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Government unveils framework for New Zealand's first nationwide climate change risk assessment

Government unveils framework for New Zealand's first nationwide climate change risk assessment
James Shaw by Jacky Carpenter.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the release of a framework for a National Climate Change Risk Assessment (NCCRA) is a critical first step.

The assessment will look at how the extreme weather events, rising sea levels and rising temperatures associated with climate change are affecting the country and what future risks and hazards need to be taken into account. The research will then be used to produce a national climate change adaption plan.

“We are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate such as coastal inundation and increasingly frequent and severe droughts, floods, fires and storms. This framework is an acknowledgement that we must start adapting,” Shaw says.

“The framework will enable a broad range of risks to be compared and evaluated in terms of their nature, severity, and urgency. With the release of the framework, we are now progressing work on the first risk assessment, to ensure this important work is not delayed whilst we wait for the Zero Carbon Bill to pass. This work is critical to set Aotearoa up to be able to respond to climate change as a nation.”

Assessing the risks

Work on the first assessment, which has already started, will be carried out by the Government and is expected to be completed in mid-2020. The Climate Change Commission, which will be established under the Government’s Zero Carbon Bill, will then carry out a new NCCRA every six years. The report states:

“The main objective of undertaking the NCCRA using this framework is to highlight key risks that will help inform development of a National Adaptation Plan. It is important, therefore, that the outputs from the NCCRA are targeted towards this purpose.”

It says central government will set the direction so New Zealand’s people, environment, infrastructure and economy are “more resilient” to the effects of climate change.

"In the absence of worldwide concerted effort to mitigate emissions in accord with the Paris Agreement, risks need to be assessed for the most extreme scenarios. These future changes will affect all New Zealanders, and we need to plan how we will respond and adapt, hand-in-hand with reducing our emissions.”

The Ministry for the Environment's National Climate Change Risk Assessment (NCCRA) framework was produced by a panel of experts including chair Anne Bardsley and Roger Fairclough. 

Bardsley is an associate director of research at the University of Auckland’s Centre for Science in Policy, Diplomacy and Society. Fairclough is the managing director of Neo Leaf Global and is a former Treasury advisor on infrastructure resilience and research.

Zero Carbon Bill

But the ministry says before climate change adaption can take place it first needs to understand the risks and what actions are currently being taken to address them. Both the nationwide risk assessment and a national adaptation plan are outlined in the Zero Carbon Bill which is expected to come back to Parliament for its third reading in December.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has set a target of net zero greenhouse gases by 2050 (excluding biogenic methane which has a separate target) with a series of emissions budgets set over the next few years.

Under the legislation the Government will also create the Climate Change Commission which will provide independent advice on mitigating the effects of, and adapting to, the effects of climate change. It will also carry out future risk assessments and monitor the Government’s work on adaption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But who is going to pay for the massive costs involved in adapting to the effects of climate change isn’t outlined in the ambitious bill, or the new national risk assessment and remains the elephant in the room.

Local government response

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) president Dave Cull has welcomed the Government’s announcement as an important first step.

“Today’s announcement is an acknowledgement that the effects of climate change on New Zealand are already baked in for at least the next century in the form of more severe storm events, unpredictable weather patterns, and rising sea levels,” Cull says.

“That’s why it is vital that we as a country act now to put the right regulatory rules and systems in place ahead of time, so that our communities can be more resilient in the face of these challenges. Today’s announcement is a welcome first step towards putting these regulations in place.”

But he says it may need to be more user friendly for some of the country’s local authorities.

“While recognising that this is a first cut and an iterative process, the framework needs to be significantly simplified in future if it is to be useful to councils. If it requires the resources of a city to complete, then many smaller councils will find it challenging if not impossible to resource the work needed and meaningfully play their part in New Zealand’s response to the effects of climate change.”

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) released a report in January titled, Vulnerable: The quantum of local government infrastructure exposed to sea level rise. It looked at the cost to councils from rising sea levels and said up to $14 billion of local government infrastructure was at risk. The report called on central government to urgently develop policies to help minimise the impact of climate change on New Zealand communities.

