The Carbon Zero Legislation

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, June 8th, 2018 - 43 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, ETS, global warming, greens, james shaw, Politics, science, sustainability - Tags:

Minister Shaw has just put out his discussion paper for the Carbon Zero legislation.

Sometimes you never know what difference your voice is going to make. I know from working in both central and local government that since the late 1990s, public submissions really do shift the tenor of policies and budget directions. Here it is.

The Ministry for the Environment wants our views on a net zero target for New Zealand. This could mean one of at least three options:

  • Net zero carbon dioxide by 2050; reducing net carbon dioxide emissions in New Zealand to zero by 2050, and excluding methane or nitrous oxide largely from agriculture
  • Net zero long-lived gases by 2050, which includes carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, but stabilising emissions of short term gases like methane
  • Net zero emissions by 2050; reducing net emissions across all greenhouse gases to zero by 2050.

One of these is what the bill will aim for, and the bill will also set out the instruments to regulate and enforce it. It will also set out the role of the Climate Commission. Particularly whether it will have the power to set its own targets or whether it will be directly answerable to government.

The politics of farming will loom large in this, as will the politics of transport in light of the new taxes coming into Auckland. Buckle in people.

There’s a good stab here at a long-awaiting strategy on climate change for New Zealand from the Productivity Commission.

This approach is a whole bunch more rational and explicit than this governments’ approach to oil exploration, electric cars, autonomous vehicles, electricity generation, fuel taxes, or any other of the myriad subsets of stuff that we need that currently has some reliance on carbon. Then there’s the farmers. Sigh.  This is finally a part of the government asking us to direct how they think about climate change, and how we will act together, in law.

There have been useful thoughts recently about what our energy production strategy could look like. This however was met with deathly silence from government, energy retailers, energy regulators, and anyone else who might have had a stake in it.

As a gentle reminder, our previous energy strategy looked like this.

We are not going to change the world, since we are already so far behind the climate change leaders in so many areas. But we can start. We can prepare. To misquote Tennyson, we are who we are.

We know we are not ready for climate change.

But as citizens we can form rational thoughts towards an actual law that will govern it.

Minister Shaw is seeking the hardest of things; a compact that will bind all parties in Parliament together for the long term. He needs our support. I mean really needs it. From us all.

It’s worth doing, and this Labour-Green-New Zealand First government is going to do it.

So if you have useful thoughts to put to paper, now is the time not to have defeatist or pessimistic thoughts. Now is the time to put pen to paper and get your thoughts straight to the Minister and help shape this legislation before the first draft hits Parliament.

43 comments on “The Carbon Zero Legislation”

  1. The Chairman 1

    If transitioning is going to add costs to consumers (which no doubt it is) the vulnerable must be protected.

    Hence, community cardholders should be exempt. Or at the least, pay a lesser rate.

    • Gosman 1.1

      Isn’t any increased cost as a result of discouraging the use of greenhouse gases? In that case won’t exempting people from this cost just mean they continue to generate said gases? Surely you don’t want to subsidise polluters do You?

      • The Chairman 1.1.1

        We can’t expect the vulnerable in society to pay for this.

        And as they are vulnerable, their footprint would tend to be minimal.

        • Gosman 1.1.1.1

          It depends. The poorer sections of society have benefited enormously from an intensive carbon based economy. Mass production to satisfy this section of societies needs and wants has increased hugely over the past 50 to 100 years. This is the area that society needs to address if it is to reduce it’s carbon footprint as focusing only on the top 5 % won’t likely make a huge difference.

          • The Chairman 1.1.1.1.1

            The poorer sections of society haven’t benefited enormously, thus they struggle to attain their needs let alone their wants.

            I wasn’t arguing for us to only focus on the top 5%. But the vulnerable do need protecting if we want to avoid creating further economic and social hardship, which comes with its own considerable cost to the economy and our society.

            • Gosman 1.1.1.1.1.1

              You can try and argue that they haven’t benefitted but the facts unfortunately (for you) don’t back you up.

              https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty

              • The Chairman

                I don’t currently have time to read that report. So feel free to make your case.

                Nevertheless, you initially stated: the poorer sections of society have benefited enormously. But have now shifted to merely they have benefited.

                So while I agree they may have benefited to some extent, as per usual, we can see it’s businesses and the well to do that own them that have benefited enormously.

                Business savings tend to benefit business returns more than resulting in enormous consumer savings.

