Growing support for New Zealand’s ‘Zero Carbon’ goal

New Zealand is seriously working towards dealing with reducing carbon emissions.

As James Shaw has been touring the country consulting on his ambitions for getting New Zealand to ‘Carbon Zero’ (net emissions) by 2050, support for the goal in principle at least is growing, with both National leader Simon Bridges and farming leaders committing to work with the government towards achieving some sort of goal.

Bridges last month Speech to Fieldays on climate change. And:

Three days ago (Stuff): Farmers on zero carbon: let’s do this

In a symbolic show of unity, the Farming Leaders Group has published to joint editorial statement with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, published today by Stuff.

While the piece is described the zero carbon initiative as “a very ambitious and challenging target” and said questions remained about what it meant for food production, it makes commits to working to achieving the goal.

“Today, farming leaders with the support of the Government are stating their support for this goal and the agri-food sector playing its part in achieving it,” it reads.

“The farming sector and Government are committed to working together to achieve net zero emissions from agri-food production by 2050.”

While the Farming Leaders Group is new and describes itself as “informal”, its members are luminaries of the sector, including the leaders of Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb, the Meat Industry Association, the Fonterra Shareholders Council and Irrigation NZ.

It also has representation from major private companies, the Federation of Maori Authorities and Agriculture Trade Envoy Mike Petersen.

Today from Stuff: What is the NZ Government’s Zero Carbon Bill and will it do anything?

New Zealand politicians have a complicated history with climate change.

There has been little in the way of US-style denialism, but the debate on what to do about it has been just as fiery.

That debate has led to a series of arguable half-measures – like an Emissions Trading Scheme that omits our largest emitter – and no certainty for the country on what we are going to do to reach the far-off targets we have signed up to.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw is trying to fix all this and depoliticise the issue  so that, long after his Government is gone, parties from the Left and Right can continue efforts to fight climate change without it becoming a political football. He wants to do that by setting up a completely new legal and institutional framework for climate policy, with a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Change Commission. Here’s what that would actually mean.

What exactly is a Zero Carbon Act?

At its most simple, a Zero Carbon Act would set greenhouse gas emissions targets into law.

Greenhouse gases are the primary cause of human-influenced climate change. Long-lived gases like carbon dioxide are the big ones globally, but down here in New Zealand we also have to worry about short-lived gases like methane from cows.

The argument goes that actually setting these targets into real law will give businesses certainty about the direction of the country, so they can plan long-ahead without having to worry about a new government changing the rulebook from under them.

But it is complicated, politically, economically and environmentally.

This is an ambitious long term goal and it will take a lot of work top get all significant players on board and on track.

 

 

Plan and money for pest eradication in Taranaki

A major project aimed at eradicating pests from Taranaki has been announced.


$11.7 million for Taranaki predator control

An ambitious plan to eradicate pests from Taranaki will get an $11.7 million funding injection from Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage announced today.

Taranaki Taku Tūranga – a region-wide collaboration between Taranaki Regional Council and rural landowners, aims to eradicate introduced predators from native habitats.

The project starts near New Plymouth and will be progressively rolled out across 4,500 hectares of farmland surrounding the Taranaki/Egmont National Park.

The area will be defended from re-infestation by a ‘virtual barrier’ created by a network of intensive trapping.

“Government funding of $11.7 million invested via Predator Free 2050 Ltd into Taranaki Taku Tūranga, aims to suppress or eradicate rats, stoats and possums in the area so our native birds and other wildlife can thrive.

“This funding is being matched by local government and other funders at a ratio of more than three to one, with a total project budget of $47 million over five years.”

PF2050 Ltd is a government-owned charitable company established to support co-funding arrangements to help expand and upscale predator control operations. It aims to work towards a predator free New Zealand by 2050.

