James Shaw gaining respect

The Green Party survived the election largely due to the efforts of James Shaw, after the mess left by Metiria Turei’s fall. They then negotiated their way into Government, including three ministerial roles outside of Cabinet (wise positioning).

Now Shaw is slowly gaining respect as a leader in Government. Possibly his biggest challenge will be to keep Green factions happy with the compromises essential in any governing arrangement.

Audrey Young: Elation at winning power has given way to reality of compromise

Shaw was in a Victoria University lecture theatre seeking an acceptance from party faithful that compromise will be necessary if they want a sustainable political future.

His message was that if the Greens want to be part of the 2020 Government, they cannot afford to stand on principle on every issue; they have to focus on the big issues and can’t fight every battle.

It was effectively a commitment to stick to the current Government parties for the next election.

It was also sensible advice from a leader whose standing has risen substantially – inside and outside the party – since leading the Greens solo through its leadership crisis last year and saving it from the precipice of parliamentary oblivion.

But the Greens are better known for being more principled than compromising and that makes for special challenges for them.

Green activists (and some politicians) are known for their uncompromising approach to politics and policies. How they adapt from opposition to the practical realities of being in Government will be important for the Green’s re-election chances, and also for the Labour led Government’s chances of retaining power beyond a single term.

It is early days and patterns are not yet firmly established. The Greens have not yet settled on whether they are an equal part of the three-way Government, or whether to emphasise the technical reality that they sitting outside of the two-party coalition, and claim greater independence.

Certainly, when Ardern takes leave to have her baby in June, Winston Peters as Acting Prime Minister will have to have normalised his historically distant relationship with the Greens.

That will be an opportunity for Shaw and the Greens to get more attention. They will have a female co-leader again by then. But they will be competing with baby-mania, so politics may struggle to be seen.

The events of this week have marked a turning point in the three-way Government because it is the first week in which major differences over major policies have been highlighted.

The first was over the conclusion negotiations of the TPP, opposed by the Greens, and second was over employment law, with a heavy dilution by New Zealand First of Labour and Greens’ policy.

The TPP will play out over the next three months. How the Greens manage their on-going opposition will be important for themselves and for the Government.

For Ardern, who has been promoting her Government as “transformational,” it has become more apparent that the possibility of real transformation are limited in the short term.

It is a sign of MMP in maturity that the differences this week have not been painted by the media as unstable Government or a Government in disarray.

It is also a sign of MMP maturity that the transformations are unlikely to be dramatic.

Shaw appears more ready to genuinely work across the aisle than Labour or New Zealand First.

That’s interesting given that the Greens were adamant it was untenable for them to help National form a government. However being outside Cabinet they have more flexibility than Labour or NZ First.

In his own Climate Change portfolio, Shaw has promised to consult widely including with National before introducing legislation for the Climate Change Commission.

National’s new spokesman on climate change, Todd Muller, said last year he was open to considering support the commission, but he since curbed his enthusiasm and is seeking greater recognition for his own party’s progress in office.

To secure a secure long term path for action on climate change Greens need to get buy-in from National. This is where the Greens can establish credibility as an environmentally focussed party, something they have wide electorate support for.

In his latest email newsletter Shaw focusses on climate:

Every year the Greens deliver a State of the Planet speech, outlining our eco-centric approach to the world in which we live and our ambitions for change. I’ve just given that speech recently in Wellington.

Basically, I outlined that we have a mammoth task ahead because the State of the Planet is bad:

  • The Earth’s mammals, birds, and fish, have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012
  • 239 million hectares of natural forest cover has been lost just since 1990
  • In New Zealand three-quarters of native fish, one-third of invertebrates, and one-third of plants are threatened with, or at risk of, extinction
  • We are overshooting the Earth’s carrying capacity and simultaneously overloading that carrying capacity using the equivalent of 1.6 Earth’s worth of resources every year
  • More than 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year. New Zealanders use 1.6 billion single-use plastic bags every year, many of which end up in our oceans and on our shorelines
  • Worldwide, we use one million plastic bottles every minute. On average, each New Zealanders uses 168 plastic water bottles a year
  • Despite the signing of the Paris Agreement, current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are at 400 parts per million
  • There are now 65 million forcibly displaced persons in the world, of whom 22 million are refugees
  • The number of people living in extreme poverty remains unacceptably high with 767 million people living on less than two dollars a day and inequality is increasing at an extraordinary rate.

