Hit the road, Nick

targetClimate minister Nick Smith and international negotiator Tim Groser have published the schedule for their recently announced consultation exercise on a 2020 emissions target for New Zealand. The hastily arranged exercise (announced only last month, and a surprise to many) has already drawn calls for an interim target of 40% by 2020 from the recently-formed NZ Climate Action Partnership and Greenpeace. In an interesting development, Carbon News is reporting that Green Party climate change spokeswoman Jeanette Fitzsimons has floated the idea that NZ could adopt a split target — setting separate 2020 targets for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane:

Fitzsimons says that with the technology not yet available to reduce methane emissions from farmed animals – responsible for half of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions – this country should be thinking about setting separate targets for carbon, nitrous oxide and methane for 2020.

“If we set an overall target that is mainly determined by the difficulty of reducing agricultural emissions, it looks to the rest of the world like we are doing nothing,” she said.

It’s an interesting concept, at the very least, though I have to say I’m not keen on giving agriculture a wholly free ride. Federated Farmers like to insist that the “technology is not available”, but there are a range of options farms can use to reduce emissions, from the use of nitrification inhibitors to better handling of manure (not to mention shifting to low-carbon crops or carbon farming).

Full details of the public meetings below the fold. I’ll be making an effort to attend the Christchurch meeting next Wednesday evening.

meeting schedule

In addition to the public meetings, Smith will meet business groups in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, and attend hui arranged with the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group.

[Ray Charles]

29 thoughts on “Hit the road, Nick”

  1. Paul Krugman has a piece in today’s NYT in which he points out that Waxman-Markey contains a clause that requires the president, starting in 2020, to impose a “border adjustment” — or tariff — on certain goods from countries that do not act to limit their global warming emissions. Krugman goes on to explain why he thinks this is OK and does not violate WTO rules.

    Given our continuing reliance on agricultural exports, the government may find it is faced with a choice between an “attitude adjustment” and a “border adjustment”!

    1. Yes I have commented previously on precisely this! We leave ourselves very open to trade sanctions in one form or another from our major trading partners if we do continue to thumb our noses at our agricultural carbon emissions. The EU and the States are only too happy to look for ways to reduce NZs access to their markets. Why leave ourselves open to yet another embargo.

  2. Surely an international target has nothing to do with our domestic policy. The NZETS doesn’t have a cap on emissions. A question to the presenters might be “is this consultation and target meaningless in terms of our domestic emissions policy measures?”. Another might be ‘is domestic action on emission reductions more influential in international negotiations than a %target?”.

    I realise international targets create the demand and supply parts of the ETS framework, but even this is arguably unimportant considering the probably weakened, and delayed NZ ETS. Saying NZ supports an XX% target by 2020 has as much influence on future domestic emissions as our current Kyoto commitment has on existing emissions growth.

  3. Good comments, all. The tariffs part of the equation has been a concern of mine since i began work on the book — the more so because a sort of tariff, a leakage or carbon charge, is an integral part of any carbon-pricing system on tradeable goods, to prevent imports of cheaper goods from countries without a carbon price. In that respect, W-M only codifies the inevitable, in a form that appeals to the protectionist instincts of the American legislator.

    As to targets, they have a role to play, but as password1 points out they are meaningless without policies to enact the reductions. This has led some to argue for “bottom-up” approaches (ie enacting policies and seeing where they get you) rather than targets. The counter argument is that targets establish or calibrate the cuts required, and so provide a framework for action. My view? You need both.

    The basis for all action has to be a global cap to atmospheric GHGs, and Nick Smith has reiterated this government’s commitment to 450 ppm CO2e. I wonder if he realises that we’re thereabouts already? Perhaps he’s going to suggest a 100 cut in emissions from next year… 😉

  4. This tariff argument keeps coming up. I suggest you all read the Taxman-Malarkey bill before crowing about what it says. Well sorry thats impossible its 1092 pages long, I suspect very few people have read it – they all know they support it tho!


