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Climate Commision Chair: it’s time to reform the “plant and pollute” Emissions Trading Scheme

Written By: - Date published: 11:39 am, September 20th, 2022 - 32 comments
Categories: climate change, Economy, ETS - Tags: , ,

From RNZ,

The emissions trading scheme allows companies to “plant and pollute” and needs reform, Climate Change Commission chairperson Dr Rod Carr says.

Carr spoke to more than 500 business and policy leaders at the business and climate conference in Auckland today.

He was one of a number of speakers who said the country’s plans to reduce emissions rely too heavily on planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide planting, instead of actually cutting the amount of damaging climate gases being released.

They said the practice was not in keeping with international efforts to keep warming below catastrophic levels.

The government is currently reviewing the emission trading scheme.

I’ve never made the effort to understand the mechanics of the ETS, because from a whole systems, working with nature POV it’s always looked like the kind of BAU madness one would use if you didn’t really intend to change. Plant and pollute sums it up. The same thinking that got us in this mess won’t get us out of it.

My political position has been that we needed the ETS as a stepping stone to shift politics, business and the public to a point where the real work could happen. The Greens got caught up in the mainstream’s inability to take climate seriously, and took a pragmatic approach all these years: work with what you’ve got is a valid strategy when other change is not possible.

So I am very pleased to see the Climate Change Commission’s chair Rod Carr speaking to business leaders this week about the need for reform. And indeed that the government is already reviewing it.

I’ve been pretty glum lately about our ability to make the changes necessary to save humans and other life from climate catastrophe. We know what to do, but we have lacked the political and social will to effect that change.

This announcement restores my faith somewhat, because it also points to policy not being set in stone, and it leaves a door open to other change, including the fast and radical change we will need at some point. This we can be preparing for.

I’m incredibly grateful to James Shaw and his team as well the Greens for doing the invisible, hard slog within the parliamentary and government systems that will mean as we do adopt change the governance and policy systems are already on board and in a position to move. This is gold. Do  you see yet how good it is that we have a suit as co-leader of the Greens?

If we shift from a plant and pollute model, what are the options? Carr, Shaw, the business community will work on how to help the business and political classes integrate this. I expect this will be slower and less radical than many climate activists want, but again, a move in the right direction while we are building momentum.

More and more people are starting to talk about the need to consume less energy and goods. There is heaps of work being done on models and systems like Doughnut Economics, the circular economy, degrowth and steady state. I write about the Powerdown. If you’re feeling stuck or depressed, go look at what is being done and what works. All the things we need to act are there, there is more being done now than ever before.

An explanation and critique of emissions trading (aka cap and trade), from 2009,

A last note. New Zealand is in a prime position to lead on climate transition. We have a Green party already in government (kind of), and a centre left party able to form government that is led by someone of the climate generation who gets it. Research shows a high percentage of New Zealanders want the government to do more on climate. Imagine what we could do with a third term Labour led government with strong Green and Māori Party numbers inside caucus.

 

32 comments on “Climate Commision Chair: it’s time to reform the “plant and pollute” Emissions Trading Scheme ”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    So, no longer "polluter pays" but, "polluter STOPS POLLUTING!!"

    YES?

    • weka 1.1

      hope so. They were a little short on detail, I took it more about the message.

      • Robert Guyton 1.1.1

        The pressure from the "market head" to the "market body" – primary producers especially, is most significant, to my thinking.

        This is already happening and could be the unexpected, transformative element many of us have hoped for.

        How loathsome though, to have to pin your hopes on the "dead hand" 🙂

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          I noticed the emphasis on failed global markets if we don't change.

          My sense is still that the missing piece is a vision of where we can go that is meaningful ecologically and is something people can relate to and act upon. The business and political classes will follow, as always, once there are enough people showing the way.

