People talkin’

targetWith the first week of 2020 target consultations out of the way, here are a few reflections on what I heard in Christchurch, what happened elsewhere, and what the world’s been up to. Perhaps most hearteningly, the G8 nations (USA, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada & Italy) agreed that they would aim at limiting climate change to 2ºC of warming, target 80% emissions cuts for rich nations, and 50% cuts globally. Even if that’s not enough (Ban Ki Moon wasn’t all that impressed), it is at least a start. Meanwhile, the G5 group (China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa), also meeting at L’Aquila in Italy, called for rich nations to adopt a 40% by 2020 target. The international dynamics in the run-up to Copenhagen are all too clear…

Reports from this week’s 2020 target consultation meetings suggest that Nick Smith and Tim Groser (replaced in Christchurch by Adrian Macey, NZ’s climate ambassador) have had to face up to pretty solid support for a 40% target. Greenpeace laid on a star-studded night in Auckland (Jim Salinger told me today he enjoyed his date with Lucy Lawless), and there were certainly plenty of Sign On and people in the Christchurch session, as well as another voluble Gareth. The ODT and report that Dunedin was much the same.

My reactions to Nick Smith’s presentation in Christchurch were mixed. He made all the right noises about supporting action, and emphasised that he was willing to work with Labour to achieve a lasting policy consensus — which is a key step in delivering certainty on the long term direction of policy. I have no doubt, given his comments, that an emissions trading scheme will emerge from the ETS Review process, but remain somewhat sceptical about how watered-down it will be. Smith was too keen to emphasise how hard it would be to make emissions cuts, yet did little more than pay lip service to the carbon sink side of the equation, and seemed able to quote at will from the Greenhouse Policy Coalition’s recent “40% will be too expensive” economic forecast.

I sat with AndrewH, and saw more than a few familiar faces in the crowd. It may have been the only public meeting in NZ history when two alumni of St Catherine’s College made short speeches (hi Rhys). Did I imagine seeing Smith and Macey sit up a little when I challenged them to move from 50 by 50? Overall, I was impressed with the passion of the contributions made from the floor, except possibly for the poor soul who spoke last. He spoke glowingly of Ian Wishart’s Air Con (to a smattering of polite boos), only to be advised by the Minister that Gareth Morgan’s Poles Apart was the better, and more accurate, reference.

The targets roadshow continues next week with public meetings in Hamilton, Napier, New Plymouth and Nelson. The ministers also have a session at the Institute of Policy Studies at VUW on the 15th which is by invitation only (I’d love to hear the proceedings) and a meeting with the Iwi Leadership Group. You can make submissions direct to Nick at n.smith AT, and he will be taking part in a webcast panel discussion live online on Monday 20 July at 7-30pm here. Questions in advance to: 2020target AT No excuses. Make your voice heard.

[Lucinda Williams]

5 thoughts on “People talkin’”

  1. so.

    the US, Canada, Japan and Russia finally admit to what 124 other countries (including the rest of the G8’s European members) realised some time ago: that a global temperature rise of two degrees is a threshold beyond which we should not go.

    As a group of 8 they decided that one OUGHT to keep temperature rise below that. Not should – or must – but ought.

    What was in the original G8 text was the ambition of having emissions peak in 2020. Can’t have that, though, can we. Might lead to a discussion of mid-term targets. Which the US vigorously opposed.

    Long term targets of 80% cuts by 2050, yes, nice. Looks good. But check out the baseline year. 1990 or more recent years . oh, might that be Obama’s 2005 baseline year?

    Whatever baseline, let’s look at how one might reach that. But it doesn’t really matter … 2050’s a long way off. So why bother?

    clever,though. spin for two months that two degrees is being dropped, so that when that’s all you achieve it seems like a victory.