“New Zealand has a predator crisis – 82 percent of native birds are threatened with, or at risk of extinction. We must invest in a comprehensive programme of predator control initiatives, to save Aotearoa’s indigenous wildlife,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Taranaki Taku Tūranga will build on significant predator control work already being undertaken by the Taranaki Mounga Project – a large scale ecological restoration collaboration between Department of Conservation, eight Taranaki iwi, the NEXT Foundation and other sponsors, covering the 34,000 ha of the national park,” said Eugenie Sage.

In late 2017, PF2050 Ltd issued a request for expressions of interest in collaborative landscape-scale predator control projects. Forty-five groups, representing six percent of New Zealand’s land area, expressed interest.

In addition to the funding being provided by Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Budget 2018 provided an extra $81.3 million in new funding to the Department of Conservation (DOC) for landscape scale predator control as part of an extra $181.6 million in operational funding for DOC over the next four years. That funding allows DOC to plan ahead and target the pests that are devastating the habitats of New Zealand’s unique species.

More details:  Taranaki Taku Tūranga – Towards a Predator-Free Taranaki


Predator Free 2050 was set up in 2016 by the National Government when they initiated a goal of making New Zealand predator free by 2050:

Predator Free 2050 Limited is responsible for directing a significant amount of Crown investment into the Predator Free Programme, with a focus on breakthrough science and large scale predator control and eradication initiatives.

Predator Free 2050 Limited was formed in 30 November 2016 by the New Zealand Government via the Department of Conservation to realise New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 goal.

The company invests around $5 million per year in large landscape projects and scientific research, and leverages new funding to rid New Zealand of the possums, rats and stoats which threaten its unique fauna and flora.

Its current science strategy is focussed on achieving interim goals for 2025.

Predator Free 2050 Limited works closely with other parties in the Predator Free 2050 movement, including tangata whenua, the Department of Conservation, the Predator Free New Zealand TrustNew Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science ChallengeZero Invasive Predators LtdSanctuaries of New Zealand, regional councils and community groups.

It is good to see this continued by the new Government. It is a very ambitious plan for the country, as it is for Taranaki, which borders other areas that will leak predators into Taranaki unless they are controlled or eradicated as well.

How will we get to net zero emissions by 2050?

A goal of Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050 is the number one policy for Green co-leader James Shaw, but Shaw either isn’t sure how to achieve it, or seems unwilling to openly say what he wants – a drastic cut in cow and sheep numbers.

Net Zero Emissions was number one on the Labour-Green C&A agreement.

Sustainable Economy

  1. Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050,
    with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form,
    energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent
    Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions
    and industries.

a. Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission
b. All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.
c.  A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators will be developed.
d. A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.

It seemed like an idealistic pledge without much of a plan.

But it is still far from certain about how this might be achieved. Shaw is looking for ideas, and points at some, but even they say “how we plug the gap between 95% and 100% in New Zealand isn’t obvious yet.”

Briony Bennett claims “Changing land-use from dairy, sheep and cattle farming to new forests or low-emissions crops and horticulture (growing fruit, vegetables and flowers) is key to achieving carbon neutrality in New Zealand by 2050.”

That seems to be something that Shaw and the Greens are not prepared to come out and push openly.

Bennett has a Masters in Energy Economics and Policy from Sciences Po, Paris. She moved back to New Zealand in late 2017.

Before Christmas, the new climate change minister and Greens’ party leader announced the Government’s intention to pass a Zero Carbon Act, whereby the New Zealand economy would achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Industry, think-tanks and public sector officials have produced huge volumes of data, modelling, analyses and arguments since then. Within the last few weeks, the Interim Climate Change Commission was announced and the Productivity Commission published a 500-page draft report on the transition to a low-emissions economy. We all want to know what do we need to do to reach net zero.

It seems that Green co-leader James Shaw made the pledge first, and is now looking for ideas on how to achieve it.

