NZ needs to take next step in climate change fight and put targets into law, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says

NZ needs to take next step in climate change fight and put targets into law, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright has sent a clear message to politicians at the top of government with her final report: Leadership is needed on climate change.

New Zealand’s climate change targets should be enshrined in law, giving the message that it is an inter-generational issue that needs to be tackled with cross-party support, Wright says.

New legislation, similar to the UK’s Climate Change Act, should require the setting of carbon budgets that would act as stepping stones towards New Zealand’s various targets signed under agreements like Paris, Wright says. Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland also have similar legislation.

Speaking in Wellington Thursday after launching the final report from her time in the role, Wright said political leadership was needed right from the top of government, citing the influence Margaret Thatcher and then Tony Blair had on the creation of the UK legislation.

Meanwhile, she also flagged an idea for how to partially include agriculture under New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), by “very easily” bringing nitrogen fertiliser under the scheme. “To bring agriculture as a whole into the ETS would be quite difficult…and perhaps not achieve much; just a lot of noise."

Labour and the Green Party came out in support of the proposal. Federated Farmers said the report had their "qualified support," but said decisions needed to be apolitical. The Feds' climate change spokesperson, Andrew Hoggard, referrenced recent adverse weather events and said more needed to be done to improve resilience to the changing climate.

Dairy NZ said having formal carbon budgets would create certainty for the dairy industry. "We recognise the dairy sector’s responsibility to contribute to reduction targets, but we are currently operating within an environment that provides no clear pathway for dairy to move towards a low emission future," CEO Tim Mackle said.

“The approach recommended by Dr Jan Wright provides a transparent process which would provide greater certainty to dairy. The setting of carbon budgets for five year periods would will allow the dairy sector and farmers to plan over the longer term how they will reduce their emissions. However, this is a complex challenge which requires a well thought out approach," he said.

Legislation needed

Wright says the legislation should also establish a high-powered independent expert group that would crunch the numbers and provide objective advice.

“Climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue,” Wright said. “It’s a huge challenge. And not just for the current Government, but also for the Governments that succeed them into the future, be they blue, red, green, or any other colour.”

“There is an opportunity here for the next Parliament to build on recent developments and take a historic step forward that will be credited for generations to come,” she says. Wright called for cross-party agreement on the issue.

Wright on Thursday released a report on New Zealand’s progress to meeting its climate goals. Under the Paris Agreement, we’ve promised to reduce carbon emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Paris Agreement gives New Zealand a ‘carbon budget’ from 2021 to 2030 of 594 MtCO2e worth of emissions – just under 60 Mt per year over that period for which 40 Mt a year will be taken up by agriculture emissions. Current projections show we’re set to emit 814Mt over that period. See Alex Tarrant’s article here on problems facing New Zealand’s reductions and offsetting track here, due to a reliance on an international carbon market opening up that New Zealand polluters can tap.

In the report, Wright echoed comments from Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett on Wednesday that there was no guarantee New Zealand would gain access to international carbon credits.

How have we been doing?

Since 1990, New Zealand's emissions had risen "very significantly," the report says. Considerable variation from year to year was down to reasons such as the Global Financial Crisis, lower cattle and sheep numbers during droughts, tree harvesting cycles, cold winters, and dry years.

Wright noted the graph below appears to indicate that New Zealand would meet its Paris target without reliance on offshore credits if net emissions levelled out.

"But it is not so simple. In the 1990s, there was a spike in new forest planting. These trees, sometimes referred to as the ‘wall of wood’, will be harvested during the 2020s, and much of the carbon dioxide stored in the wood will begin to return to the atmosphere," she said.

"Moreover, there is no direct link between New Zealand climate policy and reaching the Paris target. There are no guarantees that the curve will begin to bend or that there will be access to international carbon credits."

The chart above details various climate change commitments governments have signed up to. Three have been set following United Nations conferences – a 2012 target at Kyoto in 1997, a 2020 target at Copenhagen in 2009, and a 2030 target at Paris in 2015. A fourth target – the ‘50 by 50’ target – was gazetted by the Government in 2011, the report sets out.