  2. Hi Gareth… it would seem the minister(s) have had a pretty clear message all round the country. I was expecting a bit more of a presence from the denialists and ‘bad for business’ lobby .
    I wasn’t expecting the format to be as it was…ie room for prepared mini speeches but it seemed to work quite well and maintained the focus. Your delivery was good, put an additional angle on the issues that the other speakers didn’t seem to have latched on to and I didn’t see you referring to notes.
    I took some comfort from what I heard Nick Smith say and although I tend to share his view that achieving 40% looks hard I still think it is worth heading down that road. With the right direction and starting soon I think we will find the targets are easier to attain than they currently appear.

  3. Not sure if this is the right thread to voice my 2c worth, so please forgive if not. – Or move this.

    In my opinion the governments can commit to any threshold they like – none of them have any idea of how to get to those limits. The countries least willing to commit are perhaps those taking this most seriously – at least they admit it will be hard. If we say 50 by 50, that’s cheap talk but how will we do that? All thermal electricity generation shut down, all fossil-fuelled transport gone (hydrogen or electric cars & trucks, all railways electric, shipping, air? Double the number of power stations, hydrogen supply infrastructure..), all household heating to be carbon-neutral in 40 years time?

    The problem is that nothing will change (we’ve known about global warming for at least 10 years and nothing has changed yet) until it’s cheaper to change than not. I drive an 8yr old hybrid car, mostly because it’s cheaper that driving an ordinary car. When hydrogen cars are cheaper still I’ll switch to them. My house is heated by heatpump because that’s (marginally) cheaper too.

    But what can Governments do? What can communities do? What can individuals do? We have to promote investing in green infrastructure (wind turbines, wave energy, hydro, solar, etc), we have to have much higher oil/petrol/gas/coal costs than other sources so it’s cheaper to switch. The oil price rising last year was the best thing ever for climate change – keep it up! This motivates investment in green development and infrastructure like nothing else.

    We have to promote a public mind-shift to accept that fossil fuels are on their way out, and to accept the prices will keep rising. If you believe in peak-oil you will understand that this will happen eventually, but that theory says we’ve only released half the CO2 we are going to to-date – that means 500ppm CO2, not 380!

    What must be done, staring today, is for governments to present a unified message: “Cost of Oil will go up and up. Start investing in eco-alternatives now while you still can”. And then the price must actually reflect this to help fledgling industries get going and to reinforce the idea in people’s heads. At least the price of oil is as global as the problem!


  4. I made it to the last meeting in Nelson. I’ve uploaded to YouTube my oral submission.

    There mood was positive, with a lot of submissions relating to the potential of carbon farming, including from one entrepreneur who has “10 different ways” that he is reducing carbon, a submission from Carbonfarm – a company specialising in providing technology and logistics for people to produce carbon credits, and a soil biology specialist who I had a great long chat with about soil health, biochar and many other things. I’ve invited him to come write on the carbon soil farming story.

    There was a denialist lobby there, clearly recognisable by the ones who didn’t stand up for the “stand up if you agree to 10%…20%… etc” bit. One denier got on the mike and blathered some stuff about 2009 being cold, polar bear populations being OK, etc – to boos and heckles from the crowd. One of the seated deniers snapped at me for heckling and I blew a raspberry :-). The Hon. Minister thankfully rebutted one of his points later and re-iterated that he listens to his staff scientists. He also mentioned that in Napier there was a very strong denialist presence who suggested a +41% emissions target as that was what we were on track for.

    1. Good stuff, Sam. The carbon accounting issue is important – and not going unnoticed. Most large international accountancy firms already have their coterie of carbon accountants…

      I’ve argued before (and will again, no doubt), that NZ should have two carbon accounts: one for the “official” Kyoto (et sub) process, and a grey, or “full” account, which takes into account all the emissions and sinks not currently included in the Kyoto rules. The idea would be to aim for carbon neutrality on the wider measure first, and then (after the economy has adjusted) in terms of Kyoto commitments. Good for our image at the very least, and good for the climate system because carbon is carbon is carbon…
      This would allow NZ a great deal more flexibility in responding to the problem. Could it also represent a “second tier” to the ETS? I need to ponder…

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