              • Timeforacupoftea

                The extreme poverty in NZ is less than 1 percent.
                They don’t burn oil or petrol either.
                Don’t they live on the streets and under bridges?
                The extreme as in your article!

      • The Chairman 1.1.2

        As for subsidising polluters, businesses that pollute will pass the new costs on, thus won’t really be paying.

        Therefore, as it tends to be those at the bottom (that can’t pass the cost on) that end up paying for it, the vulnerable require protecting.

        • Gosman 1.1.2.1

          Lets do some basic economics here.

          If I want to discourage people from using a product that is harmful to the environment I can do this by making it more expensive for people thus leading to less people buying it and these people will most likely be the ones who have the least amount of money to spend.

          However if I either exempt those people from paying the tax or give them more money so they aren’t disadvantaged by the increased cost then it is likely more of the product is going to be bought by them.

          If you want to use the price mechanism to reduce usage of a harmful product then you have to accept that the poorer sections of society will be hurt the most. Trying to mitigate this will lead to a situation where you are working against the original reasons for imposing the additional costs.

          • The Chairman 1.1.2.1.1

            “However if I either exempt those people from paying the tax or give them more money so they aren’t disadvantaged by the increased cost then it is likely more of the product is going to be bought by them.”

            Those that struggle to make ends meet now, aren’t going to be purchasing more as exempting them from new costs isn’t going to reduce current costs.

            “If you want to use the price mechanism to reduce usage of a harmful product then you have to accept that the poorer sections of society will be hurt the most.”

            Exactly. Thus, they must be protected. But doing so doesn’t mean a pricing mechanism (preferably a progressive one) can’t be applied to the rest of society that can afford to pay.

            • Gosman 1.1.2.1.1.1

              Using the pricing mechanism tends to discourage those at the bottom of the income ladder the most.

              Take flying as an example. This is one area that is very harmful to the environment.

              If the price of flights are increased the wealthy will likely still fly as much. This is because they can decide to not save as much of their income to maintain their consumption levels. The poor don’t have that same option so will stop flying. If you subsidise the poor so they can still fly you haven’t really addressed the problem of too many flights.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Which just proves that we cannot afford the rich.

              • The Chairman

                Those at the bottom struggle to partake as it is, thus their emissions are not a significant part of the problem.

                Such as your example, flying, which wouldn’t be an often occurrence for the poor. They tend to fly when they have to or when it’s the cheaper option due to special deals.

                Therefore, if they have to fly, they will continue to do so. But it will put them into further hardship doing so. And with costs also being added to other forms of transport, airlines should sill be able to remain competitive with their deals.

                If we wish to deter the wealthy and reduce the numbers flying or the number of flights made, we would require to charge them more, which is another example for why a pricing mechanism requires to be progressive.

            • Timeforacupoftea 1.1.2.1.1.2

              How about a free bus pass for starters.
              Then we will have the higher cost of food etc etc etc.
              wait a minute is that not inflation?
              Then the poor get including retirees get inflatadjusted income yearly.
              Actually taxing is a waste of time as it is inflationary and is covered by wage increases anyway

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2.1.2

            Lets do some basic economics here.

            Which means that you’re probably not going to do any economics at all.

            If I want to discourage people from using a product that is harmful to the environment I can do this by making it more expensive for people thus leading to less people buying it and these people will most likely be the ones who have the least amount of money to spend.

            I note that National and other RWNJ parties have been against doing that in a variety of ways with their undermining of the ETS (which wasn’t good to begin with) being the most notable. Others include whinging about decreasing the NZ$ exchange rate.

            However if I either exempt those people from paying the tax or give them more money so they aren’t disadvantaged by the increased cost then it is likely more of the product is going to be bought by them.

            There is, as a matter of fact, better ways such as building more and better public transport. I note that the RWNJ parties have been against doing that as well.

            If you want to use the price mechanism to reduce usage of a harmful product then you have to accept that the poorer sections of society will be hurt the most.

            Thing is, we don’t actually have to use the pricing system to do so. If we think about it, if that actually worked we wouldn’t have the problems that we’re having with poverty.

            And every time that the Left tries to do so the Right-whingers bring up some reasons as to why we shouldn’t that tends to keep the over-consumption going. Probably has to do with all the profit the rich get from that over-consumption.

            Trying to mitigate this will lead to a situation where you are working against the original reasons for imposing the additional costs.

