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Parliament’s climate change declaration

Written By: - Date published: 7:53 am, December 3rd, 2020 - 28 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, greens, jacinda ardern, james shaw, Judith Collins, national - Tags:

Parliament has finally declared that the country is in a climate emergency.  Here are the terms of the declaration::

That this House

  • declare a climate emergency, following the finding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that, to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming, global emissions would need to fall by around 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050;
  • recognise the advocacy of New Zealanders in calling for action to protect the environment and reduce the impact of human activity on the climate;
  • join the over 1,800 jurisdictions in 32 countries to declare a climate emergency and commit to reducing emissions to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming;
  • recognise the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders, on our primary industries, water availability, and public health, through flooding, sea-level rise, and wildfire damage;
  • note that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, that the Government has made significant progress on meeting that challenge through the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, and that New Zealand has committed to taking urgent action on greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation;
  • acknowledge the core tenets of New Zealand’s response by establishing emissions budgets that set us on a path to net zero by 2050, setting a price on emissions through the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, transitioning to a low-carbon economy and planning for climate adaption;
  • implement the policies required to meet the targets in the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, and to increase support for striving towards 100 percent renewable electricity generation, low carbon energy, and transport systems;
  • seize the economic opportunities that a clean, green reputation provides;
  • create green jobs in the low-carbon economy while managing risks for workers and communities currently reliant on carbon-intensive sectors;
  • recognise the alarming trend in species decline and global biodiversity crisis, including the decline in Aotearoa’s indigenous biodiversity, and acknowledge New Zealand’s strategic framework for the protection and restoration of biodiversity Te Mana o te Taiao;
  • note that the Government will take further steps towards reducing and eliminating waste;
  • show leadership and demonstrate what is possible to other sectors of the New Zealand economy by reducing the Government’s own emissions and becoming a carbon-neutral Government by 2025.

Here is the video.

Most of the text is aspirational.  We join 32 other nations to formally acknowledge that the world is facing a climate crisis. We recognise how deep the crisis is.  We pledge as a country to do better.

However that last bullet point is a doozie.  How does a Government become carbon neutral within five years?

Yvette McCullough at Radio New Zealand reports on James Shaw’s comments on the issue:

Climate Change Minister James Shaw assured that this is anything but token.

“It’s not just symbolic declaration in and of itself, there’s a whole work programme behind it and a reorganisation of the machinery of government from ministers right through agencies to deliver on our commitments,” he said.

That includes the public service – which needs to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Shaw said the public sector accounts for around 7 percent of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“That’s a reasonable chunk, it doesn’t solve the whole problem but it does solve a measurable and significant part.

“But really it’s about making sure we’ve got our own House in order. If we’re going to require this astonishing transformation of every aspect of our economy and society, it really is important that we pull finger and lead by example”, he said.

There’s a strong financial incentive for government agencies, because if they don’t reach the target, they have to pay to offset emissions, out of their own baseline funding.

But Shaw said offsetting will very much be a last resort.

“You can’t just kind of buy your way out using forestry offsets when you should be taking action to reduce your emissions in the first place,” he said.

Conceptually it is not too difficult.  Ministry by ministry they have to convert car fleets to electric, shut down coal fire boilers, use only renewably generated electricity and supplement it with solar and, even though Shaw suggests otherwise, offset all air travel.  Of course if air travel was minimised that would help.

Predictably National and Act have opposed the measure.  Even before the vote Judith Collins was rubbishing the idea.  From Radio New Zealand:

National Party leader Judith Collins told Morning Report the government has been big on talk and small on delivery.

“If it was really an emergency then it could’ve been done yesterday rather than today. We think it’s all very well to declare an emergency but there’s no proper plan in place as to how to deal with it and it’s not much more than a bit of virtue signing from the government.

“It can do harm and that harm is making people think that by declaring an emergency that something has happened when it hasn’t. It’s quite false and misleading to people.

“The misleading part is by thinking that just by declaring it, something is going to happen.”

Collins said a better move would be committing again to the promise of turning the government’s fleet of cars to electric ones. The government only managed to add 135 electric vehicles to its fleet in its first 18 months in power in the previous term. At the time, then minister of transport Phil Twyford hit back at the criticism, saying they had achieved more in a shorter period than the National government.

But Collins said: “They’ve failed on all their own measures and promises so I just don’t think declaring an emergency is going to do much other than to give the government a free pass so they don’t have to do anything.”

It is something that I have thought about for Auckland Council.  It has its own goals and its own climate action framework.  Surprisingly about half of Council’s greenhouse emissions (not including AT’s transport related emissions) come from its farming operations.  It could achieve a great deal by shutting its farms down and planting native forests instead.  Rather than have sheep on One Tree Hill we could have native forests.  The only question I have about this is why not.

