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Emissions targets an admission that we don’t care

Written By: - Date published: 7:02 am, July 8th, 2015 - 48 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, global warming - Tags: , , ,

As widely reported yesterday, the Nats have set out our emissions reduction target (Small and Wannan):

Tim Groser commits New Zealand to 11pc cut in greenhouse gases

The Government has set a target of an 11 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels.

New Zealand is required to announce a target for the years 2020 to 2030, which may be provisional, ahead of a key climate change summit in Paris in December. The meeting aims to keep global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius, to avoid long-term droughts, acidifying oceans and mass extinctions.

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser described the goal as “fair and ambitious”. He said New Zealand’s high renewable electricity generation and agricultural emissions meant there were fewer opportunities to reduce its greenhouse gas outputs, which were the fifth-highest per capita in the world.

But Green Party climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham said the costs of reducing emissions now would be far cheaper than dealing with the fallout catastrophic climate change would have on GDP, farms and families. “By committing to such a small reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it means other countries will have to pick up our slack.” He also criticised the Government’s choice to frame the target as a 30 per cent reduction on 2005 levels, instead of using the traditional 1990 standard. “Using 2005 as a benchmark is pure spin.”

Labour environment spokeswoman Megan Woods said the Government appeared to have given up on the goal it set for itself four years ago, of halving emissions by 2050. However, more important than setting targets was actually following through and meeting them – something New Zealand had so far been unable to do. “That’s not surprising, because the Government has no plan on how we are going to reach them.” Ministry of Environment figures show that, in 1990, New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 60,641.4 tonnes. In 2012, total greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 15,406.5 tonnes, or 25 per cent, to 76,048.0 tonnes.

The only good thing that you can say about this target is that it is better than nothing. But not much. Hot topic (Gareth):

NZ EMISSIONS TARGET ANNOUNCED: UNAMBITIOUS, INEFFECTIVE AND MORALLY REPUGNANT

There is no sign in the target announcement made today, or in any part of this government’s climate policy that they understand the true seriousness of the issue that confronts NZ and the planet as a whole. They appear to have no appreciation of the strategic and management blunders they are making, all in the name of keeping semi-mythical costs down. The new target, described by Professor Ralph Sims as “low ambition”, doesn’t even set NZ on course for the government’s own 50% reduction by 2050 commitment, let alone address the need for a more credible 100% reduction by that date.

The legacy that Groser and the Key government will leave to the future will not be a new flag, it will be a New Zealand crippled by their smug, arrogant and morally repugnant climate inaction.

Note also that the target is lower than that specified by more than 99% of respondents in the governments “consultation” process:

Here’s a sample of the international reaction:

New Zealand’s post-2020 target – Weaker action for a less competitive economy

New Zealand has released a low initial post-2020 emissions reduction target, which risks the nation’s competitive position by stranding its economy as the most pollution intensive in the developed world, The Climate Institute said today.

“Critically, by not doing its bit to help avoid a 2°C increase in global temperature, New Zealand is asking others to pick up its slack and do more,” said The Climate Institute Deputy CEO Erwin Jackson. “If it does not lift this initial offer, New Zealand will join Canada in a family of free riders.”

The Climate Institute’s initial analysis of New Zealand’s target suggests that:

+ New Zealand’s target is not a credible contribution to avoiding a 2°C increase in global temperature above pre-industrial levels. …

+ Based on current targets, New Zealand would be left with the most polluting economy of the advanced economies …

The Nats claim that the costs of taking action are too high. It isn’t true:

https://twitter.com/RusselNorman/status/605558359622713344/photo/1

Recall also the purely economic costs of not acting, according to Treasury: Failure to cut emissions could cost $34,000 per household.

Why aren’t we taking proper action? Why?

48 comments on “Emissions targets an admission that we don’t care ”

  1. Paul 1

    Groser, Key and this motley crew are turning NZ into an international disgrace.
    Clean, green….
    What a joke!

  2. Tracey 2

    They are revisiting the emissions trading scheme later this year. Do they even know where it is? Do they need directions? Wait for the attacks on infometrics

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      So, they’ll be looking to give even more government subsidies to farmers?

  3. Lanthanide 3

    Two things from Morning Report this morning on climate change.

    The first, was Winston Peters, laying into the government and saying they’re not doing enough, and even when they’ve set this new target, he doubts they will actually take any action to achieve it. Good to hear him take a position that is compatible with Labour and Greens on this issue.