This points to Bennett as a Guest Writer at The Spinoff:  NZ has pledged zero carbon by 2050. How on earth can we get there? (abbreviated):


100% renewables

Around 85% of New Zealand’s annual electricity supply is generated from renewable sources. Gas or coal-fired generation is used to meet winter demand peaks and back up supply in low rainfall years. Hydroelectricity constitutes more than half of the national power mix. In a high hydrology scenario, with good seasonal rainfall and snow melt, hydro-power can meet up to 65% of our annual power needs, but dry years present a great challenge and a barrier to reaching 100% renewables.

Under current resource management laws, it is highly unlikely that a new large-scale hydro-power scheme would get built in New Zealand. We could feasibly expand lake storage in current schemes, but not double it, which is what would be required. Further, this would do little to address the main barrier to reaching a 100% renewable power supply, which is our dry-year risk.

Wind power

At an emissions price of $75 or greater it will be economic to build enough wind farms to reach about 95% renewables in New Zealand, according to Concept Consulting.

Today, a significant number of wind projects have actually been consented, over 2.5GW according to the NZ Wind Energy Association, but project developers are waiting for prices to rise before starting construction. However, wind power cannot ensure our power supply is 100% renewable in a dry year since it is not guaranteed to be available during winter peaks when demand is at its highest.

Grid-scale or rooftop solar exacerbates the seasonal storage challenge as it only generates during periods of low demand and has a much higher output during the summer. We need power sources that are as flexible as coal and gas-fired power plants to meet seasonal demand.

Big batteries

Grid-scale battery storage projects have been making headlines around the world. Tesla installed a massive battery in South Australia after Elon Musk made a promise to do it in 100 days or for free on Twitter. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) lithium-ion battery price index shows a fall from US$1,000 per kWh in 2010 to US$209 per kWh in 2017.

Nevertheless, this technology cannot economically provide seasonal or dry-year power storage of the scale required at present. They just do not pack as much punch as hydro storage.

…this suggests we need 400 million batteries, or over 250 Tesla Powerwalls per household. Even at a discounted price of just US$2000 this would require an investment of over US$500,000 per household or US$800 trillion in total. More than four times our current GDP. We could spend that money more wisely to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Car culture

Power sector emissions have declined 13% since 1990 and make up less than 10% of total emissions. In the same period, transport emissions rose 70% and constitute 20% to New Zealand’s emissions. Car ownership reached its highest level ever last year, at 774 light vehicles for every 1,000 New Zealanders.

This is the beast we must tackle. Electrification is the key pathway with existing technology to cut the majority of transport emissions. To charge electric passenger vehicles and e-buses, electrify trains, and reduce fossil fuel usage for heating, a reliable and affordable electricity supply is crucial.

Power outlook

With more wind, batteries and additional geothermal power plants, it is technically feasible to reach the 100% renewables target when we have average or high rainfall. This would be achieved at great expense and put significant upwards pressure on power prices. Other flexible technologies, such as demand response or renewable power-to-gas, hold great potential to help New Zealand reach 100% renewables. Biomass or tidal power generation could emerge as affordable means to generate electricity in New Zealand in the next few decades.

Solar and wind offer a comparatively low-cost pathway to reduce emissions in most countries that currently have a high share of coal and gas-fired generation, but how we plug the gap between 95% and 100% in New Zealand isn’t obvious yet.

Planting trees

All pathways to net zero, require forestry to play a major role. Afforestation is like a credit card, buying us time to develop alternative technologies to replace current agricultural and industrial processes. A methane vaccine for animals or other biological inhibitors that can be mixed with their feed are being researched, but these technologies remain unproven. Selective breeding, though it can take decades, will also continue reduce the amount of methane produced per animal.

Farming

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is our main tool for encouraging decarbonisation. The scheme requires emitters to pay for each tonne of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas produced – this is called an emissions unit. Farmers are currently exempt from participating in the ETS, which covers energy, waste and industry. To achieve net zero this will have to change since agriculture contributes over half of our emissions. To ensure a gradual transition for farmers, they should receive free emissions units upfront and have trading at the full emissions price phased in over time.

