The official New Zealand COP21 negotiating guide

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, December 1st, 2015 - 13 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, global warming, International, Satire, social media lolz, spin, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

COP21 negotiating guide

The Youth Delegation at COP21 have secured a copy of the NZ COP21 negotiation guide. For an original copy have a look here. Following is the text:

IN BRIEF AND CONFIDENCE

New Zealand COP21 Negotiating Guide

Operation #PulltheWool When there’s no low hanging fruit, cut down the tree

VISION
New Zealand must get a deal in Paris that will allow us to continue with business as usual, and shift all responsibility to bigger and badder
countries.

OBJECTIVES

Despite our greenhouse gas emissions increasing by 111% since 1990,1 New Zealand has somehow developed an international reputation for being clean and green. It was probably the Lord of the Rings.

Anyway, we’re close to having this game stitched up. Because you know what else is still going up?

That’s right, our emissions.

Note: our colleagues at the Ministry for the Environment expect our emissions to go up by a further 50% by 2030.2 Yet it’s extremely important that the world thinks New Zealand is doing its bit for climate change.

Our reputation is on the line, and we don’t want to lose any trading partners over this.

So here’s the plan: our commitments at the Paris conference should make us look heroic, or at least
not entirely hopeless, without, in fact, requiring us to do anything at all.

Luckily, the game has changed. Now that we’re allowed to decide on our own contributions (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”, as the kids are calling them), we just need to keep a
straight face to land an emissions reduction target that, incredibly, will let us continue increasing
our emissions.

Intrigued? Read on, and learn how.

FLEECING THE SYSTEM

Everything we want and how we’ll get it

Our negotiating strategy is based on 3 key goals.

If we’re not sheepish about it, we can achieve all of them while doing as little as possible. Here are the key goals and tactics for reaching them.

[1] PROTECTING THE EXPANSION OF OUR AGRICULTURAL SECTOR AND EXPORTS

This is our number one priority.

Some critics say that we’re doing this at the expense of our environment and NZ’s ‘clean, green’ image, but here’s how to deal with those pesky complainants in Paris and keep increasing agricultural emissions:

  • Hypothetical, fancy gizmos: This is our trump card. At the end of the day we can always just rely on currently undeveloped, futuristic technologies to save our bacon (or lamb, or milk powder) and reduce emissions in a couple of decades’ time. It’s called being responsible.
  • Scare people: We can strategically stoke fears about not producing enough food to feed the growing global population. By framing ourselves as the world’s ‘Dairy Queen’ (‘the Groser’?!), we can justify our refusal to cut agricultural emissions. The milk of kindness, etc.

[2] PROMOTE BUSINESSES AND THE ECONOMY

Our economy is the best. People who accuse us of taking a laissez faire approach to climate are just jealous.

If everyone calms their farms and follows this advice then everyone will keep believing that whole “rock star” thing:

  • Maximize short-term profits: If we don’t commit to doing much, we can probably get in a few more trading years before the increasingly unpredictable weather patterns start having serious economic repercussions. Remember: that’s another government’s problem!
  • Pretend it’s too expensive: We should keep reiterating the claim that the costs of mitigation for New Zealand will be higher than for comparable developed countries. It’s important that we don’t mention the opportunities that come with diversifying our economy, such as creating jobs in the renewable sector, and the health benefits of less pollution and more liveable cities.
  • Mitigate risk: If business is confronted by risk, then the economy stalls. Heading into new territories like backing renewables, cutting reliance on mining and other sunset industries, and investing in cleaner transport is risky. Oh wait. This just in: we might be a little behind on that… we’ll get back to you.

[3] MAINTAIN OUR POSITIVE IMAGE

Everyone loves New Zealand.

It’s vital that we keep it this way, but to do so while dragging our hoofs and increasing our emissions will require diverting attention and neglecting to mention key facts. Here’s how:

  • Pretend we’re not important: Remind everyone that New Zealand is small and insignificant. Do not mention under any circumstances that that we’re currently on track to emit more greenhouse gas per capita than the US by 2025.
  • Distract them: If things get hairy, then change the subject. Look – a new flag!
  • Blame someone else: Sneakily deflect blame to developing countries that need a bigger emissions budget. They’re not as good at hiding it as we are!
  • Flag it: Did we mention our new flag? Just kidding. There are actually five new flags.