It is bleak, very bleak. Yet the Greens won’t back down from the challenges facing the planet and our species. And with every passing month and year that we don’t face these challenges head on, means the task becomes even harder.

Obviously, we have huge ambitions for only eight MPs in a three-party government.

And while we’ve got some levers of power now, the change we want to see will require transformation – transforming across the spectrum how we view the environment, the people, and of course how we view the economy.

To get this transformational change will require bringing people to the table in government, in councils, in communities, in businesses, in schools and universities, in families, in households. We must get as many people on board, and as many people doing what they can too.

We want to call everyone in, rather than calling them out – an opportunity to build a better future through collaboration and sharing.

There will always be some who oppose the Greens no matter what, and who oppose doing anything about ‘climate change’ no matter what.

But if Shaw manages his policy ambitions well, gaining credibility and support from across the political spectrum, the Greens stand a good chance of improving their support.

However this may mean keeping the more socialist Green policies a bit more low key, accepting the compromises that fiscal restraint and political realities make necessary.

“Climate change is one of the most significant challenges”

Opposition spokesperson for climate change, Todd Muller: Climate change a significant challenge

As we begin 2018, I have a request to my counterpart, Minister James Shaw, to ensure the significant climate change discussions that await both Parliament and communities all across New Zealand this year are anchored in sound evidence and supported by considered reflection, not adversarial rhetoric.

As opposition spokesman, I accept climate change is one of the most significant challenges confronting the globe over the next 50 years and will likely be a high profile domestic issue over the course of the next 12 months – particularly as the Government embarks on consultation regarding both our current emissions targets and the establishment of an independent climate commission.

But it is crucial that these discussions are characterised by respect for differing views and proven evidence.

I wish that more policies debated in Parliament and and in political forums was anchored in sound evidence, supported by considered reflection, and respected differing views.

 I welcome climate change being front and centre in 2018, but it must be informed by the best available science and practice, and continue to have the feel of proportionality.

If this is the general sort of approach by opposition MPs then this term could be a significant improvement on past terms.

2017 second hottest year recorded

There were indications through last year that it was likely to be one of the warmest on record, and that has been confirmed. Climate change/global warming is a growing concern for the well being of Earth and potentially for the future of the human race, which has been rapidly overpopulating the planet.

Stuff:  2017 was Earth’s second hottest year on record

Last year was Earth’s second hottest on record, just behind 2016.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service, the first major international weather agency to report on conditions in 2017, said temperatures averaged 14.7 degrees Celsius at the Earth’s surface – 1.2C above pre-industrial times.

Sixteen of the 17 warmest years have all been this century.

2017 was the hottest non El Niño year, and the third warmest ever recorded.

Scientific American:  The Top 7 Climate Findings of 2017

As the potential effects of climate change are seen around the world – from starving polar bears to record-breaking storms – interest in climate science is soaring. Scientists are digging into the “how,” “why” and “what’s next” of global temperatures, melting ice, emission sources and sinks, changing weather patterns, and rising seas.

The last year has seen major breakthroughs and advancements in climate research. Here are some of the biggest findings reported by scientists in 2017.

Temperatures and carbon concentrations are breaking records

In January, both NOAA and NASA officially confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded. It’s the third time in a row that record has been broken – 2015 and 2014 were both determined to be the hottest years ever observed.

Just two months later, in March, NOAA scientists announced that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are climbing at a record pace for the second year in a row.

Record low sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctica

Early March is around the time when Arctic sea ice typically reaches its maximum extent. Turns out it was the lowest max extent ever recorded in 2017, reaching just 470,000 square miles. For comparison, the average extent between 1981 and 2010 was about 5.57 million square miles. It’s the third year in a row scientists have seen a record winter low in the Arctic.

Around the same time, scientists observed record low sea ice in the Antarctic.

Sea-level rise is on the upswing

Multiple studies this year suggested that sea-level rise is occurring faster, or may be more severe in the future, than previous estimates indicate. One of the more dire of these was just published last week in the journal Earth’s Future. It suggests that better accounting for some of the physical processes affecting ice loss in Antarctica could double the sea-level rise expected under severe climate change scenarios. Another paper, released in October, came to similar conclusions. It also assumes a severe future climate change trajectory, and it updated Antarctic ice sheet dynamics.