Legal risks

A report released this week by law firm Chapman Tripp says the country’s attempts to date to address the growing impact of climate change have so far involved lot of talk, but little action. But local government will be hit hard by the effects of the changing environment.

"The risks for local government arising from climate change adaptation and mitigation are panoramic in scale. They extend beyond sea level rise and flooding to extreme weather events such as drought and storm and to the pest and health effects associated with higher temperatures – all of which will need to be anticipated and managed at the local level.

"The legal exposure is also large; running from challenges to the accuracy of the data councils use, the actions they take based on that information, or a failure to act – e.g., allowing development in locations which are at risk of climate change effects, or not maintaining the provision of essential infrastructure and services."

Chapman Tripp says many councils are well-advanced in their climate change risk assessment work and work is already underway on New Zealand’s first national assessment. But until the Zero Carbon Bill is passed and the first NCCRA is finished, a lot of the country’s local authorities have been left to deal with these issues independently.

And it says it highlights the ongoing tenuous relationship between central and local government which has a long history.

“Central government has a long history of loading new functions on to local government – e.g., through National Policy Statements, National Environmental Standards and Treaty of Waitangi settlements – without providing any additional funding to meet the associated costs.

“The Beehive has always been conspicuously reluctant to agree to new funding sources for local government, especially if the money would come out of its own pocket.”

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This is potentially a very complex area. The greenies efforts to drive us away from fossil fuels, perhaps too precipitously, directly or indirectly could actually backfire on them. Much of the economy today means people have to travel for work, for shopping, for healthcare and so on. It will be literally impossible for public transport to meet these needs, and for the vast majority of people a push bike is impractical or impossible. Imposition of additional cost because they want to discourage people from driving or using fossil fuelled transport, may actually mean people will either keep older, less efficient vehicles longer (how often have we seen greenies driving around in old vans with a cloud of smoke?) or find other ways around any rules to get by.

Think our local councils should worry about DHBs and infrastructure before they try saving the planet at the rate payers expense.

As I said, NZ's political system is no longer able to solve complex problems.

The system is suitable for cutting a pie fairly (questionable even) not suitable for growing the pie.

The whole climate change policies in NZ will have zero impact on climate, zero impact on NZ's ability to innovate any green tech, little to no impacts on NZ's fresh waterways and the health of estuaries, some impacts on adapting new green tech from elsewhere, big negative impacts on average NZer's pocket, big negative impacts on economy, and a big boost to lefty politicians ego!

Yes we need a corrupt dictatorship like the one you have in China that has left the air unbreathable for many of it's citizens in many cities.

Not in Xinjiang, they're taking great steps to clean the air in that region. Maybe it's to prolong the suffering and punishment of the inhabitants in the concentration camps who were dying prematurely due to smog related illnesses.

It's good it see that China is taking steps to try and clean up there act in regards to air quality but the still have a very long way to go to match NZ's air quality which is excellent in most areas. Too bad China still has a much bigger challenge to clean up its human rights violations.
BBC article: Beijing 'trapped under giant toxic cloud'

Where do you live? And I'll tell you the corrupt dictatorship you live under.

Economics of EVs (guaranteed to be cheaper than petrol vehicles in 10 years due to learning curves of mass production), mean the change will happen without political intervention. Likewise shift to home pv/battery - because in 10 years it will be cheaper than the $0.2/kWh that the grid adds to wholesale electricity cost. Greens with short term political perspective need to see the bigger picture - all they will achieve is waste of Billions and hurting standards of living unnecessarily, when the change they want will happen anyway - just 5-10 years later than they are demanding, making zero real difference to the world (NZ emissions irrelevant to global climate).

From everything I am reading we need to move a lot faster or go extinct. Which would you prefer being dead? or being poorer?

The sea level rise will be slow and a known risk.
There should simply be no compensation, full stop.
Council will have to plan for the infrastructure retreat, & property owners will lose their houses.

If councils and individuals then want to insure against other climate related weather risks let them.

The problem is if the council doesnt highlight a risk and allows a developer to build its left liable. If through inadequate assessment work its forced via a court to allow the building or remove its red flags there is then the ability of the purchasers to sue the Council for negligence.

