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COP21 and the implications for New Zealand

Written By: - Date published: 10:43 am, December 13th, 2015 - 56 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, global warming, john key, national, sustainability - Tags:

climate change pacific

Hurrah.  The world’s senior political leaders have met and come up with an agreement.  With various conditions and weasel word limitations the world has committed, sort of, to limiting the anticipated increase in global temperature of no more than 1.5 degrees celsius.  Given that the world has already experienced an increase of 1 degree and that current emissions are still working their way through the environment this is a herculean proposal.  Although as pointed out by Sua William Sio this is the difference between a life and death temperature increase for parts of the Pacific Islands and the world owes it to the pacific to do its best.

Now that the goal has been agreed to, even if it is aspirational, the next step is to work out how to achieve it.  And a starting point is to review existing pledges made by the various world states.  Because as the agreement itself recognises if countries are only able to achieve savings mandated by current national pledges then the cap will be well and truly blown.

From the text of the Paris agreement the COP

[n]otes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 ̊C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ̊C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ̊C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below …

How did New Zealand’s proposal rate?  Really bad.  From Climatetracker:

We rate New Zealand’s INDC 2030 target — nominally a 30% reduction from 2005 levels, equivalent to 11% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions excluding land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) by the year 2030 to be “inadequate.” The “inadequate” rating indicates that New Zealand’s commitment is not in line with any interpretations of a “fair” approach to reach a 2°C pathway: if most other countries followed the New Zealand approach, global warming would exceed 3-–4°C.

The report only gets worse:

New Zealand’s climate policy is projected to head in the opposite direction to climate policy frameworks in China, the United States and the European Union. In China, CO2 emissions are projected to peak around 2025; in the US, emissions are expected to decrease by 14–17% below 1990 levels by 2025; the EU will see a decrease in GHG emissions excl. LULUCF of about 30% below 1990 levels by 2025. In all of these countries, unlike New Zealand, emissions reductions are expected across multiple sectors of the economy, and are not confined to the LULUCF sector. There are virtually no policies in place in New Zealand to address the fastest-growing sources of emissions in New Zealand including transport and industrial sources, which comprise over 50% of the growth in emissions in New Zealand since 1990.

To add to the insults going New Zealand’s way it also received not one but two fossil of the day awards, the first after John Key claimed that New Zealand was reducing fossil fuel subsidies when the reality was they had increased seven fold since National gained power, and the second for siding with the Americans and refusing to agree to compensation for climate change hit countries being considered.

How will New Zealand actually make a meaningful contribution to the COP21 mandated goal?

Obviously scientific advances in how to decrease animal ruminations would be helpful.  Funding should be increased, not cut.  A decreased emphasis on dairy would help our rivers as well as our climate.  We should be planting more forests, particularly on erosion prone areas. And protecting urban trees, in particular ancient Kauri living in the hilly slopes of Titirangi.  No more road building and an increased emphasis on public transport, particularly the electricity fuelled sort would help. And more compact city building particularly in Auckland where the need to drive huge distances would gradually make a great difference.  And placing an emphasis on renewable sources of energy particularly smaller localised generators which reduce the need for large transmission systems would also be beneficial.  And don’t forget people leading a less consumerist existence will make a huge difference.

None of this is rocket science.  These proposals have been around for years and do work but there is currently no political will to further any of them.

COP21 needs to mark the start of world wide action to address climate change.  This will require individuals, communities, corporations, local government and central government playing their part.

What we do not need is leadership that says it is all too difficult for us to do anything and the economy is more important than our future.

56 comments on “COP21 and the implications for New Zealand”

  1. Andre 1

    How about a straight forward fossil carbon tax? And make it revenue neutral by using it to reduce the bottom rate of income tax. Introduce it at a moderate rate and ratchet it up over time to achieve the required emissions reductions.

    The thing about tax is some otherwise intelligent people get utterly irrational about tax, happily spending a dollar to reduce their tax bill by 33cents. So a rising carbon tax would harness this irrationality with people finding other sources of energy to avoid paying carbon tax. And it’s very transparent about what you’re actually paying it for.

    Cap and trade sounds nice in theory, but emissions trading quickly turns into a cynical sham, as we’ve seen here. All it does is create a whole bunch of parasitic carbon traders, while doing nothing to reduce actual emissions.