These are some of the grimmer portraits of the future published this year, and their most alarming predictions rely on high-emissions scenarios that are not necessarily guaranteed to occur. But even more tempered studies are suggesting that future sea-level rise could be worse than we thought.

Some have tried to play down the risks of climate change by claiming that CO2 emission and sea level rise predictions were too high – but as scientific knowledge increases it’s just as likely they could have been too low.

Speaking of ice, glaciers are calving like crazy

In July, one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded broke from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf and began drifting out to sea.

Just a few months later, in September, Antarctica’s massive Pine Island Glacier – which already pours about 45 billion tons of ice each year into the ocean – calved an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan, or about 100 square miles.

These are some of the most remarkable glacier calving events recorded this year, but they’re hardly the only ones. The U.S. Coast Guard announced this month that the number of icebergs recorded in the North Atlantic this year is nearly double what it was in 2016 – more than 1,000 total observed.

Generally speaking, it’s natural for glaciers to lose large icebergs every now and then. But as both air and ocean temperatures rise, scientists are observing growing amounts of ice loss from both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and increasing instability among glaciers that back up to the sea.

Earlier this year, NASA images revealed a large new ice crack in Greenland’s enormous Petermann Glacier, which has already lost several gigantic icebergs over the last seven years.

Major discoveries about carbon

Using satellite data, researchers found that tropical forests – until recently thought to be one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks – are actually a net carbon source. Due to deforestation and degradation, they’re emitting about 400 million metric tons of carbon into the air each year.

There’s still great uncertainty about many aspects of the Earth’s carbon cycle, particularly when it comes to natural sinks like forests or the ocean.

But scientists are getting better at closing the gap. For instance, a report issued earlier this year by scientists with the Joint Global Change Research Institute suggested that methane emissions from livestock may be 11 percent higher than previous estimates suggested – a value that could help explain an ongoing scientific mystery about why atmospheric methane concentrations seem to be on the rise.

That could have serious implications for New Zealand’s agriculture.

These disasters could not have occurred without warming

…this year marks the first time some of the papers concluded that an event could not have occurred – like, at all – in a world where global warming did not exist. The studies suggested that the record-breaking global temperatures in 2016, an extreme heat wave in Asia and a patch of unusually warm water in the Alaskan Gulf were only possible because of human-caused climate change.

Scientists say these are likely not the only events to occur strictly because of climate change. They’re just the first to be discovered.

Global emissions are on the rise – again

A November report from the Global Carbon Project found that carbon dioxide emissions are growing again after being flat for three years. The findings have dashed experts’ hopes that global emissions had possibly peaked for good.

The research projects that 2017 could see a 2 percent increase in the burning of fossil fuels, bringing this year’s human-caused emissions up to about 41 billion tons of carbon dioxide. The reason for the uptick lies largely with China, the report suggests, where increases in the consumption of coal, oil and natural gas have driven its 2017 emissions up by about 3.5 percent.

China has been reported as working hard on increasing renewable energy use – see How China is leading the renewable energy revolution – so this may turn around.

But there are a lot of other countries and factors involved, so warming and it’s effects, like sea level rise and increased number and intensity of storms, will be of ongoing concern.

“We could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming”

Once again it’s hard to tell whether Trump is showing his ignorance, or showing how adept he is at pandering to ignorant views.

Not prepared for the effects of climate change

Don’t worry, be happy?

If the Dunedin climate changes to have more of what we have had over the last month many won’t complain. But they will of we get more storms, floods, coastal erosion and droughts.

A report from the Ministry for the Environment has warned that New Zealand lacks a coordinated plan to deal with future climate change and sea level rise.

Belinda Storey, the Principal Investigator, Deep South National Science Challenge says Council’s have to deal with it.

She says it means either increasing rates to fund it or look to central government for support, but there has been no commitment from Government.

“Adapting to sea level rise is going to be expensive and at the moment, that responsibility is primarily falling on local government. They simply don’t have the resources to adapt to it fully.

“The few options that are available to them are to increase rates across the board to help fund adaptations that happens at the coast, or to look to central government for support.”

On the report (from Minister for the Environment, James Shaw): Climate Change Risks and Adaptation

New reports released today show a clearer picture of the scale and urgency we face over climate change, along with guidance on managing and adapting to the results of global warming, Climate Change Minister James Shaw says.