          • Robert Guyton 1.1.1.1.1

            I think the ecologically-minded people will follow, not lead. The hope that once there are enough of us, the soul-less corporations will have to change, is not realistic, despite the romance of it. Tough outcome, but I'm happy for a tidal wave of change to come from industry/business and the evil marketeers, where it addresses the problem. We ecological visionaries should thank our lucky stars we don't have to shoulder the huge burden alone 🙂 We are free now, to imagine the fun stuff that perhaps lies ahead, rather than the grinding mechanics of the structural changes needed 🙂

            • weka 1.1.1.1.1.1

              I think we are talking about different things.

              That Carr can talk about reform of the ETS is thanks to the culture shifters like The Story of Stuff people who made that cap and trade video in 2009. The more the culture shifts, the easier it is for business/political leaders to get on board. Journalists play a crucial role as well, eg the Guardian in the UK being one of the first MSM to commit to serious climate coverge.

              If people can't see a way forward, if it all looks like catatrophe or it's too late, then people won't act. Business people are people too, as are their partners and children who are shoulder tapping them.

              Agree that we are freed up from the burden of structural change.

            • Poission 1.1.1.1.1.2

              Yeah but he contradicted himself with confusing renewable with a reduction in carbon emissions.

              Dr Carr also pointed out the opportunities Southland has when it comes to creating a sustainable carbon cycle.

              “Biomass production has huge potential in Southland and could, for example, be used as an alternative to coal in electricity generation, which is already being explored in New

              https://www.es.govt.nz/about-us/news?item=id:2jdatqe0n1cxby7o5f4t

              That does not reduce emissions,there is a big shitstorm with Europe and so called biomass energy production and the laws of physics.(around 40% of Europes renewable comes for the denaturing and combustion of wood much from the US)

              https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2021/07/us/american-south-biomass-energy-invs/

              • weka

                the problem there is the people making the change having a particular kind of mindset that means they can't see the wood for the trees. So to speak.

                Biomass can help reduce emissions, but it depends on how it is done. Technologically, but also the systems used. Thinking we can swap fossil fuels out and replace with biofuels, and carry on BAU, is exactly the kind of thinking that is block real change.

                • weka

                  eg degrowth, and use biofuels for essentials where the power of the burn is especially needed. Everyone being able to drive around in their own car at will doesn't count.

                  • Poission

                    Burning trees produce Co2.That is the science,that is the mindset.

                    Burning wood is also carbon-inefficient, so the wood burned for energy emits more carbon up smokestacks than using fossil fuels. Overall, for each kilowatt hour of heat or electricity produced, using wood initially is likely to add two to three times as much carbon to the air as using fossil fuels.

                    https://www.woodwellclimate.org/letter-regarding-use-of-forests-for-bioenergy/

                    • weka
                      1. you don't have to kill a tree to produce energy from biomass

                      2. unlike fossil fuels, biomass can also be used to sequester carbon, improve soil, increase biodiversity, help retain moisture in the soil and thus mitigate drought.

                      3. reductionist measurements are useful. Reductionist thinking is what is killing the planet.

                      The question isn't do FF or biomass produce more GHGs? It's how can we stop using FF, and in what ways can biomass help us with that regeneratively rather than just creating more problems.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Wood is a renewable fuel, coal is not. Both produce CO2 but only one of those fuels; the living one, can reclaim that CO2.

                      The problem lies with the (insane) desire to maintain our level of energy consumption. Powering down, without breaking us all, means wood could provide much of what we need, sustainably.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Woody biomass should be purpose-grown, not scavenged from other industries/activities, so as to have efficiency and best return for investment.

                    • weka

                      I'm curious how/if coppicing for energy production stacks up with its carbon sequestration potential.

                      Powering down without breaking us all… indeed the challenge. Biomass BAU is quite different from biomass for essentials within sustainable cycles.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Coppicing is the answer. The high value of sycamore will be a revelation 🙂
                      Trees sequester carbon in their roots too.

                    • Poission

                      No it is how we reduce Co2 that is important.This is done by reducing output,to allow the sinks to absorb Co2,by biological processes or weathering.