  2. BM 2

    If you think a Little led government will do anything differently from what National’s doing currently, you’re dreaming.

    • Ad 2.1

      Only politically and morally lazy people think nothing will change, because most people don’t want change.

      BM you are simply on the wrong side of history.

      • BM 2.1.1

        Power trumps ideology any day.

        Little knows if he tried to implement all the stuff MS wants, he’d be lucky to survive a term.

        • weka 2.1.1.1

          Labour has done radical change before.

          • BM 2.1.1.1.1

            Not in a MMP environment, and certainly not when it’s hovering around 30% of the vote and is completely reliant on NZ First.

            • weka 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Isn’t NZF’s CC policy was more progressive than Labour’s?

              • Macro

                NZF has no policy with regards placing a price on fossil carbon. They are all for reducing reliance on Fossil fuels and promoting alternative energy – BUT they oppose the ETS and the reasons given are pretty much the same as others who oppose the current ETS but seek action on CC ie the ETS is too open to abuse. However, NZF do not offer any alternative as to how to put a price on Carbon (ie Carbon Tax) – that is where they are perhaps less progressive than Labour. At least Labour see that putting a price on Carbon is essential in order to discourage its continual use.
                http://nzfirst.org.nz/policy/environment-and-conservation
                The fact that National trashed the ETS on coming to power in 2008 has seen the continued rise of GHG emissions in NZ. Groser has overseen a 10% increase in NZ’s GHG emissions during his tenure – an epic fail.
                http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11430894
                One would hope that the positive things NZF has said in their policy could be framed into more explicit policy statements with regard to the need to price fossil fuels out of the market – just as we price tobacco.

        • mickysavage 2.1.1.2

          What is so ideological about wanting to save the planet? Besides if the changes arn’t made civilisation will be lucky to survive 50 years.

          • BM 2.1.1.2.1

            You don’t have a crystal ball, you have no idea what the world will be like in 50 years.

            • mickysavage 2.1.1.2.1.1

              I have a scientific consensus reached by thousands of climate change scientists that either humanity is in for a rough time or it is screwed …

              • BM

                We’ve had 3 cm sea rise in the last 100 years
                If the sea level rises by 10cm in the next 20 years I’ll admit being wrong.

                • Sacha

                  Nobody is waiting another 2 decades based on your ignorant reckons, fortunately.

                • lprent

                  That was almost entirely from thermal expansion. Not from melting. Most of the ice melt to date has been from sea ice, which makes no effect on the water level. The problem is that the sea ice also acted a blocker

                  Of course if you had any maths or imagination, then you’d have a better idea about what is being faced.

                  1. The amount of heat poured into the oceans to cause an average heat expansion of 3cm is colossal. Remember that oceans have depths that 4 km or more in depth and relative limited areas of shallower sections around land. There is a hell of volume of water. Essentially it is way more than the energy that humans have ever generated and indeed many many many times move. The oceans and ice have been sucking up the excess heat decade after decade to buffer the effects of a rise in heat and CO2.
                  2. The rate of sealevel rise wasn’t even over those 100 years. It shows a distinct exponential effect. There has been more sea level rise in the recent decades than in earlier decades. The rate will be higher in coming decades. However there is such a lot of cold water to heat so thermal expansion is pretty slow.
                  3. But a faster effect is that there is now clear evidence that the melting of the sea ice has unblocked on-land glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland. Without the sea ice holding it inland, they are speeding up their flooding to the sea. Essentially water ice isn’t a solid, it is a slow moving liquid due to its lack of tensile strength. When it is stacked on a slope, it rolls downhill, unless there is something in front of it. Expect more melting ice from faster moving glaciers in an ocean near you. And much faster sea level rise in the next following decades.
                  4. Plus of course there are those pesky lumps of ice that are below sealevel. Like in West Antarticia, where the warmer water in the oceans is sneaking underneath it and melting it from underneath. We literally don’t know how fast that happens because humans have never measured it before. You try getting a measurement of an ice melt in a zone with kilometres of ice on top of it with highly compressed water doing the melting. The pressures are comparable to a ‘ground level’ on a smaller gas giant. However all indications so fats and from the geological record is that it is fast. Very very fast. So fast that the resolution of sediments is such that it indicates it was instantaneous in geological time. In human time? Who knows? Anywhere from a decade to several hundred years.
                  5. While it isn’t a good time to buy a seafront property because of average sealevel rises – why are you worried about that? Worry about the much larger storms caused by the greater heat imbalances. That will hit first and those cause local flooding both from diving waves far in excess of the decadal sealevel rises, and from water dumps taht overload drainage systems (ie why the UK is having a lot of flooding in Cumberland and other places regularly now).