“It’s important that New Zealanders have a clear picture of the potential impacts of climate change so that communities, local and central government, business and other sectors of our economy can make well-informed decisions about how we build resilience and adapt,” says Mr Shaw.

The Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group’s Stocktake report shows the size of the task to build New Zealand’s resilience to rising sea levels, a warmer climate, extreme weather and other impacts of climate change. The Working Group’s panel of experts includes representatives from central and local government, finance and insurance sectors, science and communities.

The Stocktake report shows that New Zealand has significant information about what is happening to our climate and the impacts of change. However, not all of this information is in forms that support decision-making and there are some key gaps in our knowledge.

The report also notes that New Zealand is in the early stages of planning and currently lacks a coordinated plan on how to adapt to climate change. While some sectors and areas are proactive, in general we react to events rather than preparing for them. The Coastal Hazards and Climate Change guidance, also released today, supports this work by providing clear guidance to councils and communities on how to manage and adapt to the increased coastal hazard risks posed by climate change and sea level rise.

The Guidance, produced by NIWA, will encourage good decision-making so that New Zealand faces fewer risks from climate change in coastal areas, in a way that is fair to residents and consistent around the country. Further work on adaptation is underway.

The Government’s Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group is working on a report which will make recommendations for how New Zealand can effectively adapt to the impacts of climate change. The report is due in March next year.

From the Ministry – Adapting to climate change in New Zealand: Stocktake report from the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group

This report is the first report prepared by the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group. It summarises the expected impacts of climate change on New Zealand over the medium and long term, takes stock of existing work on adaptation, and identifies gaps in New Zealand’s current approach.

In taking stock of the work already underway the Group identified three characteristics that need to be in place for effective adaptation to develop in New Zealand:

  • being informed about how our climate is changing and what this means for us
  • being organised, with a common goal, a planned approach, the right tools, and clear roles and responsibilities
  • taking dynamic action to proactively reduce exposure to the social, cultural, environmental and economic consequences of climate change.

The report concludes that New Zealand is in the early stages of planning for climate change with many positive initial steps being taken across a number of sectors – it is in the informed phase, with some areas having advanced to the organised phase.

The information in the report is current as at May 2017, when it was first delivered to the Minister for Climate Change Issues.

The report provides the evidence for the Group’s second report which will report on options for adapting to climate change and recommend how New Zealand can build resilience to the effects of climate change.

The report (PDF): Adapting to Climate Change in New Zealand

Ardern on foreign policy and trade

After her first international trip after becoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in  report from Newsroom – Ardern adjusts to life at the top – Sam Sachdeva reports on her vision on foreign policy and her aims on trade.

Leading on climate change and nuclear-free

The summits were a chance not only to meet world leaders, but for Ardern to articulate her vision for New Zealand’s foreign policy.

She admitted to having big shoes to fill, with her discussions making clear the respect held for our country on the world stage.

“I’ve always known that to be true, but to see it enforced in these forums…is a real testament to the work that’s been done before, and the work all year round that our representatives do.”

During the election campaign, Ardern described climate change as “the nuclear-free movement of our generation”, providing a hint of how she wants to mix the old with the new in New Zealand’s advocacy.

“We have been strong advocates on issues like nuclear non-proliferation and that is as relevant now as it’s ever been, particularly when it comes to the Korean peninsula, and so playing a role in being consistent advocates, particularly from a position of always taking a really principled stance I think is important.”

At her speech to the Apec CEO’s Summit, Ardern spoke about climate change “lapping at our feet” in the Asia-Pacific, and she said it was an area where New Zealand could speak up for others who could be the worst affected.

“I wasn’t the only one [talking about climate change], but there weren’t many of us, and I do think it’s an issue that needs consistent advocacy because in some of those forums there’s an absence of the groups that are directly affected, but the overall Asia-Pacific will feel its impact hugely and yet have some of the most deprived populations in the world as well.”

In a speech during the election campaign Ardern referred to climate change: “This is my generation’s nuclear-free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on.”

Globalising trade and rights

Under John Key and Bill English, New Zealand was an ardent supporter of free trade and globalisation.

While Ardern did sign off on what is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), there are signs that she may pursue a more nuanced approach to the benefits of trade.

“We absolutely, absolutely support free trade, but alongside that we’ve got the opportunity now within our trade agenda to say alongside supporting free trade, we have the ability to try to create some architecture that means that we also start globalising rights as well.”