And meanwhile China has announced its goal to be carbon neutral by 2060 and to begin to reduce emissions before 2030.  And estimates by the Climate Action Tracker Group suggest that because of the change in pledges the world is looking at 2.1 degrees temperature increase as opposed to previous estimates of 3 degrees.  But this depends on all nations meeting their pledges.  And the Pacific would still be decimated.

So this is progress and we have something that will be measured in the short term.  But we really have to achieve this and we are running out of time.  Let’s do this.

28 comments on “Parliament’s climate change declaration ”

  1. Ad 1

    Good on the Prime Minister.

    I'm looking forward to continue being part of the effort with this government.

    • RedLogix 1.1

      Same here. After decades of struggle this is a watershed moment. A little part of me felt a sigh of relief; the ground has shifted.

      And now all the real work can gain momentum.

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    It would have been hugely disappointing had she not taken this course. Amongst other things, it's a signal. First, a problem is recognised, then intention to address it is signalled, then action taken. Without the signal, far less is achieved. Yesterday was signal-day.

    A constant protest from conservatives has been, "Don't say, "emergency", you'll frighten the children”. I await reports of this happening with bated breath.

    • Phillip ure 2.1

      these imperatives are now so mainstream..

      that if national don't get their shit together by next election..

      (when those imperatives will be even more accepted/mainstream..)

      that national are running the risk of shrinking into a weird little party of climate change deniers..

      their relevance will shrink by the day..if they maintain this stance…

      for their own survival they will have to grasp that nettle..

      • RedLogix 2.1.1

        You can be fairly sure that once the National Party, and the people they represent, can see how the climate change adaption means good opportunities for profit … they'll be all in. cheeky

        • Phillip ure

          much like the lack of economics-logic in the failure to deliver the most efficient stimulus to an economy on offer.

          ..namely increasing the incomes of the poorest..'cos they churn it back into the economy…straight away…

          ..the economic benefits on offer from a green transformation seem to be unable to be seen by conservatives/the right..

          are they effing blind…?

          and as for the other example I cited..do labour lack the intellectual heft to be able to explain the economic logic of lifting the boats of the poorest..?

          and are national too dumb to see what is right in front of their faces..?

          on both poverty and climate change..

          that fixing both makes perfect economic sense…

          these two issues should be non-denominational..

          • RedLogix

            All the points you make are good ones; many of the causes the progressive left support do have real economic justification.

            But sadly we all too often do a really bad job of selling them. Worse still we taint our offer with extremist ideas that provoke only suspicion and outright rejection from conservatives and liberals.

            Yet these are typically the people with the capital, the capacity and the influence to really drive change at large scale … a truly healthy and vigorous society would solve the magic trick of uniting the best of the conservative, the liberal and the socialist instincts, rather than constantly pulling away from each other.

  3. WeTheBleeple 3

    Dear Kainga Ora, and other landlords.

    You can afford large scale solar in a win-win situation for yourselves and your tenants.

    The money saved by solar can be used to pay for the solar. Write up a contract so the tenant pays 80% of what the solar saves in electricity. The tenant effectively gets 20% discount on what they'd have otherwise paid (without solar) for this electricity. Once the solar's paid for the landlord might take a portion for maintenance, and the savings passed on to tenants.

    Assess how many contractors/suppliers you have available, get one of those cheap ass loans they're throwing about, and roll the solar out.

    You increase the value of your asset base, you decrease your carbon footprint, you make life easier for your tenants – which for private landlords – most of you could really do with the PR. And for most tenants they could really do with some financial relief.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      Yes that's an idea I've been mulling over for years. The problem always come down to bad market signals, the landlord pays all the capital, the tenant gets the lower electricity bill. Not much motivation, and with other costs currently rising all the time, it's hard to justify … as much as personally I'd love to do it.

      (Just to be clear, we have already invested heavily in high levels of insulation, double glazing, heat pumps, fire sprinklers and underfloor heating … at least a decade before any of these things became fashionable … but solar panels were a reach too far.)

      You are right however, it would be very useful if MBIW developed an extension of the usual rental contract to accommodate this.

    • alwyn 3.2

      Large scale Solar may seem to be a win-win for the landlord and the tenant. If UC Professor Krumdieck is to be believed it is not a win for the world.

      As she said in an article in the Dom/Post last weekend

      "Solar generation is then where the hype overtakes the economics she says.

      Once you factor in the manufacturing inputs, and the expense of battery banks to make any home system work, the EROI ranges from 10 down to zero.