            They’re not additional costs at all – they’re costs that aren’t being accounted for.

            We do need to cut that over-consumption but we also need to transition slowly because of the stupid decisions of previous governments that built for cars rather than public transport. That sold off state assets so that the rich could bludge more off of the poor.

          • Bill 1.1.2.1.3

            If society wants less use of a product that’s harmful to the environment, then society bans or limits the use of said product.

            Unfortunately, government is positioned as the conduit for society’s wishes. And we know government is primarily in the business of business and can’t see beyond the tool box of market mechanisms.

            That aside. The breakdown for emissions is that about 10% of humanity acting as the source for about 50% of emissions, while 50% of humanity is the source for only about 10% of emissions.

            So pricing most definitely won’t work, unless the objective is just to hammer the poor into the ground.

  2. KD 2

    Great comments @ the chairman. I did not read any of gosman’s comments (not ready to feel annoyed unnecessarily) I did not need to in order to appreciate your thoughtful responses.

  3. Jenny 3

    Should Climate Scientists Fly?
    Scientific American – 31 May, 2018

    Government leadership and action is needed, (no matter how much it is resented by corporate interest).

    There is, and has been for a long time, a debate whether action on climate change is a matter of personal responsibility, or government regulation.

    My opinion that guilt tripping the individual is counter productive and will only lead to despondency and inaction.

    What is needed is collective action, and collective action requires leadership.

    What lifestyle choices we make as individuals are irrelevant.

    For instance:

    If we legislated in favour of surface transport over air transport, to account for the currently externalised costs of climate change, air travel would become prohibitively expensive.
    For long distance journeys, surface travel, ships, trains, would become the norm. (in fact this was the actuality only 50 years ago).

    And the above question would quite simply become a non sequitur.

    There are very, very bad actors in this space of climate accountability. The problem is, these actors are some of the wealthiest and most powerful people on the planet, a cabal of mediocre and violent men who gatekeep our collective action on climate. To indict them publicly and directly is to court both the reality of the political and partisan moment of our time and the implied threat of an army of corporate lawyers.

    Should Climate Scientists Fly? Scientific American.

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/should-climate-scientists-fly/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sustainability&utm_content=link&utm_term=2018-06-07_top-stories

  4. NZJester 4

    The main problem is that any gains made likely under a future National government will be lost again as they go back to the “greed is good” and “Me me me” at all costs mantras that their party practices daily. National have no future vision, they are all about the here and now with quick fix and quick bucks no matter the future cost.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      This is true so we need to make it so that they can’t do that.

    • Tamati Tautuhi 4.2

      National have never had a vision ?

      • NZJester 4.2.1

        Well, their vision for New Zealand is always rooted in the past by finding ways to turn NZ into a Landowner and Surf relationship like in medieval England with them as the Barons and Baronesses. The only real future plans they have is how to make sure they can get a well-paying job for themselves when they leave parliament and maybe also for their immediate family by scratching the right rich people’s backs. They have no democratic future vision of New Zealand at all.

  5. Bill 5

    Net zero on land based emissions.
    ‘Absolute’ zero from energy based emissions.

    The second by the 2040s – if anyone wants to imagine a snowball in some avoided hell.

    Those are the facts as per current scientific knowledge. What follows is opinion.

    Government doesn’t want to know this Ad. Most people don’t really want to know this either.

    A few years back, a biologist friend (he was resignedly shaking his head at the time) said that maybe when the kids at the local duck pond asked “What was a duck?” – then (far too late) people might decide to get galvanised.

    More facts.

    Insect numbers are falling off a cliff all over the world. Bird numbers are following right on behind.

    Opinion.

    Maybe not so long to hear that question being asked then?

    • Ad 5.1

      One of the characters in Bladerunner 2047 asks:
      “What’s a tree?”

      • Bill 5.1.1

        Aside from observing that fact is easier to verify than the opinion expressed by my friend the biologist…?

        Anyway. Ought to be doing that “Dear James” post.

        • Ad 5.1.1.1

          Mak sure you attend one of the many public meetings that Minister Shaw is holding on this Bill.

          He did the first one in Whangarei yesterday, easily 100 people, chock-full of farmers, and no fights broke out. Naturally they preferred the easier option, but that will be the case for most of them.

