Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, a British Tory politician who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet during the 1980s, is visiting New Zealand as a guest of the Business Roundtable to give this year’s Sir Ronald Trotter memorial lecture. Lawson withdrew from the mainstream of Conservative politics in 1992 “to spend more time with his family” (coining that phrase as he did so), but in recent years he has reinvented himself as a climate sceptic, a vociferous opponent of the Kyoto protocol and a scourge of what he terms “eco-fundamentalists”. Clearly, the Business Roundtable has brought in a wise elder statesman to provide much needed context to the climate debate, to better inform its members about the need for emissions reductions. Sadly, Lawson is far more likely to serve up a rousing speech packed with half-truths, distortions, and advice so bad it amounts to dangerous folly, if reports in the Sunday Star Times and Dominion Post are to be believed.
My critique of the NZI’s â€œfast followerâ€ report – described as â€œspiritedâ€ 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….
The New Zealand Institute, the politically neutral think tank born of the â€œKnowledge Waveâ€ 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 â€œWe’re Right Behind Youâ€ [PDF], and advocates a â€œfast followerâ€ 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 â€œconsidered analysisâ€ 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?
Renewables are the key to New Zealand’s future energy needs, according to the government’s new energy strategy, published today [HTML, PDF]. No new thermal generation should be built over the next ten years, the government is going tell the power generation and distribution state owned enterprises. New generation capacity is expected to come from an expansion of wind and geothermal generation. The energy strategy is complemented by the new energy efficiency and conservation strategy (EECS) [web, PDF], designed to help homes, businesses and transport reduce their energy use.
Announcing the energy strategy, David Parker said (Scoop audio):
The government does not believe it is in the interests of the country for the SOEs to build any more base-load thermal generation. The government will be writing to the SOE generators to make it clear that it expects them to follow this guidance. We are also considering additional measures to ensure our message is loud and clear, for all generators, not just SOEs. Competitive neutrality between the private sector and SOEs is important.
In the transport sector, the government wants to encourage biofuels, greater fuel efficiency, and low-carbon vehicles. It foresees as much as 60% of the light vehicle fleet being electric powered by 2050. The strategy also call for the development of a domestic sea freight strategy, looking to build an integrated rail/sea freight system to reduce reliance on roads. [â€œKey pointsâ€ press release]
In her speech launching the EECS, Jeanette Fitzsimmons said:
â€œThis is an action plan to make a real difference to Kiwi families so that they can live in warmer, drier, healthier homes that cost less to heat; for business to become more competitive; and to save money and emissions in the transport sector. The strategy is set to deliver annual non-transport energy savings of 30 PetaJoules per year by 2025. Thatâ€™s the same as the electricity used by 30 cities the size of Nelson in 2006 or 18 months of coal-fired production from Huntly, at 2006 levels. In transport, cumulative savings by 2025 will be around 4.8 billion litres of fuel.â€
All good stuff, but someone should tell her officials that a PetaJoule is a bit more than 1015 Joules – as defined at the back of the strategy document. That should be 10 to the power of 15, a thousand trillion joules, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 joules. Either that, or Nelson is the most energy efficient town in the known universe. Mike Ward clearly doesn’t need to be mayor…
Reaction so far seems mainly positive. More from me when I’ve had a chance to read the strategy documents in detail.
Air New Zealand is carefully positioning itself as a climate-friendly airline with its latest announcement that it is to trial biofuels in a 747 flight from Auckland in the next couple of years. Working with Boeing, Air NZ will be part of the first commercial trial of biofuel, in a Rolls-Royce-powered jumbo in the next 18 months . The flight will only use biofuel in one engine, and will not carry customers. [Stuff, Herald, BBC, June HT blog on aviation biofuels].
- Consents are close on a tidal energy trial in the Cook Strait, while Orkney is establishing itself as European leader for tidal and wave power research.
- The NSIDC provides a roundup on this season’s Arctic sea ice collapse, while NASA finds that the loss of multi-year ice plays a large role in ice loss, and warns that sea ice modelling needs some rapid revision. Meanwhile James Hansen suggests to Reuters that a crucial trigger point may have been passed in the Arctic, and a perceptive journalist on the San Diego Union-Tribune notices that loss of sea ice has big implications for the SW USA. [Update 3/10: Andy Revkin has a very good piece in today’s New York Times: the interactive graphic of the Arctic is especially good.]
- A warming world is bad news for rice production, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute has found. Crop yields would be reduced by 10% for every 1ÂºC temperature increase during the growing season.
- British PM Gordon Brown and Helen Clark have agreed to work together to ensure that the NZ and European carbon markets are â€œcompatible