    The second was Tim Groser’s interview. I think he did a credible job of defending the government’s position. I think the government’s position is crap and they aren’t doing enough, but his defence of it wasn’t bad. Probably his weakest point was that future technology developments will magically reduce emissions in the future – notably electric cars and research into reducing agricultural emissions. Clearly electric cars are only going to get better and cheaper, but the agricultural emissions seems like too much faith. His defence on that point is that the government is spending $80m/year on research (Guyon called that ‘pitiful’ IIRC) and we’re the only country that is – would have sounded much more convincing if it was $400m/year.

    The MSM are still ignoring the elephant of peak oil, of course.

  4. esoteric pineapples 4

    New Zealand has one of the highest percentages of climate change scepticism in the world.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11472277

    I think this and the number of people who vote for National are linked on some psychological level. Perhaps because New Zealanders has been largely protected to the harsh realities of life that many millions of other people experience around the world, there is a complacency and small mindedness that leads them to think “if I can see it directly affecting my own life then it mustn’t be true.”

    That said, one of the great ironies of man-made climate change is that neither far right politicians nor those at the completely other end of the political scale believe in it, making for strange bedfellows.

    • Cognitive disconnection, it’s the price people pay in NZ to be part of the main social group.

      Merely pointing out the difference between reality and perception to people will normally result in belligerence and aggression.
      For a person to realise, and then feel that dissonance can be very painful – it’s like getting the family together and ripping the doors off all the closets to expose the skeletons.
      People will attack viciously those they feel responsible for causing their discomfort.

  5. shorts 5

    as if any kiwi will be able to afford filling an electric car with the way our power prices keep heading

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      Yip, especially as everyone is going to be wanting electric cars, pushing up demand and therefore prices. I guess more companies will come online making them though, especially as oil prices sky-rocket. But then again if the economy collapses there may not be that much demand for them.

      Another big issue with electric cars is since they rely on an expensive battery pack which wears out over time, but also do not have nearly as much maintenance or mechanical wear-as-tear as standard motors, second-hand electric cars are not likely to depreciate in price as much as petrol cars do (if you factor in having to refurbish or buy a new battery pack).

      NZ has one of the oldest car fleets out of developed countries, it’s hard to see this trend reversing any time soon, which will slow the adoption of electric cars.

      • Jones 5.1.1

        It’s my understanding that the battery pack manufacture and lifespan is the biggest issue with electric cars… the materials used in the manufacture and the battery itself make electric cars un-green, if you will.

        For my liking, there is far too much faith in progress and technology as the solution to climate change> Worse still, they’re being used as reasons to do nothing… I’d call it proactive ignorance.

    • maui 5.2

      That’s why another option is a de-centralised power system so people can generate their own power. But how will the capitalist power companies make a profit? What if your local park had a solar array for people to charge their cars off as a community asset. Sorry this is all “communist” talk, will refrain from such lunacy for the next wee while.

      • Lanthanide 5.2.1

        Even that isn’t an obvious solution, unless each house is going to provide a surplus for their electricity needs, even in the middle of winter consisting of several overcast days in a row. Even large battery packs (which still aren’t cost-effective) won’t really save you there.

        Because if your house can’t provide 100% of your electricity needs 24/7 even after many days of cloudy weather, it means you have to have a connection to some sort of community, city, region or national electricity grid. Those grids cost a lot of money to install and maintain.

        • Lanthanide 5.2.1.1

          Or I guess it means you just can’t have power 24/7. Which means a lower standard of living than we currently have… no hot water for showers in the middle of winter?

        • McFlock 5.2.1.2

          well, ISTR solar hot water heaters are still good in overcast days.

          Anyway, the residential generators put money into the grid which is then onsold to commercial users. The power company becomes not so much a “supplier” as a “shipping agent”.

          Especially in more rural areas, I’m a fan of heating energy diversity – even in town I have fires I never use, unless it’s extra cold or the power were to go out. The coalrange has a wetback for the water. Because even on-grid in a city things go bang and the power goes out – my favourite was calling Delta one night to hear that “an iron pot-head exploded”. “Damned hippies”, I thought to myself…

          • Lanthanide 5.2.1.2.1

            Solar hot water heaters can still heat some water to highish temperatures on overcast days. But unless you’ve got a massively over-spec’ed system, they won’t heat the entire tank to 60c.