    Sec. 767 states that no later than Jan 1 2018, the president should submit a report to congress on the effectiveness of the allowance program. (B) Not later than June 30 2022 the president should report if less than 70% of world production for a sector is produced in countries that have not met one of:

    – Signed an international agreement limiting national emissions
    – Signed on to a sectoral agreement limiting emissions
    – Has a lower greenhouse gas intensity than the US for that product
    – Has implemented policies where the cost of compliance is at least 60% that of the US policy

    Sec. 766 states that if the President determines that a sector has not met one of the criteria from Sec 767, then with 24 months, the president should determine an appropriate tariff price,

    However, exempting;

    Least developed nations, foreign countries that are responsible for less than 0.5% of global emissions.

    So in summary:
    Nothing before 2018, likely 2022 + 24months.
    New Zealand will not pay a tariff because we are not over 0.5% of global emissions.

    If we were over that amount, we would not because we are Annex-1 under Kyoto. Still, we would not because we have a lower greenhouse gas intensity than the US,

    And finally, we will no doubt be 60% of the cost of compliance of the US (as well all the other hurdles), as the US do not include agricultural emissions in their scheme.

    They have even expressly omitted ruminant methane emissions:
    “the inventory required by this 25 section shall not include sources of enteric fermentation” (811.a.1.B)

    So it seems Gareth this concern is unwarranted. Please drop this issue and read the relevant sections of the legislation.

    My interpretation was that targets were the starting point for negotiations, so best to set high targets, any good negotiator knows be unreasonable at first, lower expectations, and meet in the middle to get a good deal. (I suspect this is what greenpeace and greens are doing with 40%, 40/20)

  5. Thanks for the didlgence, R2, but you miss the central point. Whatever the US legislation says, an element of cross-border carbon charging has to be a part of any international carbon pricing scheme, to create a level playing field. If NZ is inside the tent, then all well and good. But the scheme will not be designed for our benefit.

    As I’ve said before, our farmers are already very efficient producers. If they can be more efficient by reducing or offsetting their carbon emissions then that will be a positive marketing advantage in a world where carbon pricing is an important part of economic activity.

      1. I dont mention WTO. Yes if they wanted to they could. If you read legislation it seems target is China et el, not NZ. My point is that the comment by Le Chat Noir which specifically mentions the legislation is off the mark. The legislation does not pose a threat to NZ. You are right it is possible that climate policy could be used as an excuse by some nations to enact trade barriers (but I don’t think NZ has to worry about ag, no other nations are doing anything with ag, but just an opinion, and if yours is different fine – peace?)

  6. One question in all this:

    Leaving aside the question of cow gas for a moment, what is the carbon content of NZ soils? Is it high? Low?

    I know that Canadian soils generally are not great stores of soil carbon, due to the industrial nature of so much of our agriculture; I suspect that NZ farms are better in this regard…

    The question has to do with the benefit to NZ agriculture under some kind of carbon farming scheme…


    1. Nicol, I had a conversation today with a soil scientist who is involved with the promotion of carbon farming. He said that NZ soils on the whole have exceptionally high levels of carbon which tend to stabilise under pasture and decrease under cropping. But he and others like him consider there is room for improvement both to increase the content by taking it deeper into the soil and to contain the existing levels where they are diminished by current practices. (If I have understood him correctly.) The Waikato Times carried an article in the farming section last night reporting on the work of a Waikato dairy farming couple who have high hopes from the new practices they have employed to increase the carbon content of their soil. In five years the carbon on their farm has moved from 7.5 cms deep to 30cm deep. They are hopeful that measurement due in September will show that the carbon content measured last September – 172 tonnes per hectare – will have increased. Their aim is to sequester into the soil more carbon than they emit and thus become carbon positive and start trading carbon on world markets, they hope within months.

  7. Seems like the target is already decided! John Key on National Radio today saying – “no way 40% by 2020, and we’ll just follow Australia!” Or words to that effect. This road show is just another sop like the so-called “consultation” that John Carter is running on the Auckland amalgamation. The final outcome is already decided!

    1. Decided, in as much as they will do “less than most want in order to appease those who want to do nothing”, which is pretty much their policy on everything…

    1. Subject of a forthcoming post, almost certainly. But off the cuff – carbon neutrality: that is, enough local carbon sinks (forestry, native bush restoration to offset all emissions). That’s the narrow “within NZs borders” view, but the global picture is much, much more complex – see this article I tweeted earlier today.

