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Climate change: Our $1.2 billion a year credibility gap

Written By: - Date published: 1:30 pm, April 20th, 2011 - 14 comments
Categories: climate change, ETS, International, national - Tags: ,

I was going to write on this, but as is often the case, I/S has already said it far better. — r0b

Earlier in the month, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment called bullshit on the government’s “20% by 2020” target, pointing out that under current policy settings, we had no hope of meeting it. She’s not alone – the criticism has been echoed by the International Energy Agency. And now the UN has weighed in, pointing out the credibility gap in its latest review of our climate change policies:

A United Nations review has found a large credibility gap between New Zealand’s target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and the measures in place to achieve it.

“It could find no plan for two-thirds or more of what is required to meet the target,” said the Sustainability Council’s executive director, Simon Terry.

The actual review is here [PDF]. Its a fairly technical document, largely concerned with whether our most recent national communication under the UNFCCC includes all the information it is required to. It is, for the UN, highly critical of our policies:

In 2009 New Zealand announced a conditional national GHG emission reduction target for 2020 (a 10–20 per cent reduction of total GHG emissions compared to the 1990 level), and a long-term aspirational target for 2050 (a 50 per cent reduction of total GHG emissions compared to the 1990 level. The national 2020 target is conditional on the extent of future international action to reduce emissions and is considered a ‘responsibility target’ – to be achieved through a combination of domestic emission reductions, the storage of carbon in forests and the purchase of emission reduction units from other countries. The ‘with measures’ projection estimates that New Zealand’s GHG emissions will be 23.6 per cent above the 1990 level in 2020. Without the effect of PaMs [policies and measures] GHG emissions are projected to be in 2020 37.5 per cent above the 1990 level. Projections show that it is expected that a net emission reduction of 12.0 Mt CO2 eq/year will be achieved by 2020 (based on a continuation of Kyoto Protocol accounting rules) – only a third of the level required to meet the lower end of the 10–20 per cent target range.

(Emphasis added)

Nick Smith’s response is to highlight that it’s a “responsibility target” – effectively claiming that we don’t have to reduce our emissions, and that we can instead pay someone else to make the required reductions. Unmentioned by Smith is the cost of this shirking: by that stage carbon is expected to cost $50 a ton, which multiplied by the 24 million ton gap gives a cost of $1.2 billion a year. A competent government would be imposing more effective policy to reduce this cost and ensure that it is paid by the polluters responsible. National seems happy to leave things as they are. They won’t be in government then (hell, most of their senior Ministers won’t even be in Parliament), so their billion dollar a year failure gets to be somebody else’s problem.

Again, we deserve better than this. We deserve a government which takes the issue of climate change seriously, rather than just reacting with spin and greenwash. We deserve targets which aren’t outright lies, and policies which have some chance of achieving them. But we won’t get that from National.

14 comments on “Climate change: Our $1.2 billion a year credibility gap ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Ah… National never intended to anything on reducing CO2 emmisions. Anything they said about it before the 2008 election was dissembling mis-direction.

    What they have done, rather like what they did with the Deposit Guarantee Scheme, is pervert its purpose by diverting monies from ordinary working people into the pockets of business people.

    Now more like that’s the National we all know and love!

  2. Santi 2

    A bit of an oxymoron to use United Nations and credibility in the same sentence.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      The only people who don’t have any credibility happens to be National and Act and the fuckers who voted for them.

    • Afewknowthetruth 2.2


      Absolutely right. The UN now has one of the biggest credibility gaps on Earth.

      Of course the UN projections are all based on business as usual, which will be rather difficult to achieve in a resource-depleted and energy-depleted world which is already falling of the cliff economically.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 2.3

      Its not the U.N. we have to worry about but the whole planet’s eco-system. You can poke fun at easy targets but sooner or later the chickens are going to come home to roost.

  3. ianmac 3

    Projections show that it is expected that a net emission reduction of 12.0 Mt CO2 eq/year will be achieved by 2020 (based on a continuation of Kyoto Protocol accounting rules) – only a third of the level required to meet the lower end of the 10–20 per cent target range.

    Santi and Afew. How about refuting the above facts? You look a bit silly to be attacking the UN without any ammunition instead of the elephant in our sights.

    • todd 3.1

      Perhaps like the Natz they don’t see the elephant in the room.
      This is a travesty. Let me guess, National will just ignore the UN… Preferring to rely on their own self-importance to disregard an organization that has some authority on the subject… Perhaps because they are climate change deniers, perhaps because they have investments in those companies that pollute or perhaps as The Standard highlights, they simply do not care because they wont be around to account for their political decisions.

      Making the tax payer foot the bill in terms of carbon credits for soon to be privatized companies (if National win the 2011 election) is a smart business move, but a stupid environmental move. Such incomprehensible stupidity by National does not alleviate the real and pressing issue of climate change, something that cannot continue to be ignored.

    • Afewknowthetruth 3.2


      It goes without saying that the 2020 target is ludicrous.

      1. In a business as usual seenario a 20% reduction in emissions would make no difference to the meltdown of the planet which is underway … rather like driving off a cliff at 80 kph instead of 100 kph.

      2. Positive feedbacks are already being triggered and the methane coming out of the permafrost is likely to swamp any miniscule savings if we attempt to continue with business as usual. What is needed is a massive reduction in emissions to prevent runaway greenhouse.

      3  An emissions reduction of far greater than 20% could be possible because the global economic system will implode by around 2014, due to oil depletion.

      4. On the other hand, such will be the desperation to maintain business as usual we could easily see a massive surge in the use of coal, which would push emissions through the roof and most definitely bring about abrupt climate change.

      It matters not how we look at it, it’s all b/s.   

  4. There is a bit of a credibility gap alright:

    Solid Energy’s proposed lignite projects in Southland could add 10 million to 20 million tonnes to New Zealand’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
    The figure was revealed in Parliament yesterday, after the State-owned enterprise had earlier refused to release details to Carbon News and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
    Bill English needs to tell Solid Energy CEO Don Elder to pull his head in, he won’t tho. Time for the Nats to go.


  5. big polluters 5

    People will be wanting Gerry Brownlee’s blood in the not to distant future…

  6. Chris 6

    Its OK – you may not have read the recent science updates [the non-green washed ones] man made global warming is a myth, so relax.

    • lprent 6.1

      Bullshit. It appears your ability to understand science is as pathetic as your understanding of politics. But keep thinking of the wan king of copters and I’m sure you’ll get up there as well.

  7. Labour really needs to get on top of the climate, peak oil and other resource end ecological issues if it wants solid credibility. Things like building more rail, means more local jobs, less traffic congestion, less emissions and so on. We need lots of those kind of approaches, getting lots of solutions and good outcomes.

    Lets see policy and solutions. We need lots of it.

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