            Solar PV is much more susceptible to low production from clouds than solar HW is, because it intrinsically has much lower efficiency at absorbing photons to create electricity than solar HW has at absorbing them to store heat.

            And yes, I didn’t really consider industrial uses of electricity at all when I made my comments about the electricity grid. Embarrassing oversight there.

            • lprent 5.2.1.2.1.1

              Embarrassing oversight there.

              We all make them. 😈

              It isn’t as bad as my reversed sign a few days ago (ouch)..

    • David H 5.3

      Well for the time being the Sun is still free. Not sure on the cost of Solar Panels. Roof Bonnet and Boot made with Solar Panels embedded in them, would be a good way of hiding them.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.3.1

        Not sure on the cost of Solar Panels.

        Solar panels have been cheaper than fossil fuels for awhile now and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that burning fossil fuels leaves you with spent resources while solar panels can be recycled.

  6. linda 6

    They won’t even meet these targets the one who pollute in this country don’t pay the costs farmer have externalised there costs to the rest of us they have no incentive to change

  7. Bill 7

    Surprisingly good news that between a quarter and a third of governments are making submissions in line with the science and calling for zero by 50. (I’m assuming that’s ‘zero from energy’)

    All of the other submissions – all of them, are inadequate. 40% below 1990 levels is no different in terms of consequences than 20% below 1990 levels is.

    edit – sigh – that was always going to be too good to be true. Early morning sans coffee confusion from me 😉

  8. Bill 8

    Why aren’t we taking proper action? Why?

    The honest answer to that question is simple. The necessary, and scientifically credible action on emissions isn’t economically credible from the view of having a functional market economy.

    Politicians, bent as they are on making the economy tick, have put all their faith in non-existent technology coming on line (carbon capture and storage). This faith, coupled with betting on odds on dangerous warming occurring that sit somewhere between 2-1 and 3-1 if we assume CCS to be viable and running in a few decades allows them to pursue business as usual.

    And people generally want their pension and their career and to believe that what they achieved in their life, what behaviours they indulge in and what habits they have, and whatever privilege comes their way, was/is right and proper and good.

    CO2 is invisible, odorless and…nuffin to do wif no-one, innit?

    • maui 8.1

      I think a lot of people who like the economy the way it is think the effects haven’t hit yet. If the climate isn’t effecting their business or industry directly then they can keep on thinking that the climate issue is a future problem, not a current one. And this sort of thinking has been going on for 20-25 years now since Kyoto. Talk about climate change to most is like listening to that annoying song that comes on the radio.

      It’s going to take a significant psychological shift for people to make business decisions based on the climate implications first. Ideally that would be greatly helped by Government regulation / leadership on the direction that businesses should be taking. It’s going to be a hell of a lot harder to get massive societal change on an ad hoc individualised local basis.

      • Bill 8.1.1

        Agree. I tend to point out to people that when the effects hit, what you’re actually looking at is those effects plus whatever is ‘filtering through’.

        Kind of like…put a pan heavy pan on the element. After a while, turn the element off. The temperature of the pan’s contents will continue to increase.

        People are waiting for the moment when they judge it appropriate or necessary to turn the element off based on the then current state of the pans contents and forgetting all about lag.

        I’ve read that climate lag is anything between 10 and 30 years…

  9. Kevin 9

    Ok, what if the government said we’ll agree to reduce emissions to what you want, but to pay for it we’re going to introduce a voluntary “climate-change” tax – around 1/2 to 2/3 of what you earn. Would you pay the tax?

    • Bill 9.1

      What is there to pay for exactly?

      I mean, CO2 reduction comes from the simple act of not doing shit that produces CO2 – burning fossil fuels is the biggie.

      You think there is time to change the supply side of our infrastructure and avoid dangerous warming if we’re just willing to pay for it? There isn’t the time.

      You think we can carry on living as we do and avoid dangerous warming as long as we’re willing to somehow pay for it? We can’t.

      What’s this tax being spent on Kevin?

      • Kevin 9.1.1

        Except there’s a lot of things we do that produce CO2 and gases like methane – cars, transportation, farming etc. Significantly changing the amount of CO2 and similar gases would mean a drastic change in the structure of economy including alternative means of transport, alternative farming methods (no more farting cows), etc. The tax would be spent on making this transformation.