                  Why would anyone care about you agreeing after the fact? Just hope that your grandkids and great grandkids don’t decide to simply reduce draw on food supplies by the unimaginative and mathematically illiterate.

                  • Pat

                    from your point IV…..I recall an article I read a year or two ago (unable to locate at the moment) where it was speculated the last time the West Antarctic ice sheet collapsed (from memory some 250,000 years ago) it may have occurred in a matter of months.

                • Macro

                  BM – I don’t where you get the 3 cm rise over the past century from – but that figure is complete bullshit!

                  Core samples, tide gauge readings, and, most recently, satellite measurements tell us that over the past century, the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has risen by 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). However, the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.

                  http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/
                  These figures are backed up by a number of different scientific institutions including NOAA and is summarized in the IPPC statement here:

                  Click to access ipcc_far_wg_I_chapter_09.pdf

                  note
                  The IPPC is a conservative calculation and does not include more recent evidence nor the melting of Polar ice caps such as the WAIS which is now in an unstable condition and likely to collapse very soon.
                  The most recent evidence points to an acceleration to around 3mm per year currently and this will increase in the years ahead.

                    • mickysavage

                      So you missed this bit where the site said:

                      “There is strong evidence that global sea level is now rising at an increased rate and will continue to rise during this century.

                      While studies show that sea levels changed little from AD 0 until 1900, sea levels began to climb in the 20th century.

                      The two major causes of global sea-level rise are thermal expansion caused by the warming of the oceans (since water expands as it warms) and the loss of land-based ice (such as glaciers) due to increased melting.

                      Records and research show that sea level has been steadily rising at a rate of 0.04 to 0.1 inches per year since 1900.

                      This rate may be increasing. Since 1992, new methods of satellite altimetry (the measurement of elevation or altitude) indicate a rate of rise of 0.12 inches per year.

                      This is a significantly larger rate than the sea-level rise averaged over the last several thousand years.”

                      But you offer this site as evidence that we have nothing to worry about.

                      And better check your maths. The site suggests that since 1992 alone the increase has been 1.6 inches which is 4 cm.

                    • BM

                      You’re right for some reason I was multiplying by 100 instead of 10.
                      We’ve had 30 cm sea rise in the last 100 years

                      If the sea level rises by 30cm in the next 10 years I’ll admit we’ve got a bit of an issue and have to start doing a bit of prep work.

                    • Macro

                      BM you also need to be aware that even a small increase in sea level rise has a dramatic effect on coastal erosion. A 10cm rise on an unprotected sandy beach will erode up to 15m of sea shore.
                      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/00EO00034/pdf

                    • BM

                      I’d just like to see a bit more proof before I commit.

                      Call me cynical, but at the moment it all seems very politically driven with the focus being more about installing socialist aligned policies than an attempt to “save” the world.

                    • Macro

                      Maybe this graph may help you make up your mind
                      It’s not a political graph it is produced by the University of Colorado – miles away from the sea
                      http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
                      note the upper right hand corner of the graph – the slope is getting steeper not flatter – ie sea level rise is accelerating.

                    • Poission

                      heres the same data fitted to the enso time series.

                      http://sealevel.colorado.edu/files/2015_rel4/sl_mei.png

                    • Macro

                      What Poission fails to point out when referencing the graph fitting mean SLR to the ENSO time series (and he really should given the statistical reference of his user name) is that the graph is of NORMALISED data which in this case involves the removal of the sea level rise TREND.
                      It is an interesting graph because it highlights the well known fact that the Pacific has a huge influence not only on climate but also on the mean sea level rise – during the last la nina mean sea level actually fell. This was also associated with a large increase in world rainfall which fell on parched land and stayed there rather than returning to the sea. However, as can be seen from the mean sea level graph the overall trend is onwards and upwards at a present rate of around 3.3 mm per year.

