, Nick “for Nelson” Smith, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Hone Harawira, with Sean (Jeepster) Plunket in the chair. Thanks to Greenpeace for getting me in (Susannah, Cindy, Kathy). It was most interesting. I’m planning to dissect the various parties promises in the run up to the election, so it was good to get a head start. Nick Smith was keen to get as many hits on David Parker as possible, but perhaps sensed he was on a sticky wicket given recent history. Hone was content to defer to the Greens on all matters of direct policy, and even DP did the same when I changed the subject from emissions to adaptation policy. Not satisfactorily answered, in my view, but watch the webcast and decide for yourselves.

I have a talk to give tomorrow, and so to bed.