The kicker is going to be insurance companies refusing to insure a "new" property (ie literally new, or when the property is sold and bought) . Sadly its going to come down to private insurers refusing cover using their own models that prevents ongoing stupidity/greed and even then I am not sure the council cant be sued and held accountable.

What this does highlight is there is a huge risk for existing rate payers having to cough up massive sums to compensate the few stupids.

Its simply not that hard for Councils to produce sea level rise isochrones (metres above high tide level) which are updated, say 5 yearly.

All building at a given isochrone (below king high tide+storm level + 100 year rate of sea level change + a small buffer) can then be banned (houses are typically given 80-100 lifetimes)

The 80-100 years could be replaced with longer periods for other infrastructure (commercial buildings, tunnels etc)

40 years of satellite data (most reliable data set) shows global average air temp increasing at about 1.3°C/Century. But in New Zealand, in huge ocean it is 0.8°C/Century. Average temperature in NZ increases 0.8°C for every 100km north you travel. So net effect of next 100years warming is same as moving 100km north. Something that would improve almost every NZ'ers lives through more pleasant climate and more productive farming. Sea level rise at 1-2mm/year (same as last 100 years) is no big deal either. Climate change scaremongering is expensive misanthropic religious posturing, not backed by data.

Glad you made your position clear as a climate denier.

Quoting (and linking) to measured data is 'denial'? Can you not see how insane that makes you look? It sucks when reality doesn't conform to your faith, but "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard P. Feynman

James Shaw won't be happy until we're all living in caves, only breathing in, eating lentils locally grown on the compost derived from our recently deceased family members. Can't wait, I f'ing love lentils.

oh... I'm not sure lentils would ok mate, digested legumes result in a huge amount of methane being vented to atmosphere..

To further boost lefty politicians egos they have drafted draconian standards for water in the "Action for Healthy waterways", standards for drinking water, storm water and waste waters that could cost billions to towns and cities increasing rates for all, somehow this has flown under the media radar. The standards required of farming in their own words "if implemented the report could have very significant economic and social implications for individuals and communities in some parts of NZ". $26,000/year for the next 10 years for the average sheep and beef farm for starters.

$26k is negligible.

thats 26K/a *10 or a total of $260,000, if that is negligible you are welcome to pay it on our behalf. The Mohaka river on our boundary is pristine. We use no N,P or K. HBRC measure our water quality and it cleans and clears and improves as it passes our upland sheep and beef. Where is the problem? At the same time we will have to reduce our stocking by 40% over time to comply with the Zero Carbon Bill.

No where in the "climate change" jargon is it ever talked about natural cycles the earth goes through. Right now the hype is a one way street thus we this kind of spending on "looking in to it" to justify more new taxes ...

The scientists are well aware of Milankovitch cycles and factor it into their analysis, this is just another strawman from the denier camp.

The fact they have looked at "natural cycles" and discounted them all repeatedly shows your inability to even do basic searching via google before typing, congrats on your failure to get even a basic education.

The estimates of cost of the freshwater plan to sheep and beef farmers have been described elsewhere as "heroic". The fencing of waterways on our previous farm would have required 20 kilometres of fence at an estimated $13/metre. $260,000 is not negligible. Then there is the loss of production from 20 hectares of land behind the fences, plus the added cost of controlling weeds and pests in what will become waste land, which incidentally the owner still has to pay the rates on. If the government wants the land adjacent to waterways to be retired it should buy it. It's called putting one's ( in this case the taxpayer's ) money where one's mouth is.

The freshwater plan might be dead in the water. From the Office of the Auditor General today, as reported on national radio rural affairs ".... there is not enough information about freshwater at a national level to prioritise efforts on a national basis"

There's one very direct way and effective way to help save the planet. And that's to avoid buying products from the worst polluted countries who keep churning out pollution containing most of the green house gases. Just take a look at the Air Quality Map below. You'll see that China is still the top polluter, followed by Indonesia and then India. If we avoid buying their products then the have to do reduce their pollution emissions. Air Pollution in World: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map

The more panic JS acts & encourages, the quicker he takes us down the path to nuclear fuels!

Science also tells us nuclear power is the answer to any issue climate science describes.
Science also tells nuclear is the answer to any future energy issues we have.

The press, CNN are now on board for nuclear power.