Changing land-use from dairy, sheep and cattle farming to new forests or low-emissions crops and horticulture (growing fruit, vegetables and flowers) is key to achieving carbon neutrality in New Zealand by 2050.

This implies that fewer sheep and cattle will be farmed in the future. Reducing, though perhaps not eliminating, dairy and meat exports raises important questions about food production. The carbon footprint associated with a diet rich in animal protein is an issue that is likely to loom larger in public debate.

There are few affordable means to cut emissions from pastoral and dairy farming without reducing herd populations at present.

If all sectors are covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme, businesses that reduce their emissions will be rewarded and pay for fewer emissions units. It is the main tool we have to encourage the changes and innovation required in all sectors to dramatically cut our emissions and reach net zero by 2050 in New Zealand.


So Bennett largely explains that it will be difficult to attain 100% renewable power – and she promotes electric vehicles as a way of reducing fossil fuel emissions, but this would require substantially more electricity.

She is basically saying planting a lot of trees is one way of getting to zero net emissions, but that’s only a short term solution,

Her primary suggestion is effectively applying the Emissions Trading Scheme to farming to drastically force cow and sheep numbers down.

Is this what Shaw and the Greens want? If so they should come out and say it.

More ‘predator free’ responses

NZH: Conservation Minister Maggie Barry on the Government’s predator free policy

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay today about the devastation caused by introduced predators such as possums, stoats and rats and how New Zealand has no obligation to see these animals as part of our ecosystem.

New Zealand First’s Richard Prosser claims that the move has the potential to be the worst unintentional ecological blunder of modern times.

Audio

NZH: Anti-1080 groups: Plan is ‘ludicrous’

Ban 1080 Party president Bill Wallace, of Nelson, dismissed it as a pipe dream.

“But it’s justification for another 34 years of spreading 1080 in ever-greater quantities,” Wallace said.

He doubted private companies would want to be associated with a poisoning programme in which animals died “slow and tortured deaths”.

“This is just ludicrous,” 1080 activist Laurie Collins, of Buller, said. “They know they haven’t got a hope in hell.”

Farmers Against Ten Eighty spokeswoman Mary Molloy, of Hari Hari…

… said the ideal was laudable but not feasible.

West Coast Regional Council chairman Andrew Robb…

…welcomed the announcement.

He said it would mean a lot more aerial jobs on the Coast, with follow-up ground work, which would also create some employment opportunities.

In terms of the councils putting in $2 for every $1 of private money, he noted a lot of the work would be on Government land.

Federated Farmers spokesman for pest management Chris Allen…

…said it fully supported the target, although noting it would take billions of dollars to achieve eradication using current technologies.

“Federated Farmers want an assurance that the money will be made available to investigate new strategies and technologies,” Allen said.

More from Prosser…

New Zealand First said it had the potential to derail into the worst unintentional ecological blunder of modern times.

The party’s primary industries and outdoor recreation spokesman Richard Prosser said birds and lizards had coexisted alongside ferrets and stoats for more than 130 years, cats for 200 years, and rats for more than 800.

As much as one third of native bird life has been lost. Many bird species are now endangered, as are tuatara and other lizards.

“The rat is the preferred food of the stoat, which only switches to preying on birds when rat populations are depleted,” Prosser said.

The intention of eliminating rats was so unrealistic as to be “bordering on the irrational”.

Green Party list MP Kevin Hague…

…said the $28m the Government was initially investing was “a drop in the bucket”.

To make Stewart Island predator free would cost up to $25m alone. In addition, DOC’s funding had been reduced by some $56m a year on the last Labour government budget, he said.