Agriculture

Watch Wright talking about how New Zealand could partially bring agriculture under the ETS in the video below. She says nitrogen fertiliser could be an easy way to bring the sector partially under the scheme.

There were also changes ahead for the industry which might mean pastoral agriculture is not as dominant an industry as it is now, Wright said. “I’m speaking to the Red Meat conference next Monday…and you can see in their programme that they’re quite concerned…about the prospect on synthetic protein coming over the horizon, and the effect that will have on New Zealand.”

This could also be the case with synthetic milk, she said. “The same thing that happened to wool with nylon. “We’re not going to be able to feed the world on protein from animals. So this looks like a change that’s going to come. It could happen faster than we think. So I do think our agriculture’s going to face changes, regardless…you can’t look at an economy and say that’s the way it’s always going to be.”

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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27 Comments

The chart implies we met our Kyoto commitments? Is that right? I thought we had a deficit (an amount to pay)?

NZ would have met its Kyoto commitments by virtue of the additional carbon sequestered in exotic forest. Unfortunately much of the forest planted in the 1990's boom will be harvested in upcoming years and further exacerbate the Paris commitment shortfall. This is why the Government is trying to change the international accounting rules to support an 'averaging' approach.

Yes there is climate change but the whole carbon tax thing is a crock. You pay billions to someone else when you fail to meet the target for what ? how does that help the planet ? oh wait it sounds like the bill you get for wanting to bail out of the EU like the UK, where does all those billions of dollars go ? basically I would give them the finger.

The tax comes back to real people like you and me and we then get to decide how to use it.

It is a money go round for sure and the thinking is that if we don't have to spend it (by favouring low carbon things) we will.

So cheap airplane tickets become more expensive and people that choose to fly pay the carbon tax, like a GST, but a CT, and companies remit that amount like they do GST every month, 2 monthly or 6 monthly. Govt collects the amount and then gives it all back to the people living in NZ.

So self drive tourism will pay increased amounts for fuel, and the CT ends up back up the you and me NZ citizen.

Oh Carlos such ignorance is almost not worth replyng to. How does it help by imposing a charge? Simple, by discouraging/changing behavour.

Would you prefer the Amazon or South East Asian forests clear felled for a one off gain ......... or would you prefer they received cash from emitters to sustain it, and thus life. Extrapolate this around the glob and we might have a chance.

Yes I know we havent got an intenational carbon exchange yet...but in a nutshell, this is what it' s about. We have to start somewhere...or are you happy the course we take is gonna work out just fine?

This just makes sense. We need to take politics out of important scientific decisions. The public only seem to vote in their own financial benefit and our system therefore seems unable to deal with large scale negative problems.

Our government used to be a leader - eg nuclear free, gst, simple tax system, - now they just kick the can down the road making their mates richer and giving citizenship to those with the most $$.

A few more comments, charts and videos in there now,

Cheers

97% CONSENSUS? I don't think so.

To gain public acceptance for carbon taxes and renewable energy subsidies, several studies claim a 97% scientific consensus on global warming, implying that the human causes are all about carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases; but a closer look reveals a lot of mathematical manipulation goes into arriving at 97% - a psychological ploy that plays on our primal emotions, ‘herd mentality’ and fear of being the odd man out.

Few people know that the Dutch government has called for the IPCC to be overhauled stating: “..limiting the scope of the IPCC to human-induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system..”

Not only is the 97% claim faulty, the climate predictions of the IPCC exclude an estimated 65% natural factor influence.

https://friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/97_Consensus_Myth.pdf

There are seven peer-reviewed studies that suggest that the consensus is greater than 90%. There are zero peer-reviewed studies that suggest the consensus is less than 90%.