INDCs

The right kind of grassroots

Imagine playing a game where you get to pick the terrain, write the rules, and referee the match. Sounds great, right?! Our idea to do just that 3 has been picked up and the world is running with it in Paris.

Instead of countries having to contribute based on historical responsibility for emissions and capacity to act, we are moving to a system where countries act on a voluntary basis and are not actually obligated to do anything.

This means we now get to choose how much responsibility we bear. We plan on getting an A+… for Agriculture, to be clear.

Note: When we put out our INDC for consultation we received a lot of public interest and feedback. Unfortunately, a lot of people and organisations weren’t put off by the bureaucratic process, and actually submitted in our incredibly short timeframe! Thanks to a couple of cheap shots about who submitted, we quietly ignored the weight of public opinion. In other words, we knocked it out of the park.

CLIMATE ACCOUNTING 101

“Taking care of business”

Now that we’ve rigged the target, all we have to do is make sure our accounting is on point.

To do this, we have a handy little trick up our sleeve. Instead of comparing our current total emissions against a comparable baseline, we do this: Gross-net accounting.

We prefer to call it ‘Groser’ accounting, because the outcomes get more and more… awesome. We get to use the gross baseline, that is our total emissions, and then judge our performance on net emissions (including offset measures that reduce emissions such as planting trees). This means that our books always look like we’re in the green, especially given how easy it is to fudge offset measures.

In fact, we can (and we are!) continuing to steadily increase our emissions based on this creative accounting.

Brilliant right?

But wait, there’s more. Under the previous Kyoto Protocol rules we were able to carry over our backlog 4 of emissions ‘credit’, generated from the sneaky ‘gross-net’ surplus. Annoyingly, this time around we face a small issue, as according to some silly technicality we shouldn’t legally be able to ‘carry over’ our built up ‘credit’ to a new agreement… all because we abandoned the second Kyoto Commitment Period.

We’re working on fixing this, as without locking in the offsetting mechanisms into the agreement we’re going to have a tough time explaining our ever-increasing emissions.

At this point we’re attempting to blasé our way through by just acting like we’ll be allowed.

LAND USE, LAND USE CHANGE, AND FORESTRY (LULUCF)

The forests will save us, but not in the way most people think. LULUCF is one of the offsetting mechanisms mentioned above that gives countries credit (literally) for all the good work they do in the land use/forestry area. The instrument was devised by technical experts so it’s far too
complex to capture here (helpful for keeping those ordinary folk at bay), but here are some points to bear in mind:

  • LULUCF has been described as creating ‘perverse outcomes’ for emissions, 5 by rewarding emitters and neglecting to punish… anyone. Great for us.
  • Some parts of LULUCF accounting are mandatory, however these are almost always for positive outcomes like reforestation. This has tipped the scales in our favour.
  • Meanwhile, we do not have to account for a vast array of activities, including things like ‘forest management’. This delightful euphemism covers a wide variety of activities like converting natural forests to plantations, many of which would tip the scales back the other way if we had to include them.
  • LULUCF is also full of helpful loopholes. For example, we can essentially degrade our forests if we want and just claim they are “temporarily” unstacked because nobody ever defined what temporary means.

We want to make the new Paris agreement and its LULUCF provisions a chip off the old block. Let’s try to make the accounting rules give us the same level of (forest) cover the Kyoto provisions have, with no pruning back.

ACCESS TO INTERNATIONAL CARBON MARKETS

Emitting and Omitting Responsibility

It is a well-known fact that markets fix everything. Why not use the mother of all markets to fix the mother of all problems (that is… Mother Earth)?

There are a few different variations of emissions trading markets, and a number of different emissions ‘units’ that may be traded and applied as offsets. Some governments put a ‘cap’ in place, meaning that only a certain amount of emissions are able to be ‘accounted for’ per year; this alongside access to certain markets affects the supply and demand for credits. We’ve Labour-ed away, and decided to
go with relaxed rules: no cap is necessary for us; and it seems rude to not allow access to the notoriously dodgy international trading markets.

