Things have been different recently. Auckland has been clearer and more vibrant than it has for decades. The skies are mostly blue and the forest in Titirangi has been as green as I can remember.
And life has been slower. People are buying less and driving less. Each afternoon when I have gone for my regular walk I have seen many others doing the same.
The lack of air travel is pronounced. The international barriers are well and truly up. A Luthanza air low flight over Auckland on April 10 was a particularly poignant way to remind us that things are changing.
These features, a simplified life, reduced driving and the dramatic cessation of international air travel are the sorts of measures the world has discussed for decades as being necessary if we are to avert the worst excesses of climate change.
The effects already are pronounced. Crude oil is pretty well unsalable right now with storage facilities full and the world’s normal consumption of 100 million barrels a day has plummeted. This will have a flow on effect. Canada’s tar sand industry must now be dead in the water. Good riddance. Less profitable oil rigs will be closed down hopefully for ever. And new off sea oil drilling projects will surely be shelved. OMV’s earlier announcement that it was shelving its last remaining oil and gas exploration plans in the Taranaki Basin will hopefully be the first of many to be cancelled.
Greenhouse gas generation has also taken a hit. It was estimated that for a time earlier this year China’s output of CO2 was reduced by a quarter. And Simon Evans at Carbonbrief believes that the reductions this year could be the greatest ever.
From his article:
This updated tentative estimate is equivalent to around 5.5% of the global total in 2019. As a result, the coronavirus crisis could trigger the largest ever annual fall in CO2 emissions in 2020, more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war.
Even this would not come close to bringing the 1.5C global temperature limit within reach. Global emissions would need to fall by some 7.6% every year this decade – nearly 2,800MtCO2 in 2020 – in order to limit warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.
To put it another way, atmospheric carbon levels are expected to increase again this year, even if CO2 emissions cuts are greater still. Rising CO2 concentrations – and related global warming – will only stabilise once annual emissions reach net-zero.
Subsequent IEA analysis suggests that this year’s reduction could be as high as 8%.
Congratulations World, it looks like this year at least we have given ourselves some breathing space.
But it took a global pandemic to achieve this. And we are going to have to repeat these reductions year after year for the next decade to ameliorate rather than avoid the effects of climate change.
Weka analysed Greenpeace’s request for a Green Covid response in this earlier post. The proposals are all worthy contenders for inclusion.
Which is why the Government’s listing and fast tracking of “shovel ready” projects is so important. To create employment it is preparing to spend large amounts of money quickly getting a variety of construction projects under way.
From Radio New Zealand:
Cabinet has approved the fast tracking of large shovel ready projects, largely by-passing the Resource Management Act.
The announcement this morning, from Environment Minister David Parker, comes as the government continues to identify projects which could be begin sooner with a large injection of public money.
The aim is to boost the economy as it enters a sharp downturn brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new act, due to be passed in June, would take away the ability of the public and councils to have an input in to whether projects proceed and instead hand this power to small panels of experts, chaired by an Environment Court judge.
Parker said the sorts of projects that would benefit from quicker consenting included roading, walking and cycling, rail, housing, sediment removal, new wetland construction, flood management works, and projects to prevent landfill erosion.
Parker said projects that include transport, environmental benefits, and housing will be prioritised under the plan.
The Government is concentrating on job rich construction proposals in its list of projects it wishes to accelerate. There are plenty of job rich projects that are also creating climate resilient futures. The Waitakere Ranges Local Board’s Greenways plan is one.
Transport has not been an issue during the Covid-19 lockdown. Streets have been empty and congestion a thing of the past. The only demand has been for safer walking and cycling facilities and in getting ready for a post carbon world these should be prioritised.
I can imagine an intense battle in Cabinet right now between those with an environmental bent and those (looking at you Shane Jones) who love roads.
I hope the environmentalists win. If we a a country are going to do our bit in reducing our carbon output by 8% a year for the next decade then they have to succeed.