That meant ensuring trade ageements didn’t “simply have trade chase or flow into the country with the lowest labour standards and the lowest wages”.

With social inclusion one of the points of focus at Apec, Ardern said her government was not alone in plotting a new approach.

“What’s clear is that we have started hitting those road blocks where non-tariff barriers and protectionism still exists, and some of the rationale for that is there has been a pushback on trade agendas that haven’t filtered down into prosperity.

“Actually if we really want to sell the benefits of trade, we have to make sure people start feeling the benefits of trade as well, and that’s the next challenge.”

That means more than paying lip service to a new narrative, as Ardern notes: “We can’t just claim that we’re telling the story that hasn’t been told before.”

She points to CPTPP provisions that will allow countries to enforce labour standards – a first for a trade agreement – as a sign of what is possible.

“Basic as they may be, that’s a starting point, and when you start hearing negotiators from countries advocating for their use, because it’s enabled them to start enforcing standards on multinationals operating in their country, where they haven’t successfully been able to pass domestic legislation, then you start seeing the tools that we have in this wider agenda.”

While climate change will be an ongoing test of Ardern’s tenure as Prime Minister the CPTPP is an early test of both Ardern and Labour’s trade aims and priorities, and it is also likely to be a test of Labour’s relationshiip with partners in Government, NZ First and particularly the Greens.

US Climate Science Special Report

Highlights of the Findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report:

The climate of the United States is strongly connected to the changing global climate. The statements below highlight past, current, and projected climate changes for the United States and the globe.

Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.

This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.

In addition to warming, many other aspects of global climate are changing, primarily in response to human activities. Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapor.

For example, global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half (about 3 inches) of that rise occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. Global sea level rise has already affected the United States; the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf Coast cities.

Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out. Sea level rise will be higher than the global average on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.

Changes in the characteristics of extreme events are particularly important for human safety, infrastructure, agriculture, water quality and quantity, and natural ecosystems. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the United States and globally and is expected to continue to increase. The largest observed changes in the United States have occurred in the Northeast.

Heatwaves have become more frequent in the United States since the 1960s, while extreme cold temperatures and cold waves are less frequent. Recent record-setting hot years are projected to become common in the near future for the United States, as annual average temperatures continue to rise. Annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.8°F (1.0°C) for the period 1901–2016; over the next few decades (2021–2050), annual average temperatures are expected to rise by about 2.5°F for the United States, relative to the recent past (average from 1976–2005), under all plausible future climate scenarios.

The incidence of large forest fires in the western United States and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate changes, with profound changes to regional ecosystems.

Annual trends toward earlier spring melt and reduced snowpack are already affecting water resources in the western United States and these trends are expected to continue. Under higher scenarios, and assuming no change to current water resources management, chronic, long-durationhydrological drought is increasingly possible before the end of this century.

The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally. Without major reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature relative to preindustrial times could reach 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century. With significant reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature could be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) or less.

The global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has now passed 400 parts per million (ppm), a level that last occurred about 3 million years ago, when both global average temperature and sea level were significantly higher than today. Continued growth in CO2 emissions over this century and beyond would lead to an atmospheric concentration not experienced in tens to hundreds of millions of years. There is broad consensus that the further and the faster the Earth system is pushed towards warming, the greater the risk of unanticipated changes and impacts, some of which are potentially large and irreversible.

The observed increase in carbon emissions over the past 15–20 years has been consistent with higher emissions pathways. In 2014 and 2015, emission growth rates slowed as economic growth became less carbon-intensive. Even if this slowing trend continues, however, it is not yet at a rate that would limit global average temperature change to well below 3.6°F (2°C) above preindustrial levels.