Some countries will be headed to Paris cap in hand, and looking altogether too uptight. We’ve got to avoid attempts to apply a uniformly strict approach to emissions trading. A loose market approach gives us access to enough cheap international credits to sometimes make polluting even more
profitable!

KEY TAKE-AWAYS FOR PARIS

Ensure that for any deal we:

  • take away any attempt to deal with the agricultural sector back home and address its emissions head on;
  • take away any references that remind people the whole decide-for-yourself INDC thing was our idea in the first place;
  • take away that tricky technicality that says we can’t use our ‘credits’ from earlier Commitment Periods;
  • take away any question about whether or not to include LULUCF accounting and access to international carbon markets;
  • take away New Zealand’s commitment to anything, if we don’t get exactly what we want.

Simple! Once these pesky items are taken out of the agreement we’ll be free to keep ignoring this climate change nonsense again.

Now, let’s go make hay while the sun shines. We don’t have long.

_______

1. https://unfccc.int/files/ghg_emissions_data/application/pdf/nzl_ghg_profile.pdf

2. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1312/S00041/new-zealand-carbon-emissions-projected- to-climb.htm

3. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/27/un-climate-change-deal-must-have-
legally-binding-targets-says-eu

4. lol

5. De-constructing LULUCF and its Perversities: How Annex I Parties Avoid Their Responsibilities in LULUCF (Rules Made by Loggers, For Loggers’)

13 comments on “The official New Zealand COP21 negotiating guide”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    I don’t think the tag “you couldn’t make this shit up” really belongs on an article that is also tagged “satire”, since it is made up.

    • Macro 1.1

      It’s not made up Lath – for all intents and purposes this will be precisely NZ’s negotiating position at Paris. We are, and will be the pariahs of the world.

    • mickysavage 1.2

      It is a tag. It is meant to group posts. It is not definitive.

      • Lanthanide 1.2.1

        Yeah, we should tag the colour white with the “black” tag too, ’cause it’s just a tag and not meant to be definitive.

    • North 1.3

      Tad ‘pure’ there Lanth’. “Ya Can’t Make This Shit Up” and ‘Satire’ are not mutually exclusive. Unless you really need them to be. For whatever reason.

      • Lanthanide 1.3.1

        Well if it’s genuinely satire, then obviously it was made up. So saying “you can’t make this shit up” is wrong.

        Pretty straight forward.

        Obviously this is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, but if you start using categories and tagging willy-nilly, then they stop being useful.

  2. Murray Simmonds 2

    Gee, thanks, dear leader. Once a country with an international reputation for ecological sensitiivity and awareness and now recipient of the “Fossil of the year” award at the Paris conference. You sure know how to advance our reputation on the world stage!

    • Murray Simmonds 2.1

      My apologies to all – misheard that. It was the Fossil of the DAY award, not fossil of the year.
      (Gee, not bad for me – only out by a factor of 365.25 on this occasion ).

      • ropata 2.1.1

        Actually, an average Gregorian year is 365.2425 days (52.1775 weeks, 8765.82 hours, 525949.2 minutes or 31556952 seconds).

        If you can’t get the definition of “year” correct to the exact second, then it ceases to be useful </sarc> 🙂

  3. Michael 3

    That document certainly reads like official policy to me. It’s apparent our government has been following the script faithfully for many years, while no change to the status quo seems in prospect. Penguins don’t vote; neither do “youth” or poor people, any more. So fuck ’em.

  4. aerobubble 4

    Boil it all down. Politicians don’t like to swallow, so they create distance and time for themselves, having global conferences, look like they are doing something rather actually. Any sane person would isolate the lowest productive activity and cap it, that is what business do all the time. So its so obvious to everyone what that activity is.
    The private automobile.

    And there is precedence, the horse pulled buggy. Polluting the streets with dung, was disrupted by the automobile. now we have the technology to use a fraction of the vehicle fleet to do the near same job of moving people around.

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