      1. 2 questions:

        1) Are you talking UNFCCC negotiating target, or general target for domestic policy? (they are different, we can set what ever target we want domestically but a UNFCCC target will have financial consequesnces).

        2) “forestry, native bush restoration” – do you mean neutrality from a scientific point of view, or from a UNFCCC inventory point of view (they are different again, plantation forests do not accrue credits over the full life cycle if they are harvested).

        Thanks, look forward to the post.

  8. Hey

    True, decisions about policy have important international implications.

    But just as important is to make sure that everyone is doing what they can, locally, “on island,” nationally, regionally…

    I am at best a theoretical gardener – much respect for gardeners, more for farmers, just can’t get excited about the day to day – but I love trees. Given my fixation on forests, there are two opportunities I noticed when I was in NZ where more could be done, and it is exactly forestry and native bush restoration. Specifically:
    1) Shelter belt management for more carbon capture, improved farm income through diversification into forest products, and better, longer lasting shelter belts. More land from each farm would be required, but a return could be realized through the sale of forest products.
    2) The establishment of tree farms which would be established with native trees, and which would use sustainable forestry methods. Note that this is much different than plantation forestry, with acres of radiatta pine and nothing else. The goal would be to establish forests, but also to realize income from the land to help pay for the scheme, and also to provide employment and eyes-per-acre to help improve the land.
    and 3) Related to 2), as Gareth said, native bush restoration, which is being used as a model by several carbon offset firms to provide income to help pay for it. The planting of native trees and other plants which would establish more areas of native bush, with their much higher ability to sequester carbon. Planting could also be done strategically to help solve other problems as well: improvement of soil moisture and water retention by the landscape, rebuilding of impoverished soils (especially those acidified and drained by radiatta forestry) and erosion control. So you plant in those areas which need it the most, first, thus capitalizing on the opportunity to capture even more benefit.

    As for the UNFCC inventory, I am not sure how strict it is in application, but the measures suggested here are not plantation forestry (there is plenty of radiatta already). They would require landscape and plot level baselines to be measured and established in order to quantify the benefits.

    It seems to me that the limiting factor for NZ woodwork industries is the wood supply – these measures could also aid with that over even the shorter term, especially for small scale, high value woodwork, such as furniture, that is able to take advantage of a wood supply that is slowly growing, and provides a large amount of unconventional products: small round wood, branches, younger trees and etc. Look up Parnham College/ Hooke Park Campus for lots of very interesting work on working with thinnings, small roundwood and the like…

    Now if I can just talk Canadian farmers into something like this…

  9. In terms of shelter belts… I think current UNFCCC rules only recognise planting at least 1 hectare in size and 30 metres wide. This is where the differences comes in, our UNFCCC target needs to be based on what they will acknowledge as sequestration. LULUCF rules are quite non scientific.

  10. Leaves an opportunity:

    Possibility #1: Collect carbon offsets from carbon offset companies for shelterbelts less than 30m wide, again, with measurements made for baseline and post-planting. Then use this $$ to pay UNFCC commitments that do not recognize this planting…

    Possibility #2: Plant shelterbelts more than 30m wide, but manage them as native bush restoration or sustainable forestry…

    The crux is getting there from here: farmers need to gain something from the effort, making some $$ off the land, and we need to sequester CO2…

    I am working on this for reasons of my own too: I am opposed to trying to play parlour games with CO2, aka the Canadian government’s gift of multi millions to tar sand companies to develop carbon capture and sequestration “technologies.” For me, the best carbon sequestration scheme is habitat restoration of all types…

  11. Today MfE released guide to 2020 targets:


    Has a good graph on there showing how post-1989 forest harvesting will effect our ability to meet target.

    In essence we are already 25% above 1990 levels (approx), and plantation forests have hidden this. As these are harvested we will be exposed to full emissions around 2020, and beyond that LULUCF will be no longer be sequestrating but emitting (under current pathway).

    So to cut 40% of 1990 emissions (Greenpeace target) we need to current levels by 52%.

    Also, Gareth you will see they still haven’t worked out the difference between Co2 and CO2-e! (as you have previously noted):
    “Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) have increased from pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million (ppm) to 380ppm”

    So maybe someone else should be in charge of target……….