                    • You_Fool

                      My prediction: in 10 years tome when the sea level has risen at least 30cm BM and other ostriches will be saying that they want more proof and will be waiting another 10 years to see if there will be a rise of 1m in that time

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.2.1.2

              Not a crystal ball. Something far, far better – scientific research that shows beyond doubt that we cannot continue as we are.

            • One Two 2.1.1.2.1.3

              And you don’t serve any useful purpose here

        • Ad 2.1.1.3

          When the New Zealand National government looks absurdly weak in the face of every one of New Zealand’s major trading partners, as it does right now, a future government will have very little resistance indeed to stronger policies, because they will be trading (market) led.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.4

          Well, National presently has power and it’s implementing failed ideology. The result of that failed ideology will be all NZers becoming serfs, the country bankrupt and the multi-national corporations ruling us.

    • b waghorn 2.2

      So labour didn’t do it in the future ,that’s a new and stupid version of labour did it to.

  3. Sacha 3

    Binding global regulations like this agreement give our local politicians cover for pushing through change over the whining and lobbying of current interested parties. Let’s see some spine now.

    • David 3.1

      But are you not against global regulation when it comes in the form of the TPP? What happened to the loss of sovereignty issue?

      • Sacha 3.1.1

        The main problem with TPP is how it was negotiated with only corporates at the table.

        And the loss of local sovereignty is far more even-handed than ISDS processes ever are. Every nation gives up some control.

        • mickysavage 3.1.1.1

          A few people are running this line. My personal response is that the TPP will not improve things for the many, only for the few and addressing climate change will improve things for the many. To try and suggest that COP21 and TPP are the same sucks at so many levels …

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    And placing an emphasis on renewable sources of energy particularly smaller localised generators which reduce the need for large transmission systems would also be beneficial.

    Actually, we’re never going to get rid of the large transmission systems as renewable energy means that we will need a national smart grid for it to work effectively. In fact, this is one of the main reasons for us to go back to a government monopoly in electricity.

    And don’t forget people leading a less consumerist existence will make a huge difference.

    That is absolutely essential but it’s consumerism that produces profits in today’s world and so you won’t be seeing any government passing legislation to decrease it. In fact, they tend to pass legislation to promote more hence the more roads, more sprawl in cities and more privatisation. All of these things result in increased use of resources and more profits.

    • Richard Christie 4.1

      In fact, this is one of the main reasons for us to go back to a government monopoly in electricity.

      agreed, but the TPP is all about ensuring transnational corporations can prevent us exercising such automnity.

  5. David 5

    ” And don’t forget people leading a less consumerist existence will make a huge difference.”

    Most people will see through this, less stuff also means fewer jobs making, selling and transporting stuff. Your calling for people to be poorer, good luck getting traction with that.

    • Pat 5.1

      we can pretty much keep our lifestyles….all we need to do is sacrifice our grandchildren at the alter of consumerism….reckon that will be an easier sell.

    • Macro 5.2

      Tell us what we make in NZ now – and I’ll believe you.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.3

      Most people will see through this

      The people who think that they can see through this stuff are the people who haven’t got a clue as to what they’re talking about.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

    • mickysavage 5.4

      Nope I think there should be more teachers and more counsellors and more hairdressers and more olive growers and less people employed by $2 shops. Where is the downside?

    • Rosie 5.5

      It’s just about people getting smarter with how they go about life and what they purchase David. It’s not that hard.

      Here’s some examples for you.

      Purchase locally produced goods, where possible, a bit bloody hard seeing as our manufacturing sector is almost a thing of the past but it can be done. (See Macro’s comment).Food for instance is a biggie. As an Island nation we need to produce as much as we can for domestic consumption – to bring down the sea and air miles.
      We do not need to purchase salmon from Australia that is air freighted here. You should never purchase anything containing palm oil.
      Forests are burnt down in equatorial countries to produce palm oil. Not only does this kill wildlife including the tree dwelling orang-utan, the fires create greenhouse gases and the forest has gone so there is no ability for that region to be able to counter such harmful gases.

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/26/indonesias-fires-crime-against-humanity-hundreds-of-thousands-suffer

      Other things you do is catch the bus instead of flying all around the country, or a train if there’s one left to catch.
      http://www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz/?gclid=CPGpvJ7M2ckCFYKWvAodl5EPzA
      A bus trip a family member took recently only cost $40 return from Wellington to Tauranga. NZer’s used to travel by bus around the country but in recent decades we have gotten lazy and fly everywhere. Flying really is an indulgence we need to think twice about.