      “To be honest, solar panels on roofs in New Zealand doesn’t make any sense. You’ve used coal from China to build the thing. There’s unspeakable harm in the mining and refining for the materials that went into it.”

      She then says

      "Krumdieck says solar might be an option in Australia, Spain or California, where the sun is bright and better choices, such as hydro, are absent.

      “But solar instead of hydro and geothermal production in New Zealand? Like, what are you doing?” she exclaims."

      She is clearly an expert in this subject and we are not in her class so I prefer to accept her opinion over my own, somewhat sentimental, attachment to the concept.


      • RedLogix 3.2.1

        I'm not on the business of throwing rocks at solar and wind renewables, but it's also important to understand their weak points and limitations.

        In the big picture we need a relatively low carbon option to replace coal in the short term and if that means less than ideal solar, then on balance I think we should do it.

        • Cricklewood

          Im not convinced home solar is a good solution for NZ… Yes cheaper power if you can afford the capex but I suspect thats partially a symptom of our generator/retailer ticket clipping system and is going to end up in a whole lot if waste as batteries and panels need replacement.

          Also wonder if someone with home solar could tell me if they still have to pay some sort of charge relating to grid maintenance? I worry that we end up in a situation where those in areas with less than ideal conditions ending up in a position where they have to bare a greater cost to maintain the national grid.

          • mac1

            I have home solar but I pay for grid maintenance per kw/h on what I consume from the grid. Is your question directed at those not connected at all to the grid?

      • WeTheBleeple 3.2.2

        Nobody called for solar instead of hydro and geothermal (or did they?) I'm not sure what the Professor is on about there. Typical academic brilliant and confused via a reductionist view both at once.

        Solar as part of a strategy to clean up power – not as a replacement. As tech and panels improve the performance and returns will continue to go up as has been the trend.

        Right now solar will give a better return on investment than any bank you care to mention. It's not that bad an investment at all. Power bills are a regular drain on the wallet and most house owners or landlords can't build a dam to avoid them.

        As we move to an electric fleet we'll need more electric capacity and solar can help take pressure off the grid. As a fleet of EV's come onboard their batteries are recycled into home storage and battery recycling is another area under study and one would hope available here as we transition. There is a lot of potential storage in the car batteries themselves that some folks have considered as part of solutions drawing from, and uploading to, the grid at various times.

        We were looking into local manufacture of solar panels at one stage – what happened to that idea?

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    Of the many possible responses to climate change, planning to compensate the mostly extremely well-heeled owners of coastal property at risk from sea level rises, stands out as being particularly costly and lacking in mitigating effect.

    In a country with burgeoning inequality and poverty one might expect better – were one not accustomed to the lamentable underperformance of Labour since it drank from the poisoned chalice of neoliberalism.

  5. Maurice 5

    WE are all DOOMED!

  6. Velcro 6

    Self serving hypocrisy of the highest order. There is no Climate Emergency. I could explain why, and then you could all indulge in personal verbal assaults on me as a means of avoiding addressing the points raised.

  7. infused 7

    Pretty much everyone I know, even the hard core leftie (I have one lol) thinks this is retarded. David sums it up best:

    tuff reported earlier this year:

    In the early months of 2007, the Government made a bold commitment: The public service would be going carbon neutral.

    13 years later they have reannounced this policy as a sign they believe climate change is abn emergency!!

    It’s beyond farcical.

    In the grand scheme of New Zealand’s climate pollution, it was a small fraction of the problem – equivalent to around 0.2 per cent of annual emissions.

    And the policy will reduce annual emissions by 0.2%. That 0.2% of 0.1% global emissions so 0.0002% of global emissions.

    We’re saved!

    • Robert Guyton 7.1

      I doubt anyone thinks "we're saved" but many will be thinking, "we're calling it like it is".

  8. WeTheBleeple 8

    Did you know there are still so many climate deniers and contrarian simpletons alive today, that if you stuck them all head to toe around the globe…

    2/3 of them would drown.

    And in the near future, even more.

  9. velcro 9

    Well at least the police still have some commonsense. They have rejected electric and hybrids for their replacement vehicles, in favour of Skoda Superbs, on the basis of performance and utility

    [A grossly misleading comment. You’ll need to explain this with support or correct it or withdraw it altogether. If you’re stupid enough to keep drawing attention to yourself by Moderators then you deserve a ban but let’s see what you make of your chance to redeem yourself – you get only one chance so make it work. I’ll put you in Pre-Moderation so that we can monitor your response – Incognito]

    [No response from you to Moderation obviously means you need a break. In any case, Moderators need a break from you and your repeated unsubstantiated denialist comments and wasting of our precious time. Have a well-deserved break and see you in two months – Incognito]

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