A Summary of Advances Since NCA3

Advances in scientific understanding and scientific approach, as well as developments in global policy, have occurred since NCA3. A detailed summary of these advances can be found at the end of Chapter 1: Our Globally Changing Climate. Highlights of what aspects are either especially strengthened or are emerging in the current findings include

  • Detection and attribution: Significant advances have been made in the attribution of the human influence for individual climate and weather extreme events since NCA3. (Ch. 3678).
  • Atmospheric circulation and extreme events: The extent to which atmospheric circulation in the midlatitudes is changing or is projected to change, possibly in ways not captured by current climate models, is a new important area of research. (Ch. 567).
  • Increased understanding of specific types of extreme events: How climate change may affect specific types of extreme events in the United States is another key area where scientific understanding has advanced. (Chapter 9).
  • High-resolution global climate model simulations: As computing resources have grown, multidecadal simulations of global climate models are now being conducted at horizontal resolutions on the order of 15 miles (25 km) that provide more realistic characterization of intense weather systems, including hurricanes. (Chapter 9).
  • Oceans and coastal waters: Ocean acidification, warming, and oxygen loss are all increasing, and scientific understanding of the severity of their impacts is growing. Both oxygen loss and acidification may be magnified in some U.S. coastal waters relative to the global average, raising the risk of serious ecological and economic consequences. (Chapters 213).
  • Local sea level change projections: For the first time in the NCA process, sea level rise projections incorporate geographic variation based on factors such as local land subsidence, ocean currents, and changes in Earth’s gravitational field. (Chapter 12).
  • Accelerated ice-sheet loss: New observations from many different sources confirm that ice-sheet loss is accelerating. Combining observations with simultaneous advances in the physical understanding of ice sheets leads to the conclusion that up to 8.5 feet of global sea level rise is possible by 2100 under a higher scenario (RCP8.5), up from 6.6 feet in NCA3. (Chapter 12).
  • Low sea-ice areal extent: The annual arctic sea ice extent minimum for 2016 relative to the long-term record was the second lowest on record. The arctic sea ice minimums in 2014 and 2015 were also amongst the lowest on record. Since 1981, the sea ice minimum has decreased by 13.3% per decade, more than 46% over the 35 years. The annual arctic sea ice maximum in March 2017 was the lowest maximum areal extent on record. (Chapter 11).
  • Potential surprises: Both large-scale state shifts in the climate system (sometimes called “tipping points”) and compound extremes have the potential to generate unanticipated climate surprises. The further the Earth system departs from historical climate forcings, and the more the climate changes, the greater the potential for these surprises. (Chapter 15).
  • Mitigation: This report discusses some important aspects of climate science that are relevant to long-term temperature goals and different mitigation scenarios, including those implied by government announcements for the Paris Agreement. (Chapters 414).

Executive Summary


Government should have done more on climate change

A decision was released today in the case that Sarah Thomson took against the previous Government  alleging they had taken inadequate action over climate change.

Stuff:  High Court says previous National Government should have done more on climate change targets

Justice Jillian Mallon released her decision on Thursday after Waikato law student Sarah Thomson took former Environment Minister Paula Bennett to court in June over alleged inadequate action to address emissions targets.

The High Court dismissed the judicial review. But in her written decision, Justice Mallon acknowledged that when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth assessment reports in 2014, the Government failed to undertake a satisfactory review of its 2050 emissions targets.

“However this cause of action has been overtaken by subsequent events,” Justice Mallon said.

Because National lost power at the last election, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s new Labour-led government had already announced its intention to set a new 2050 target, court-ordered relief was ruled unnecessary.

Government lawyers had argued the court was not in a position to make a judgement on the government’s target setting, because they could not comprehend the many economic and social implications. But Justice Mallon did not agree.

One of Thomson’s lawyers said on Thursday this was hugely significant, because it emphasised that all future decisions that were made in this area were susceptible for review by the courts.

“Notwithstanding the complex nature of these decisions, the courts retain a crucial oversight role to ensure that the decisions meet minimum standards of lawfulness and rationality.”

Should the Court be able to stipulate which policies a Government should implement, and to what degree?

On two other actions, which related to the 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) emissions targets, Justice Mallon was not convinced the minister made any error for which the court could intervene.

“The international framework has been followed. It has not been demonstrated the NDC decision was outside the minister’s power under this framework,” she said.

“That is not to say another minister would have assessed the appropriate 2030 target in the same way and reached the same decision. Nor does it prevent New Zealand from doing more between now and 2030 than contemplated in its NDC decision.

“The international process envisages review and demonstrated progression by developed countries including New Zealand. Quite apart from the international process, New Zealand remains free to review its 2030 target (or any other target) as it considers appropriate.

“The community has elected a new Government and it is for that new Government to weigh the competing factors and to reach a view about the appropriate targets going forward. For these reasons the application for judicial review is dismissed.”

So the Judge has left it up to the incoming Government.

Sarah Thomson said the ball was now in newly-minted Minister for Climate Change James Shaw’s court to ensure targets were changed quickly.