NZH Editorial: Predator purge best hope for precious fauna

The ambitious public-private project carries risks, and the financial commitment is a long way shy of the costs estimated by the Auckland study. Reaching the target rests partly on technology which does not yet exist, though Conservation Minister Maggie Barry believes that a “scientific breakthrough” will emerge to eradicate at least one small mammalian predator from New Zealand by 2025, less than a decade away.

Destructive introduced mammals have been in New Zealand for centuries. Rats arrived as long ago as 700 years, and other unwelcome invasive species followed. As much as one third of native bird life has been lost. Kiwi are expected to vanish from the mainland within 50 years unless their decline is arrested.

For decades now, tens of millions of dollars have been invested in pest control programmes, yet the survival of many remaining species is uncertain and the presence of predators is still entrenched. The goal of wiping them out, even with more funding and the outlines of a co-ordinated plan, will be extremely hard to achieve. To keep what we’ve got, there is really no other option.

Press editorial: Predator-free NZ a worthy goal but will the Government’s scheme fly?

Thirty-four years is a long time. In 2050, if the trap slams shut on the last remaining stoat or rat in New Zealand, we can judge as an incredible success the pest-control strategy just announced by John Key’s National Government.

Pragmatically, though, that target is many, many years away. How many members of the Government will still be in Parliament then? And the $28 million being put by the Government into the scheme is a very small amount, roughly the same that was spent on the failed effort to change the flag.

The idea deserves support, not least because finally the Government has shown an interest in protecting, and improving, our environment.

Commendably, the Government has set some interim goals to achieve by 2025, including having 1 million hectares where pests are suppressed or removed, and a scientific breakthrough capable of eradicating one small mammal predator. Such goals should help the strategy proceed on to and down the right track.

There have been successful public-private partnerships in the conservation sector. But do we really need a Crown entity to manage the process? Why not give the money instead to the beleaguered Department of Conservation, which has had millions of dollars cut out of its budgets for several years, to start the ball rolling?

 

Food production and climate change

A modelling study published in  The Lancet says that there could be 314 000–736 000 climate related deaths in the world by 2050 due to the effects of climate change on food production.

Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change: a modelling study

One of the most important consequences of climate change could be its effects on agriculture. Although much research has focused on questions of food security, less has been devoted to assessing the wider health impacts of future changes in agricultural production.

In this modelling study, we estimate excess mortality attributable to agriculturally mediated changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors by cause of death for 155 world regions in the year 2050.

  • The health effects of climate change from changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors could be substantial, and exceed other climate-related health impacts that have been estimated.
  • Climate change mitigation could prevent many climate-related deaths.
  • Strengthening of public health programmes aimed at preventing and treating diet and weight-related risk factors could be a suitable climate change adaptation strategy.

The model projects that by 2050, climate change will lead to per-person reductions of 3·2% (SD 0·4%) in global food availability, 4·0% (0·7%) in fruit and vegetable consumption, and 0·7% (0·1%) in red meat consumption.

These changes will be associated with 529 000 climate-related deaths worldwide (95% CI 314 000–736 000), representing a 28% (95% CI 26–33) reduction in the number of deaths that would be avoided because of changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors between 2010 and 2050.

Twice as many climate-related deaths were associated with reductions in fruit and vegetable consumption than with climate-related increases in the prevalence of underweight, and most climate-related deaths were projected to occur in south and east Asia.

Adoption of climate-stabilisation pathways would reduce the number of climate-related deaths by 29–71%, depending on their stringency.

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This map shows that climate related deaths may reduce in some countries but increase, in some cases substantially, in most countries.

The biggest potential problems are in China, Russia and south east Asia.

New Zealand is shown as being at risk of a moderate increase which is odd, because of the huge amount of food production here over what the country’s consumption requires.

Lower production would mean less exports but enough for us?

But if there are world food shortages then higher demand will mean higher prices for export, making food less affordable in New Zealand.

What the report doesn’t say in it’s summary is what the risks of war due to food shortages could be. That would be difficult to predict and can’t really be modelled.