      1. Yeah, I have got that right haven’t I? Had to do a double take. The graph and everything is labeled wrong. The target is still 450 CO2-e, but the average New Zealander thinks that we are 380 / 450 target now! (if they indeed read this, I suspect most that read this will know better).

        What is the actual CO2 equivalent level? Depends on if you include aerosols right? If not are we already over 450? Does it make sense to include aerosols? What is the 450 ppm CO2e = 2C modelling based on? Aerosols in or out? (Sorry for all the questions, new post explaining difference?) Thanks.

        1. Our comments crossed in the post. I’ll try and get a post on targets in general, and NZ in particular written in the next day or so, partly to focus my own mind on the issues before I go to the ChCh consultation meeting in Wednesday evening, and partly to provide a frame for the subject which is sadly missing from the government’s document.

      2. On reflection, it looks as though the minister and I are both right and both wrong. CO2e is the unit used in international discussions/negotiations, but it is not referring to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Technically, it’s CO2e(total), that is, atmospheric GHG concs minus the cooling effect of aerosols. In 2007, when I was completing the research for HT the book, CO2e(gases only) was about 455 ppm, but CO2e(total) was more like 375 ppm. In other words, you can treat current CO2 levels as a rough ready reckoner for CO2e(total). The MfE document doesn’t spell out this difference, and the graph labelled “global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases” isn’t – it shows CO2e(total). Lots of room for confusion, as you say.

  12. No kidding.

    Tho not anything other than an advertisement for the government’s position that we must “balance” environmental health with economic concerns – as if they are separate – it was also revealing in its comments about forestry. Seems that it is a prescription for business as usual in forestry as well, ie: forestry = plantations.

    Truly sustainable forestry is a different model, where actual forests are maintained/restored, rather than being plantations. I am going to have to look up the UNFCCC rules – if they don’t distinguish between these two different models of forestry, they ought to…

    1. The line is drawn (arbitrarily) between pre-1990 and post-1989.

      Read article 3.3 and 3.4 of the Marrakesh Accord for the distinction:
      (draft – UNFCCC doesn’t seem to have ‘final’ version)

      The following outlines some of the rules / problems under current Kyoto Protocol / commitment period 1. NZ and Canadian governments both pushing for changes for Copenhagen / CP2


      Pre-1990 forest – ignored unless deforested, then emission
      Post-1989 afforestation / refforestation: sequestration, however if harvested net emission / sequestration is zero

      Special credit debit rule for forest planted between 1990 and 2008 (first UNFCCC commitment year) stipulates that a forest planted between 1990 and 2008 and then harvested will only be debited for sequestration that happened post 2008, so that forests do not emit more than they have been credited for sequestration.

      – No distinction between native forest refforestation and exotic production forest. Balance climate issue with biodiversity etc
      – No recognition of harvested wood products – perception that foresters can make money ‘carbon farming’ is not true in the long run.

      Justification: Forest sequestration can not really offset fossil fuel emissions. Fossil fuel emissions are ~200 million years old. Forest sequestration will not capture carbon forever. Sooner or later wood will be burnt / rot in land fill / etc. So sequestration can only be credited while it is locked up in a forest. Same problems exist with soil carbon to an extent. Farmer will get credit for soil carbon. But then the obligation will always be with the land owner to maintain the increase.

      Some argue that harvested wood products are ‘double accounted’. Waste emissions in land fills will accrue an emission under UNFCCC inventories. Others argue that emissions should lie with importing country when wood is exported. Others argue that there should be a time lag between harvesting and emission charge.

      1. Emissions from rotting wood waste in landfills are only counted if they are methane. All CO2 emissions from landfills are not counted in national inventories. A tree cut down in a forest and left to rot undisturbed would not produce much methane (my guess) as it is an aerobic environment. Thus the methane emissions from a landfill are additional.

        Nicol: You’re from/in Canada right? Your conception of forestry activities is possibly at odds with NZ’s. There is no/very little ‘harvesting’ of native old growth forests here. 99.9% of NZ forestry activities are from multi-generational planted short rotation exotic forests. Canada’s forestry activites, especially in BC, are predominantly clearance of very old growth native forests with associated environmental and social impacts. These impacts do not exist in NZ in any large scale now.

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