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Zero Carbon Bill reported back

Written By: - Date published: 9:08 am, October 22nd, 2019 - 18 comments
Categories: climate change, ETS, greens, Judith Collins, labour, national, political parties, same old national, science, uncategorized - Tags:

The Government’s Zero Carbon Bill has been reported back and the contrast in responses between Labour/Green and National is fascinating. And National’s response is utterly predictable.

The report is interesting.  The majority has proposed technical changes which go some way to addressing concerns raised about the original bill that the Climate Change Commission targets were not enforceable.  This has not changed but the amendments will make it less likely that a Government can ignore or avoid a Commission recommendation.

National’s response to the bill is contained in a carefully crafted series of bullet points.  Here they are:

“National seeks the following changes to the Zero Carbon Bill:”

  • That the target for biological methane reduction be recommended by the independent Climate Change Commission.
  • That the bill make clear that the stated aim of the Paris Agreement is for greenhouse gas reduction to occur in a manner that does not threaten food production. Currently the bill cherry-picks wording from the agreement.
  • Strengthen provisions that consider the level of action being taken by other countries and allow targets to be adjusted to ensure we remain in step with the international community.
  • That the bill ensure that the Commission consider economic impacts when providing advice on targets and emissions reductions.
  • That the bill ensure that the Commission consider the appropriate use of forestry offsets, and have regard for the carbon sink represented by tree crops, riparian planting, and other farm biomass.
  • That emissions budgets be split between biogenic methane and carbon dioxide as recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
  • That the bill include a greater commitment to investment in innovation and research and development, to find new solutions for reducing emissions.

It is interesting that National has not gone all climate change denial on it and attacked the methane target.  Letting the Commission set the reduction level suggests that National realises that some sort of reduction will have to happen.

The reference to “cherry picking” in relation to food supply is strange.  All food good seems to be something of a mantra.  We can cherry pick with regards to food supply.  Red meat is bad for the environment, vegetables are good.  We need to all become more vegetarian.

The suggestion that we should remain in step with the international community in relation to greenhouse gas reduction is a cop out.  So we should become fast followers or even slow laggards if that is the international mood?  Every tonne of CO2 or methane produced will add to the problem and we should get on with achieving meaningful reductions.  We can and should be world leaders.  And if New Zealand cannot achieve this then the prospects look bleak.

The bullet point requiring the commission to consider economic impacts fails at the first hurdle.  Section 5L of the bill sets out matters that the Commission must consider in performing its functions and duties and exercising its powers under the Act, and these include “the likely economic effects”.

As for consideration of forestry offsets including tree crops, and farm biomass they seem to be a relevant consideration now.    Section 5Z says that “[t]he Commission and the Minister must … have particular regard to how the emissions budget and 2050 target may 25 realistically be met, including consideration of … the key opportunities for emissions reductions and removals in New Zealand”.

The final bullet point, that the bill contains greater commitment to investment in innovation and R&D is the sort of talking point that pops out of committees where someone is looking to say something and bignote.

And it ignores that this Government is really keen on research and innovation.  Like the recent announcement of investment into research suggesting that the use of seaweed in cow feed may be a game changer.

At least the opposition has not gone all climate change denial on it.  Unlike Judith Collins who crafted as fine a piece of denial for facebook as you can imagine.

It caused Rod Oram to summarise National’s position in these terms:

The Government has spent a lot of time trying to persuade National to engage in a constructive, science-based and ambitious way. But at every step, National has taken its do-nothing, know-nothing lead from powerful party members who are desperately clinging to their deeply vested interests in a high emissions economy.

Collins’ Facebook post is filling this blackhole in National’s climate policy. Consequently, National runs the great risk that voters who want action on the climate crisis, including those who are members of its party, will see Collins’ views as the party’s policy on climate. While that might buoy Collin’s ambitions to be party leader, it’s a big political negative for National.

It appears that the Government has NZ First support for the bill and wants to put it in place by the end of the year.  Get ready for one hell of a parliamentary debate.  Our future will depend on it.

18 comments on “Zero Carbon Bill reported back ”

  1. bwaghorn 1

    You lost me at we need to all become vegetarian. It shows your stupid bias.

    • Sanctuary 1.1

      I suggest you review your reading comprehension skills.

      Labour should look to wedge National on this issue, because not only is climate change way more popular than the vested interests of complacent aging boomer MSM commentators would have us believe, it puts pressure on some serious fault lines within National itself.

    • Robert Guyton 1.2

      Try to see past your prejudice, bwaghorn. Would you think well of a vegetarian who declares they won't listen to your ideas because you're a meat-eater? Is yours a "stupid bias" also?

      This however; "the use of seaweed in cow feed may be a game changer." I do not believe. Will we pillage the ocean even more, just to feed cows? Or are seaweed-farms being proposed; in what space, by what method? Farming the ocean; what a great prospect! Hundreds of square kilometres of Undaria with automated harvesters churning day and night, to feed … cows?