Simon have you got a link for that?
And did you actually read the 51 pages in the pdf?

https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-int...
This refers to reports including one published in 2016 which supports the high level of consensus (and not written by the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, aka "Friends of Science").
So you can quit complaining about the science. Time to work on a solution to the problem.

antonymouse,

I would like to think that you would be amenable to facts,so here goes. A 2010 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analysed 1372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that; 97/98% of the researchers most actively publishing supported the tenets of Anthropogenic Climate Change.
A 2013 study published in the peer reviewed Environmental Research Letters reviewed scientific literature between 1991 and 2011,identified by searching the ISI Web of Science citation index engine for text strings, 'global climate change' or 'global warming'. 1/3rd of these papers expressed an opinion on GW in their abstract and of these,97% endorsed the position that humans are responsible for current global warming.
Now, all climate scientists fully accept that natural climate change goes on all the time, but basic physics tells us that increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has a warming effect. This is not new. John Tyndall isolated CO2 around 170 years ago and understood its warming effects. Then Svante Arhennius the Swedish scientist,with the recently discovered Stefan-Boltzmann and Wein Laws to aid him,-these are radiation laws-was able to calculate with considerable accuracy what the temperature increase would be,given a particular increase in CO2. This is known as the climate sensitivity.
I could go on at length on such matters as to how the electro magnetic spectrum affects the incoming and outgoing radiation from the sun. The earth has an albedo of .30.

I think you'll find LInklator01 that something like 76 of the 1372 responded to the survey. Of that 76 responders, 73 stated that they thought global warming was caused by humans.....the 97% is not from the total 1372.

I didn't say that it came from the 1372,but from those most actively publishing on the subject. Are you implying that the consensus of that 97% is wrong,or that the figures have been manipulated or something else?

Basically,do you accept the human role in GW or not?

Thank goodness her term is up, her views have influenced a lot of questionable decisions the Govt has made, and to promote more and more legislation as the be all end all, Please!
Incentives always work better.

The figure for NZ Agriculture is NOT a net figure as the chart shows.

Why do we allow this gross distortion to continue - It is wildly inaccurate.

The net figure for Agriculture is roughly half this figure once CO2 absorption is counted.

Absolutely JB, you really do have to wonder if folk can even think straight these days.
The emissions from the livestock contain carbon, agreed. The carbon comes from the food they eat (grass, corn etc) that was absorbed from the atmosphere. It's a cycle, it's even got a name: the carbon cycle.
If you have grassland and no stock the cycle is much the same as the grasses are eaten by insects, fungi and bacteria which output CO2 and methane (anerobic decay) as they cycle the carbon.
Further the end consumer should accept responsibility for the greenhouse gases. The UK is a good example; a lot/most of their food, steel and manufactured goods are produced elsewhere. No wonder they have declining GHG.

I agree JB and this then raises the question of whether the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is misleading the Minister of the Environment and other MP's and the people of New Zealand.

In regards to the 97% it is all about how you ask the questions and which scientists do you ask, from what I have seen of these "results" the questions were put to just about anyone with a degree including psychologists and language graduates.
Does climate change? Duh, always has and always will.
Do you believe there is a human influence on climate? Looking at how we change our physical environment it stands to reason that most indeed would answer that as a yes particularly those who do not study the subject.
Not hard to get to those sorts of numbers and then if your income depends on specific research outcomes guess what the outcome will be.
But that does not mean that the actual data correlates with the models and it is on the models that policy is set, which seems bollocks.
I am all for getting onto alternative energy sources providing they are reliable and sustainable. Standing for a while behind the tailpipe of a car belching it's smoke gives me breathing problems from which I need to conclude that it can not be healthy for the environment either. Sadly Lithium is in limited supply and rare earth extraction and refining is a very messy business which diminishes the sustainability issue.
But does the slight (manmade as per consensus) change in atmospheric composition have the alleged influence on temperature/climate?
Let's first find out what caused the temp increase in the Minoan, Roman and Medieval Warm Periods. One way or the other the consensus for that is that it was natural. Happening about every 1000 years, guess how long ago the MWP was.
We are not yet farming on Greenland like the Vikings did so there would appear to be a lot of room for natural temp improvement. And let's face it humanity has always done better at times of climate optimums.
It is "highly" likely that the temp would have gone up if we had not been using any fossil fuels at all, just because we are in that cycle and compare it with temps in a time when we were heading for the next ice age. (anyone remember the 60's)
Not to mention that a hectare of grassland absorbs more CO2 to grow then a hectare of pine trees.
If the politicians want to get rid of fossil fuel just say so and get it done, save the money for study after study that only concludes that more research is needed. The change over will cost us enough as it is.