        And if there isn’t time to do all this what’s your solution? Socialism?

        • Bill 9.1.1.1

          We don’t need the 7 million cows we have at present. We don’t need Fontera burning ridiculous amounts of coal to produce milk powder. (That whole commodity bubble has burst anyway and it ain’t never coming back)

          We can get huge cuts in emissions from cars and domestic appliances by bringing in simple efficiency standards based on current and developed technology.

          We can change social habits and behaviours today (car occupancy rates, general energy use, air travel).

          We can focus current infrastructure expenditure on rebuilding and electrifying extensive rail and tram/bus networks.

          We can have coastal shipping run off bio-fuels or whatever, rather than bunker fuel, in a very short time scale.

          So far I’m not picking up any major or extra expense.

          But. We need +10% cuts per year and zero emissions from energy by ~2050. Raise all the taxes you want. The fact is that there will be no market economy in a world that’s seriously engaged in cutting CO2 emissions.

          You ask if my solution is socialism. I’m a democrat. My answer is democracy.

        • Naturesong 9.1.1.2

          Well, we could start by removing incentives for oil and coal extraction.

          And use that same money to provide incentives for renewables.

          And regulate minimum standards for housing (energy efficiency).

          How about a carbon tax where the revenue collected is returned as a tax cut. We already know this model is successful.

          You know, normal run of the mill policies.

          Increase the focus of govt science grants on renewable energy.

          If you don’t think there’s a lot of low hanging fruit, it’s because either you refuse to, or are unable to think critically, and I can’t help you with that.

    • McFlock 9.2

      where the heck do you even get 1/3 – 2/3 tax rate from, anyway?

      • Bill 9.2.1

        I guess you think of a number and then think of a slightly higher number and put a dash between the first number and the second number. Works best if the first number is a really low one.

      • Kevin 9.2.2

        That’s how much roughly it’s been estimated the cost of the global warming “solutions” will be.

        • McFlock 9.2.2.1

          Nice use of the passive voice there /sarc

          By whom? On what basis? Are you taking some US toughtfart and transferring it to the NZ economy? Is it global? Is it referring to zero-emmission or carbon-credit adjustments? Or is it an actual calculated, peer-reviewed cost of making NZ a carbon-neutral economy?

          Because, frankly, I’m calling bullshit on that, even if we include concrete and suchlike.

        • Bill 9.2.2.2

          Outline those costly solutions please?

          See. Government could legislate on domestic appliance’s power consumption. Cost to government, zero. Cost to consumer, zero or 5/8ths of f.a. Savings on CO2 emissions, substantial.

          Similar legislation for cars. Price premium, zero. CO2 savings, substantial.

          Building infrastructure is already catered for and on-going. What we have at present has a 30 year shelf life though.

          What’s the big booger elephant I’m missing?

          • Lanthanide 9.2.2.2.1

            “What’s the big booger elephant I’m missing?”

            Well those things would certainly not have 0 cost to consumers.

            If a market consists of 100 products, and 80 of them don’t meet your standards and are suddenly illegal, the remaining 20 products will be in high demand, driving prices up. All the manufacturers and distributors of those other 80 products will take a short to medium term hit in the back pocket as they now have products they can’t sell. Similarly consumers who already own older models of products will presumably find it increasingly hard to get spare parts for them, forcing them to buy entire new appliances to meet the new energy standards, instead of repairing their old ones -> most cost to consumers.

            This is even more true for cars than regular appliances, as it would mean the large second hand market, both imports and domestic, would be gone. Unless you allowed those 2nd hand sales to continue, in which case you’re no longer having a large CO2 saving from the legislation, at least not for many years.

            • Bill 9.2.2.2.1.1

              Car fleets essentially turn over every 10 years. New appliances would have to meet efficiency standards and would cost no more than current less efficient models.

              You think that if all fridges have to have a AAA+ rating that all other fridges currently in stock should be dumped?!

              And you think all sales of old appliances/cars would be rendered illegal or unlawful?!

              • Lanthanide

                Average age of the car fleet in NZ is 13 years. That’s the average, not the median; there’ll be a very long tail on the upside.

                “New appliances would have to meet efficiency standards and would cost no more than current less efficient models.”

                Well that’s not really true. If new R & D is required to create these new products, that R & D will be recouped in the sales price of the products being sold. It’s further compounded by the fact that cheaper models sold in shops (think The Warehouse etc) tend to be of lower efficiency, and more efficient models command a price premium. Removing the cheap products from the market will not in itself automatically make the more efficient products cheaper.