      You can get gardening too. If you live in an apartment and don’t have land there are many volunteer planting groups around the country to join.

      There’s lots more you can do to reduce your consumerist lifestyle and it isn’t hard. I don’t have a choice because I don’t have an income so by default I’m consuming less than others (eg,only use enough petrol to cover 50km a week) but even if I had the money I’d still be living and consuming consciously.

      It’s not as hard as you think it is. We’re just sold the idea that we need to consume to be individuals worthy of a cosy and smug status. But you can’t take all this stuff with you when you go, so why get sucked into the consumerist lifestyle when the cost is so high?

      • Wolfie 5.5.1

        Thank you for your advice, I do agree with you, and I do know I am foolish, I am well aware of that. I think it is escapism. If I were to have a terminal illness I would be quite happy and OK with letting my ‘material possessions’ go. I wouldn’t worry about it.

        But as I don’t have a terminal illness I seem to want to hold on to things.

        But I wouldn’t want to be ‘rich’ – like loaded with dosh. I find this idea quite uncomfortable – buying things would be horrid.

        I just want a cosy, junky bohemian house, but I still am reminded of my ridiculousness, as ‘I know’ it is ridiculous.

        • Rosie 5.5.1.1

          A cosy junky bohemian house sounds like a nice idea Wolfie. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

          We don’t necessarily have to be anti materialist, and thats kind of verging into the spiritual realm in a way, anyway. It’s no good telling people what they should they think but providing ideas about what they can do to reduce environmental harm is another thing altogether.

          • Wolfie 5.5.1.1.1

            Yes it is rather cosy, but I have an adult son, who comes in and out, all the time – I think he thinks he can do as he pleases, rifling through my stuff, I always know when the little shit is around.

            Children can be so annoying, as much as you love them.

  6. Steve Withers 6

    NZ’s biggest step forward would be to get rid of this cheating, duty-shirking government.

  7. b waghorn 7

    So in a nut shell keys line about being “a fast follower” is a load of shit and, he is in fact the sulky little brat dragging his heals 50 Mtrs behind the pack.

  8. Paul 8

    John Key.
    A total hypocrite.
    Ashamed he is our Prime Minister.

    ‘However, Key did not believe New Zealand needed to stop issuing oil exploration permits, saying production levels were low compared to the rest of the world and developing countries would still need fossil fuels for some time..

    “New Zealand could of course just stop producing oil and gas and coal, but realistically if we did that I don’t believe it would stop it being consumed – I think the rest of the world would just fill the very small gap we would leave.”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/75058838/paris-climate-change-deal-will-cost-nz-households-100-a-year–john-key

  9. Rosie 9

    Hopefully the Paris agreement will encourage local governments to get their act together regarding climate change policy. Looking at you Wellington City Council……………

    We can start by not tolerating hypocrisy. Our Green Mayor is often talking the talk about being “green” but doesn’t walk the walk.

    The worst example is their pro development stance that is at odds with the community and the environment. Although they are currently looking at existing suburban sites for medium density housing under the awful SHA Accord they signed with the Government, and this has taken up a lot of media space locally, this is nothing compared to the impact of the massive developments on greenfield sites in the northern suburbs, which gets zero media attention.

    These are poorly planned areas, a mixture of regular housing and medium density housing in isolated car centric areas, driving distance rather than walking distance from the nearest basic amenities. They don’t have any commercial zones so no shops can go in these subdivisions. The buses are limited and pricey. There is no requirement for developers to plant trees to counter act their activities. Then there’s the social impact of these isolating non communities…………

    A climate policy would guard against bad development and protect the environment. This isn’t happening at the moment and they can’t get away with sitting on their hands about for any longer.

  10. rich the other 10

    One good aspect of this agreement is nothing is binding , I just watched John Carey blame congress for Obama not having the authority to agree to a legally binding agreement .
    This must come at some relief for opponents of the TTPA , the under lying concerning principals are similar .
    Big corporates overriding Governments or at least being able to sue Governments if their profits or goals are impeded by governments who are working for their people . In the climate change arena , creating a world wide police to enforce carbon emission targets , a foreign force with the right to demand proof of compliance and pass judgement and impose penalty’s on individual sovereign country’s as they see fit .
    Thank goodness for the US Congress .

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