                      Here in NZ we use 4x more biomass for solid fuel heating then coal,the European plan to reduce agriculture,so as land can by freed for Biomass (22 million hectares) destroys a significant part of the economy exchanging food for energy.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Yes, we have to reduce CO2 output, pronto! If we don't do it by choice, our overseas friends will force us, using trade levers, to do it to the level they require.

                      A hospital boiler can't be shut down to help that process. Wood pellets are better than coal.

                    • Poission

                      You burn it,it transforms and stays in the atmosphere for 100's years,big difference in biogenic emissions and thermogenic.

                      https://empowerplants.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/scientist-letter-on-eu-forest-biomass-796-signatories-as-of-january-16-2018.pdf

                      Sorry your fire has to go.

                      The trade lever fulcrum has gone,as Europe becomes a significant net emitter by the inclusion of all sources.

                    • gsays

                      One way around the CO2 release from burning wood is to do it in a retort.

                      Catch and condense the smoke and you have wood vinegar or pyroligneous acid as well as the other tars and wood gases.

                      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016523701830456X TBH, a lot of this goes over my head, but I understand it from my own experiences with my home-made retort.

                      Herbicide, insecticide, fertilizer, helps with seed germination and keeps birds away.

                      There is still the heat generated from the destructive distillation to be utilized.

                      I agree that the BAU must stop, we need a RADICAL shift and none of it will win votes.

  2. tinderdry6 2

    Hi Weka. Not sure if you've seen this from Jack Santa Barbara. He discusses not only problems with current system, but also proposes some alternatives.

  3. That_guy 3

    I agree Shaw is shawing his worth. In the long term it's good to see some concrete examples of what ending capitalism looks like.

    Would like to see someone in power explicitly say that the end of capitalism doesn't mean the end of goods, services, products, shops, trade or money. Because I think a lot of people think it does, and they just can't visualise how it would work. And then they are like "but where would I go to get shoes?"

    As an aside, if Patagonia gear was composed of dogshit, I would buy it. Good insulatory properties. I’d cope with the smell.

    • weka 3.1

      I'm hoping Icebreaker will turn another corner and go regenerative. Might draw the line at dogshit.

      Would like to see someone in power explicitly say that the end of capitalism doesn't mean the end of goods, services, products, shops, trade or money. Because I think a lot of people think it does, and they just can't visualise how it would work. And then they are like "but where would I go to get shoes?"

      this is the conversation I want us to have too. Because the answers aren't that hard, it's just that too many people in power lack the experience and skills to see the transition and how it can work. The people that can see and do have the experience are often not in power. But it is changing, I definitely see more people in power who get it now to some degree at least.

      Where would I go to get shoes, and how would I afford them if they were made in NZ? How would my business make any money if the things I produce last a long time? People are afraid because there aren't enough stories out there about how to do it differently.

  4. This our most pressing concern. Thanks Weka.

  5. barry 5

    The ETS was an adequate answer 30 years ago if it had been allowed to work properly. But too many free credits were given out and the fraudulent overseas credits were allowed until recently, so it was not effective in reducing emissions. The same has been true of similar schemes worldwide.

    Price signals are too slow. If someone buys an EV now, it may pay for itself in 20 years of cheaper energy, but only a small number of people will pay the extra cost. Even ventilation and solar power don't pay their investment back quickly enough.

  6. Mike the Lefty 6

    The ETS came about because the political right hit on a way to make money out of pollution and the political left went along with it because it seemed better than nothing at the time.

  7. Roy cartland 7

    Thanks for a hopeful take on this, Weka. Personally, it makes it easier to get engaged and make changes, discuss and motivate others.

    Between NRT and Bradbury, it's all too easy to throw one's hands up.

    • weka 7.1

      appreciate that Roy. Am trying to stay focused in what we can do, although it's hard at times not to just rant about the bad shit.

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