“This is something we can’t waste time on.”

I have serious reservations about using courts for what is effectively political activism.

Will this be a one off? Or will it encourage others to try to force the Government’s hand?

Right leaning NZ First voters may be disappointed

Going by comments here, at Kiwiblog and at Whale Oil during the campaign there may be a few right leaners who voted for NZ First who may be more than a little disappointed with their choice.

Most notably Cameron Slater promoted voting for NZ First heavily, thinking they would push National right on selected issues (despite most NZ First policies being far more to the left).

Winston Peters is very experienced at pandering to potential voters on populist issues, knowing that as a smaller party he will never be able to deliver. This looks especially true by the look of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement.

Not with National

It was common to see people saying they would vote NZ First to reduce National’s clout in a right leaning government.That NZ First decided not to do a deal with National is neither surprising nor good news for right leaning  supporters.

Maori seats referendum

One of Winston’s bottom lines/promises was to have a referendum on the Maori seats to ‘eliminate them’.  This policy was eliminated by Labour, who couldn’t countenance losing their grip on all seven Maori seats..


Winston has campaigned for years on drastically lowering immigration numbers, often erroneously and deceitfully describing what we had as ‘mass immigration’. Jacinda Ardern has stated that Labour immigration policy remains intact, that will mean some reduction in numbers but nowhere as drastically as Winston promised.

The UN resolution on Israel

This was an issue pushed hard at Whale Oil but no one else cared about it, but has made it into the coalition agreement:

Record a Cabinet minute regarding the lack of process followed prior to the National-led government’s sponsorship of UNSC2334

This is just a criticism of the process used, of not referring the decision to sponsor the resolution to Cabinet. It does nothing to criticise or oppose the resolution.

Smacking referendum

Family First press release on 28 september: Anti-Smacking Law On Coalition Table

In a speech in March in Northland, leader Winston Peters said; “We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.” He then further clarified his position in an interview on Newstalk ZB saying that this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are “far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians. This position was backed up by senior MP Tracey Martin.

It may or may not have ever got onto the negotiating table, but neither Labour nor Greens would have supported it.

Climate change

All of NZ First, Labour and greens supported much stronger action on climate change, and it was included in both the Labour-Green deal and also the Labour-NZ First agreement:

Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission, based on therecommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

If the Climate Commission determines that agriculture is to be included in the ETS, then upon entry, the free allocation to agriculture will be 95% but with all revenues from this source recycled back into agriculture in order to encourage agricultural innovation,mitigation and additional planting of forestry.

It even allows for agriculture to be included in the ETS.

Anyone thinking that a vote for NZ First would deliver a more right leaning government may now be ruing their judgement. However the outcome was fairly predictable so they shouldn’t be surprised.

Labour-Green confidence and supply deal

The coalition deal between Labour and the GHreens was signed today by incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Green leader James Shaw.

From Stuff Live:

Key policies:
  • Introduce a Zero Carbon Act with a goal of net zero emissions by 2050
  • A referendum on personal cannabis use by 2020
  • Establish and independent Climate Commission. This would have the power to bring agricultural emissions in but would not do this immediately
  • All new legislation to have a climate impact assessment analysis
  • Investigate a Green Transport Card to reduce public transport costs
  • Reprioritise spending towards rail and cycle infrastructure
  • Stop the Auckland East-West link
  • Begin work on light rail to the airport in Auckland
  • “Significantly increase” the Department of Conservation’s funding
  • Remove “excessive” benefit sanctions
  • Make progress on eliminating the gender pay gap within the core public sector
  • A rent-to-own scheme as part of KiwiBuild
  • Re-establish the Mental Health Commission
  • A wind-down on the government-subsidised irrigation

Climate change will be a major, as will be light rail to Auckland Airport, with a few other bits and pieces.

Removing benefit sanctions will be both welcome and contentious, with mention of liable parents not needing to be named, something that caused grief for Metiria Turei and the Green Party.


  • Climate Change
  • Associate Finance
  • Associate Transport
  • Conservation
  • Women
  • Land Information New Zealand
  • Associate Environment
  • Associate Health
  • Undersecretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence)

That’s a relatively light line-up compared to what NZ First have got, but will allow the greens to ease into a role they are unfamiliar with, being in government.

Stuff:   Labour and Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement