Knock on wood

pine.gif Rumblings about the forestry industry’s disappointment with the “suspension” of the ETS have not been slow to surface, but as I’m no expert on the business (though I do like trees) I asked well-known forestry consultant Piers Maclaren if he could provide Hot Topic’s readers with an overview of what’s going on. I must have asked nicely, because within hours he’d supplied an excellent – and forthright – article to post (see above). For those who don’t know Piers, here’s a brief (self-penned) CV:

Piers Maclaren remembers the time he first became aware of the issue of global warming: it was at a student meeting in 1970. Over the years, he came to realise how intractable this problem was, but it wasn’t until 1989 that he had the opportunity – as a scientist working at the Forest Research Institute, Rotorua – to actually work on it. He devised a way to calculate the nation’s carbon budget for forestry, and this yielded a figure that overwhelmed carbon from other sectors.

He has written over 100 scientific papers, attended numerous international meetings, and reviewed all four IPPC reports. He was science advisor to the Minister for the Environment (Hon Simon Upton) at the first Conference of the Parties in Berlin in 1995. He now works as an independent forestry consultant dealing with a wide range of issues, including climate change. He’s read – and strongly approved of – Gareth’s book on climate change “Hot Topic”.

In other words, he speaks with some authority.. 😉 His take on forestry and the ETS is essential reading.

Two worlds collide

On the one hand, we have Brian Fallow in the Herald providing a cogent analysis of the new government’s decision to do a deal with ACT and put a carbon tax back on the table:

In any case it represents further delay and uncertainty to follow the three years wasted as the previous Government failed to muster the parliamentary numbers for a carbon tax, and the three more as it designed and finally passed an emissions trading scheme. Act’s proposed terms of reference, perhaps deliberately, are a recipe for interminable further delay and uncertainty.

On the other, we have former ACT MP Muriel Newman explaining her thinking in the NBR:

First, the move to pass legislation to delay the implementation of the emissions trading scheme and to repeal the ban on thermal electricity generation is sensible.

Second, while the plan to hold a select committee inquiry is a good step in the right direction, it is crucial that it allows the opportunity for a wider debate on the scientific evidence in support of, or against, the existence of anthropogenic global warming. The review must also, as a priority, hold a proper investigation in the way that the Kyoto Protocol deals with agriculture.

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Wagging the dog

John Key has just announced the deal he has signed with ACT, allowing National to form a minority government. It looks – at least in terms of the agreement on climate policy, very much like Hide’s tail is wagging the National dog, and New Zealand’s stance on climate change is about to take a big turn for the worse. Implementation of the ETS is to be delayed until a special select committee reports on climate policy. The agreement includes the following section on climate policy:

National is committed to retaining measures to address New Zealand’s Kyoto obligations, by making amendments to the legislation that will balance our environmental responsibilities with our economic needs. ACT campaigned on a policy of abolishing the ETS.

National agrees to a review by a special select committee of Parliament of the current Emissions Trading Scheme legislation and any amendments or alternatives to it, including carbon taxes, in the light of current economic circumstances and steps now being undertaken by similar nations.

National further agrees to pass forthwith an amendment to the ETS legislation delaying its implementation, repealing the thermal generation ban and making any other necessary interim adjustments until the select committee review is completed.

ACT is not opposed to New Zealand adopting responsible climate change policies. What it opposes is an ETS that was never adequately justified. If a rigorous select committee inquiry establishes a credible case that New Zealanders would benefit from action by New Zealand, in conjunction with other countries that are important to us, ACT would be prepared to support legislation giving effect to such action. National agrees that the Terms of Reference for such an inquiry will be mutually agreed between ACT and National and that the Terms of Reference proposed by ACT are attached as Appendix 1 will be an initial basis for discussion.

Before the election, National was committed to retaining the ETS. Now it is only committed to “retaining measures to address New Zealand’s Kyoto obligations”. It looks very much like the current framework of policy on climate change is about to be dismantled, and that John Key has failed his first test as prime minister – before he’s been sworn in.

Full text of ACT’s proposed terms of reference below the fold:

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When will they ever learn?

homer.jpgForget global warming. The cold, hard facts point to another threat on the horizon – severe cooling.” That’s the strapline over an opinion piece in yesterday’s Dominion Post business section (Sunspots spell end of climate myth), contributed by Bryan Leyland, one of the more vocal of our local climate cranks. It’s an astonishing piece, given a splash treatment by the paper. Consider this sentence, given prominence as a pull-out quote by the Post:

Researchers have discovered that warming since 1975 is not caused by greenhouse gases.

That’s news to me. It would be news to anyone with half a brain. So why then is this “fact” not on the front page of the Dom Post, or indeed the world’s newspapers? Because it’s not true. Leyland is making stuff up.

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Things are gonna change (the morning after)

On the morning after I was more interested in the rugby than agonising over the entrails of Saturday night’s election result, but today it’s worth traversing what new Zealand’s new political landscape might bring for climate policy. For the wider picture, I recommend Russell Brown’s take at Hard News and Gordon Campbell’s at Scoop; they summarise the politics of the situation nicely.

The big question, of course, is to what extent Rodney Hide’s ACT contingent – guaranteed a coalition deal, with Hide in cabinet – can persuade prime minister designate John Key to modify National’s policy on the Emissions Trading Scheme (keeping it, but watering it down even further).

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