  6. Venezia 6

    We need to do more about the diesel emissions problems.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/06/impossible-to-cheat-emissions-tests-show-almost-all-new-diesels-still-dirty

    Christchurch has had a huge increase in massive SUVs on our roads since the rebuild began, almost all diesel. It is not just tradies; these SUVs are still the family car of choice for many residents. At peak traffic hours the gridlock in the city continues to be a big problem. But air quality has been of lower priority than state of roads, housing etc.

    We will pay big time in health costs for the effects of these emissions.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      And autonomous electric still won’t address the congestion problem.

      The simple reality is that we can’t afford cars. Climate change and congestion tells us that we’ve never been able to afford them.

      • QFT Draco.

        Yet on the news last night we’re celebrating the moving of speedway from Western Springs to somewhere near Auckland airport – as if the ‘perpetual present’ can go on forever – with no consequences.

        Guy McPherson may have his time-line a bit premature, but essentially he’s right – as a species, we’re doing our damnedest to fuck the planet bigly (to quote someone or other.)

  7. Jenny 7

    Where does the Government’s ban on issuing new oil prospecting permits fit in with all this?

    That’s right. No Where.

    Yet it is the one thing that the fossil fuel industry screamed the hardest about.

    What we need are more bans like this, right now, right here.

    How about a total ban on ALL off shore oil and gas exploration in New Zealand waters?

    Or a total ban on all new coal mining in this country?

    This is called leadership.

    This is the sort of leadership that Prime Minister Ardern exercised when she slapped her ban on new off shore all prospects.

    We need more of it.

    The fossil fuel lobbyists aren’t concerned about plans for fossil free in 2050. They are just laughing at us. As far as they are concerned this is just kicking the can down the road, leaving them alone to continue their business unmolested for at least their lifetimes, (and probably much longer).

    We are not going to change the world, since we are already so far behind the climate change leaders in so many areas.

    ADVANTAGE

    We Are Fooling Ourselves

    No disrespect Ad, but even if New Zealand could achieve Zero Carbon right now, it would make barely any difference to the trajectory the world is on. This is because New Zealand’s total output of greenhouse gases makes up only 0.1% of the global total.

    And achieving Zero Emissions by 2050 will make even less difference.

    We are fooling ourselves if we think it will.

    As Professor as Gluckman has said on the government website, New Zealand’s greatest contribution to fighting climate change will be by setting an example.

    So let’s ban all offshore oil exploration and ban the opening of new coal mines to show the rest of the world that it can be done.

  8. Tamati Tautuhi 8

    National have never had a vision ?

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      Of course they have. It involves them and their mates being catered to by lots and lots of poor people.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    Quoting Transpower study:

    Electrifying New Zealand’s economy is arguably the biggest single economic and environmental opportunity facing the country. It also represents significant risk.

    I’m wondering what these guys are smoking. There is zero risk involved with changing NZ to fully electric from fossil fuels. There is a known and high risk of not doing so.

    Ah, I see their problem:

    Judgements were
    made based on the available evidence and an implicit recognition that there are asymmetric risks in underestimating demand (system failure versus a lower return on assets).

    They’re concerned about profits for the bludging rich.

    New Zealand needs to plan meticulously and work together across the
    industry and government, and be prepared to invest in realising a very different
    energy future for New Zealand.

    What they mean by industry is private business when the energy sector should simply be a full government service.

    The team added the contribution expected from distributed solar PV generation by estimating the number of households and businesses that would install solar, and the generation potential that could be delivered with improved technology.

    And this is where the government being sole provider of a service wins. It’s wouldn’t be dependent upon how many people would install solar PV as it would simply systematically install them on – poor neighbourhoods first.

    New Zealand’s future demand for electricity. New Zealand cannot wait for solutions to be developed and deployed overseas before importing them and will need to be near the leading edge of energy innovation to manage winter demand and dry years. New Zealand must invest resources in innovation and adopt new technologies, as it relates to energy development, because it does not have the luxury of time to follow the lead of others.

    Which means that we can’t wait for the private sector to do it. Same as we couldn’t wait for the private sector to get power distribution or telecommunications or roads done before. It must be done by government at, effectively, war time levels.

    Heavy land transport is also expected to electrify but there is more uncertainty behind this assumption because of issues with range that need to be overcome.

    The obvious and actually economic solution here is, of course, trains. They can easily be electrified and we know exactly where they’re going. From those out to distribution only requires trucks with a short range.