"If the politicians want to get rid of fossil fuel just say so and get it done, save the money .."

Money is a function of energy - not the other way round. Money is only an energy token - what you are suggesting is getting rid of the basis of Industrial civilization.... a tough sell.

Saving the money for endless studies re climate change and all sorts of hypothetical effects it may have is in my opinion different then getting rid of energy. Getting rid of fossil fuels will mean the changeover to alternative energy sources and these changes will be costly enough.
If the politicians would have a real concern for climate they will make decisions based on real data and not models as it is now and the real data does not suggest the link. So a skeptical mind concludes that it is the fossil fuels they want to get rid of for the sake of getting rid of it and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Change is more often then not good even if painful.
Although a lot of energy goes into those studies which the taxpayer funds in that sense you are right, money is a function of energy.

The politicians know that the only saleable idea is MORE and more importantly the financial system mandates growth in debt. You cant payback loans under a continually shrinking economy.(you can service them by endlessly lowering interest rates but its ultimately a dead end road for a debt based system...)

But the economy is ultimately an energy flow, not monetary.. Money is worthless without an energy backing. If you print money without increasing the energy underwriting it and you soon end up with monopoly paper.
So "alternative" energy sources have to deliver enough punch to underwrite our existing debt(money) as well as a ever greater mountain of debt....
Its a predicament, not a problem. So its
a) Preserve the envt OR
b) maintain the financial system & our (temporary) standard of living.

No one is seriously interested in axing plan b

I'll spell it out more directly.
The farmer puts his oil derived petro chemicals onto his agrichemical seeds using agricultural equipment manufactured using heat & ores mined using fossil fuels .. producing iron & steel and plastics and rubber and diesel ... which then gets harvested & transported by heavy trucks on roads made using Oil to cities built of concrete where millions await their food in supermarkets where they use their "money" tokens derived from the fact that the fossil fuels have allowed such efficiency in (eg) food production that they can do "jobs" such as playing at lawyers or rugby players or baristas ... without starving ...
Do you think a solar panel can pick up the tab?

As per above "reliable and sustainable"
Solar is not reliable, arguably sustainable although we need more, much more land for it, waste land like deserts can be used. Ok so NZ does not count for that. But there appears plenty of feedstock for the panels to generate the energy unlike Lithium needed to store the energy. (progress will change both)
Cost are another matter but progress will reduce that also.
NZ needs more water power as a reliable renewable source, if that is what we want. Any other "renewable" is not reliable.
A friend of mine put it in a different way a while ago.
It is not what the farmers or industry see as feasible or viable, it is what the city population wants. Democracy will see to that.
In other words:
Democracy is the process to change by getting enough votes not sensible thoughts. (always has been but never before has the population been living in cities in such large numbers as a % of the overall population).
The city population's needs and wants are fairly homogeneous and form the majority now.
Scare the daylights out of them and they will vote for change, just keep repeating the message. Hence the wasted money (energy) on endless studies and study conclusions used to push through the change.
NZ is unlikely to ever go nuclear or get more hydro. Scare stories and precious grasses or snails will see to that.
Whether we like it or not NZ is not isolated in this and it would appear clear that politicians in those nations that matter in regards to paying for the change have decided that the last fossil fuel train has left the station and is not coming back. (disregarding the US president's opinion on this, eventually he moves on again)

Holy Cow all that farting is going to be the death of us all !!! I'm calling on all vegetarians to do their part in climate change and help eat more of them before the world ends !!!

There is about as much credible evidence on climate change as there is for religion (not much).