                “You think that if all fridges have to have a AAA+ rating that all other fridges currently in stock should be dumped?!

                And you think all sales of old appliances/cars would be rendered illegal or unlawful?!”

                I don’t “think” that, I was extrapolating from your vague statement about changing legislation – you didn’t specify either way what would happen to 2nd happen appliances and whether they would be legal to onsell or not. If you don’t outlaw such sales, then your policy is not going to make that big of a dent on CO2 emissions for quite a few years. Yes, better than not taking any action, but nothing to write home about either.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.3

      It doesn’t actually cost anything to change to a carbon zero economy. All it takes is doing what’s right. It will cost exactly the same as continuing what we’re doing now* without the added costs of climate collapse and the resulting extinction event that may wipe out humanity.

      * Yes, it costs to maintain the economy as it is. The fact that a small percentage are making a profit has fostered the delusion that it doesn’t.

  10. Sabine 10

    I think that it is clear that this current government does not care. Not one bit, and they have never pretended that they would.
    Nothing is going to be done in this country on any of the myriad of issues that would need fixing, mending, tackling, acknowledging and so on, but as Mrs. Bennett would say,its sexier to sell then to fix (in her case social housing).

    And even sadder in all of that, is that a very large part of NZ does really not give a pile of moopoo.

  11. Matthew Hooton 11

    How can New Zealand be “crippled by their smug, arrogant and morally repugnant climate inaction”?
    What does that even mean?

    • Lanthanide 11.1

      If you read the full paragraph, it’s quite clear they’re talking about the legacy left by these politicians for a *future* New Zealand.

      In a world where fossil fuels are only going to become more scarce and expensive, potentially dramatically so, NZ could easily end up being crippled by white-elephant infrastructure that was built for a future that never arrived (eg, traffic in Auckland won’t be a big problem if petrol goes up such that 50% of cars are off the road – but an electric tunnel loop that this government refuses to build could be immensely valuable in such a future).

      Another take on it, is that the international geopolitical consensus on CC could change, to the point where we’re forced to take refugees from other countries, and therefore are burdened with the cost of re-homing them. Or the price of carbon could sky-rocket when dubious carbon credits are forced out of the marketplace, and in conjunction with stricter carbon targets, NZ could be forced to pay through the nose for credits because this current government didn’t take any real action to guarantee a low-carbon future for NZ.

      Slightly disappointed that you have so limited an imagination that you couldn’t consider these potential futures. You don’t have to agree with them or think they’re likely, but clearly that is how NZ could be “crippled” by the current government’s inaction.

    • David H 11.2

      It means the NATS are sitting on their hands, with smug grins on their faces, whilst doing fuck all, and lying to all and sundry about their inaction.

  12. Heather Grimwood 12

    MH …your asking ‘ What does that even mean?” illustrates exactly the mindset /ignorance by which those who deny the urgency of climate change ameliorating measures lead our descendants into obscurity.
    Presently this same born-of-disregard mindset drives so many of our ministries crippling with the same smug, arrogant and moral repugnance the lives of our most vulnerable. Think on it.

  13. It is not that they don’t care, I’m sure they have children, and personally would like to live to get their over generous pensions.
    BUT they know that 402 ppm CO2 in 2015 is the same as it was in 250,000,000 BC
    At that time 74 ish % of land life and 96% of sea life went extinct, and it took something like 10 million years for the trees to evolve back into forests. Let alone the time it took for human gut bacteria to develop.
    Once the pollinators finish going extinct, so will we.
    Humans have out striped nature in the speed it last took to get to 400 ppm, last time it took 10,000 years, we’ve done it in 30, there is the potential for over 500 ppm CH4 to be released to catch up with the CO2/30/10,000 years … but it will happen in less than 15 years … at best, We will have a better understanding by September as the great northern popsicle melts all over you child’s lap.
    What surprises most of ‘us’ is they have managed to keep the BS going for so long, having an uninformed ‘happy’ population has sure helped.
    Keep those babies coming, and your Kiwi Saver deposits up to date, I’m sure China needs the investment.
    Wonder how the Kiwi Fund will go once the NYSE opens again? Time to take back a knighthood maybe?

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  • Speech to National Remembrance Service on the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake
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