    The remaining
    additional supply needed would have to be filled by utility-scale investors, who are anticipated to provide 16 TWh of wind, 11 TWh of geothermal, 6 TWh of solar and 6 TWh of hydro generation.

    Translation: The remaining supply would, under present conditions, be dependent upon rich being able to bludge even more off of poor people and thus increasing poverty.

    The government can simply get in and do it and not worry about profit. Saves a hell of a lot of money actually as it removes the dead-weight loss of profit.

    Heating in winter may increase as more extreme weather
    events such as cold snaps occur, and demographic trends such as lower household occupancy
    rates and population growth contribute to an increase in the amount of space that needs to be
    heated in winter.

    The best way to decrease the demand for winter heating is to make houses well insulated. In fact, the Passive House standard should become the minimum for new housing. Especially new state housing.

    This would (somewhat obviously) make investment in that additional capacity uneconomic and, therefore, unattractive.

    Rich people not being able to bludge off the poor doesn’t make something uneconomic. Over generation isn’t a problem (especially when it can simply be turned off as wind, geothermal and hydro can be) – under generation is.

    However, it is important to form a view about the future of interconnection because it would materially affect the economic competiveness and attractiveness of alternative solutions, possibly creating stranded assets.

    Again, they’re not talking economics here but finances and profits for rich bludgers.

    Quoting Why we can’t afford the rich” by Andrew Sayer, Richard Wilkinson:

    So, under capitalism the parts of our heritage that are most crucial for economic and political power have been turned into the private property of a minority. This privatisation of the inherited fruits of past labour – or ‘dead labour’, as Marx called it – is crucial for understanding inequality and the dominance of the rich. As long as other people need to draw on the commons, then anyone who has property rights over parts of it – whether land, minerals, buildings, technology, works of art, genetic material or intellectual property – has power over those who don’t and can make them pay for it. Much of the commons are social in origin and therefore its benefits should be treated as social wealth, not something that Johnny-come-lately rentiers can divert into their own pockets.

    It is time for electricity to be turned back into a government service so that it can easily be utilised for the benefit of the whole country and not just as a cash cow for the bludging rich.

  10. Martin C 10

    Climate change is happening now and it is not obeying the rules. We are seeing things that should not be happening at 1.7%.
    We desperately need to be addressing how we are to meet the challenges that will come our way. What we are seeing now is the outcome of what we did in the 1980’s [carbon emissions]. What we are seeing is only the beginning.
    Any denial is now an unaffordable luxury.

  11. DB 11

    Biofuel and biochar generation from forestry slash/by-products.

    Biodigestors on farms (100’s of thousands of working models in India).

    Riparian planting that is functional not just any old plants… Really, we are completely shit at this. Why do we surround market gardens/orchards with species that harbor pests? Because we’re completely shit at this. Shelter that performs ecosystem services and provisions land users. Ask me how.

    Solar on all new builds.

    Solar or other appropriate tech on all govt buildings.

    Solar on all HNZ stock.

    Give me a lab, a lab technician and a small biodigestor. Then pay me to selectively breed homoacetogens (cows rumen) to turn methane into short chain fatty acids (meat and milk). Not kidding.

    As for an emissions trading scheme…

    Have no confidence whatsoever in this concept. An excuse to further centralise power to power brokers, same shit different day, but in the name of the planet this time.

    More paper pushers, more middling middle men.

    Businesses, on a case by case (or industry) basis, need to clean their act up. And if they are highly profitable but at the expense of the environment, that profit needs to be taxed, at the point of profit, and NEVER added to consumer costs.

    Some people work for a living. Leave them alone or guide them into new ways. Some people thrash the planet for profit. Party should be over for this mob, and rightly so.

    Fertiliser companies. Drug companies. Farmers. Orchardists. All those other exploitative land trashing self satisfied assholes.

    Parnell off-roaders driving SUV’s should be put in stocks and have fruit thrown at them. Also, lip service merchants, and pushers of piss poor efforts.

    About over this conversation a decade ago. Government should put up or shut up.

  12. Pat 12

    “Will it cost profits? Absolutely. Will it costs jobs? Absolutely. But are jobs and profits really worth destroying the planet’s life support system?

    Strangely, to many of the world’s politicians, the answer to that question is yes.”

    https://www.ecowatch.com/paul-watson-if-the-ocean-dies-we-die-1882105818.html

    sadly we get the politicians we deserve

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