      • mickysavage 1.2.1

        I anticipated that it would be grown commercially if it was shown to be beneficial. I would also be against desecrating the sea, I think we need to let it repair itself.

        • Robert Guyton

          I don't mean to criticise you, mickeysavage and there's no doubt that an innovative solution to bovine-methane production, especially one that uses "plants"/algae is exciting, but keeping the cow-industry going at present levels, albeit with less methane being spilled, has its problems; soil damage, river degradation, habitat loss and so on. However, "combatting climate change" will be cited for all manner of agricultural "innovations" G.E pastures etc, and has to be considered against the backdrop of other serious harms already pressing on the biosphere. Looking at the ocean as potential "pasture" for the purpose of maintaining the terrestrial agriculture should be very carefully considered; the same people who are calling for seaweed-feed also support the importation of palm kernel expeller grown as a crop where rainforests once flourished. We need a change of mindset, not a change of feedstock.

      • patricia bremner 1.2.2

        Hopefully, as we now produce artificial protein, we could produce seaweed in the same way. It would also be a far better fertilizer. Gradually as people look for more plant based proteins, and other milk sources Dairy and cattle numbers will drop?

        You are right Micky, National will try to delay detract and subvert Labour and the Greens on this. The transport plans are part of reaching the goal, so it too has to be denigrated by National.

        62% think the the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Government "Are doing the Right Thing"

    • mickysavage 1.3

      I said "more" and it is good for us so why not.

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    "It appears that the Government has NZ First support for the bill and wants to put it in place by the end of the year. "


  3. Sacha 3

    have regard for the carbon sink represented by tree crops, riparian planting, and other farm biomass

    So now they want credit for their grass as well?

    • Poission 3.1

      Full carbon accounting is part of the Paris agreement.

      • Sacha 3.1.1

        Maybe I've never seen farm grass mentioned because it isn't a sink for very long?

        • weka

          Depends on how it's done, and I doubt this is what National are meaning, but carbon farming via perennial grass regeng is a significant carbon sink. That's not what most NZ farmers are doing, although there are changes happening slowly.

          Here's the mechanics. If you let the grass grow long, then graze it back with stock on for a short time, the combination of manure and grass roots feeds the microbes that build soil. The carbon sequestration is in the grass roots –> soil. So long as you don't plough, that carbon will remain sequestered. That's a simplified explanation (there's more biochemistry depending on soil type, depths, and so on).

          This is the cycle that the large grassland ecosystems are based on (North America, Africa). Perennial grasses and herbs of large browsing animals that move around a lot. The best of regenag is based on such biomimicry.

          Joel Salatin calls himself a grass farmer, although what he sells is meat. They build 12 inches of soil in fifty years, whereas most conventional farms are losing soil.

        • Macro

          Actually natural grazing, where grasses are allowed to fully develop their root systems – not the intensive rotational grazing that is currently employed in NZ – is as efficient at sequestering Carbon as trees.

          Carbon sequestration – the long-term capture and storage of carbon from the atmosphere, typically as carbon dioxide – is a method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

          “Many different agricultural production practices can capitalize on carbon sequestration in both soil and biomass to reduce negative environmental effects,” Owens said. “These practices enable use of the natural carbon cycle to replenish carbon stores while reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.”

          That is where beef producers who employ grasslands as a pasture resource come in. Research by R.F. Follett and D.A. Reed published in 2010 examined the effects of grazing on soil organic carbon storage in North American rangelands. Follett and Reed found impacts ranging from no change to up to 268 pounds of carbon stored per acre per year.

          “The variability in the impact grazing can have on carbon sequestration on rangelands, pastures and grasslands is due to differences in specific grazing management practices from operation to operation,” said Sara Place, assistant professor of sustainable beef cattle systems with OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

          The number of cattle grazed per acre, fertilization and prior land use can all affect how much carbon is stored.


          Edit: Oh! see weka beat me to it 🙂

          • Poission

            There is a need for well researched measurements in both pastoral and horticulture (being one reason for managed rollout in the ZEB) the other being requirements under the PA.

            Irrigated (and well managed) tend to have a better net ecosystem carbon budget then non irrigated pastoral land in canterbury.


            • Sacha

              Wouldn't most things have a better carbon outcome than intensely-dairied Canterbury?

  4. Ad 4

    National's reliance on the PCE recommendations shows Simon Upton's persuasive skill.

    The bill will only last as an Act if it goes through with bipartisan support. It's a pyrrhic victory if this lot get the arse next year.

    So it's worth adopting a few of National's recommendations to give the best shot at legislative durability.

  5. Ron Segal 5

    If one truly believes in sudden, massive, disastrous climate change, for whatever reason, we would be better putting our finances and energy into preparing for and protecting ourselves from its impacts, rather than weakening ourselves by hamstringing our economy with measures based on a ridiculous, self-flagellating, virtue signalling notion that this tiny country can contribute anything appreciable to stopping it. If all of our cows were culled it would make not one iota of difference.

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