Hard lefties oppose National cooperation on climate change

Jacinda Ardern has described climate change as “my generation’s nuclear free moment” (in a campaign speech in August 2017).

Simon Bridges won’t go that far. On Q+A yesterday

CORIN DANN So certainty. Is climate change the nuclear-free issue of your generation?

SIMON BRIDGES I would not go that far. Is it the most significant environmental issue? Is it an important long-term issue that we need to deal with and deal with seriously and provide certainty on? Yes.

Bridges was vague about where he actually stands on a number of climate issues, and is nowhere near as radical as the Greens, but National have signalled a willingness to work together with other parties – National supporting non-partisan Climate Commission.

But how genuine are they? Not at all according to some on the left.

MickySavage asked yesterday: Does National really want climate change to be a bipartisan issue?

His post concludes:

If this is what National and Simon Bridges is promising then all good and the Government can get on with things.  But if this is merely a replacement of outright denial with a more nuanced approach designed to delay urgent action being taken then he should rethink this.

Bridges has just been reported criticising National MPs expressing doubts about climate change.

Many comments at The Standard didn’t trust National and didn’t want them involved. Petty partisan politics is so ingrained some people can’t countenance cross-party cooperation.

Gabby: “Much easier to wreck things from the inside.”

Robert Guyton: “National’s funders will say, nah.”

Jess: “Bi-partisan means two parties. National wants to regress to Nat vs Labour with Nat as the bigger party, instead of a coalition. Or if they really see Govt and opposition as two parties, their perspective is going to be no help whatsoever (no surprise there).”

Kat: “Agree with you Jess in that National just want to maneuver into a position of taking out the coalition in 2020 by appearing to be genuine about serious issues.”

marty mars: “Simon is insincere imo. The gnats don’t care. Last throw of the die in many ways.”

Stuart Munro: “Trying make a wedge to peel off a few blueish Green voters.”

Jenny: “Feeling the ground shifting under them, National’s corporate sponsors desperately need a bipartisan consensus to do nothing meaningful about climate change.”

Draco T Bastard: “Translation: He wants Labour and the Greens to compromise and accept National’s position. And National will not budge from its position.”

What I think DTB really means is that he doesn’t want Greens to budge from their position – ignoring the reality of an MMP Parliament that requires agreement (and compromise) from at least three parties.

I joined in and said: This is the best opportunity ever for cross party cooperation on dealing with a major issue facing New Zealand and the world. Getting pissy about shunning parties because they don’t measure up to ideals (non of them do) is a bit pathetic given what is at stake.

Robert Guyton:

“Moving towards doing something”
Shuffling their feet so they aren’t considered dead.
That’s all.

I queried Robert: What approach do you think is best Robert – MMP democracy, or petty partisan politics? Greens will get closest to what they want if they’re prepared to work hard with all other parties in Parliament to get the best out of all of them – kinda like the James Shaw approach.”

Robert:

James is handling this issue beautifully, in the way a snake-handler manipulates vipers. Still vipers though.

This was Shaw’s response to National’s announcement they would work with other parties ion climate change:

Fortunately commenters on left wing blogs don’t run things in Parliament, but as Eugenie Sage found out, they can kick up a stink when Ministers follow laws and procedures and allow something activists don’t like.

Wayne Mapp also joined in:

Thank goodness the commenters here are not actually in govt. Most of you would not talk to National on anything (except for terms of surrender).

In reality in a range of issues governments and oppositions co-operate. For instance on national super, various environmental issues, a number of national security isssues there is dialogue and adjustment to get a bipartisan (sometimes multi partisan) consensus.

In fact John Key’s initiative in Opposition was to do the anti-smacking deal with Labour.

But hard lefties seem to hate dealing at all with the political ‘enemy’. In response:

Stuart Munro: “Well you’re a pack of lying assholes.”

One Anonymous Bloke: Here’s a radical idea to improve your public image: stop lying and killing people.

Fortunately people like that are nowhere near real political decision making, all they have is futile vitriol in social media.

This morning on RNZ:

Antarctic ice melt accelerating

One of the fears of global warming was that past a ‘tipping point’ the warming and the effects of the warming could accelerate. A report suggests this could be happening.

DW: Rate of Antarctic ice melt triples since 2012, study finds

The rate of ice loss in Antarctica has tripled since 2012, causing global sea levels to rise at their fastest rate in 25 years, a new study published by an international team of experts said Wednesday

Over the last quarter century, about 3 trillion tons of Antarctic ice melt made ocean levels rise by 7.6 millimeters (0.3 inches), according to the study published in the journal Nature.  About two-fifths of that rise, or 3 millimeters, has occurred since 2012.

The study of Antarctic ice mass changes by scientists working for NASA and the European Space Agency is the most comprehensive to date. It combined 24 satellite surveys and involved 80 scientists from 42 international organizations.

The study found that from 1992 to 2011, Antarctica lost about 83.8 billion tons (76 billion metric tons) of ice per year, causing an annual sea level rise of 0.2 millimeters. Between 2012 and 2017, ice loss per year tripled to 241.4 billion tons, amounting to a 0.6 millimeters sea level rise per year.

“Under natural conditions we don’t expect the ice sheet to lose ice at all,” said lead author Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in England. “There are no other plausible signals to be driving this other than climate change.”

Scientists said much of the retreating ice shelf is caused by ocean-induced melting, when warmer water causes melting from the edges and below ice sheets.

No doubt some will continue to argue against ‘climate change’ but evidence suggests that is increasingly untenable.

The signs look increasingly ominous.

Stuff:  ‘Grim future’ on the horizon as Antarctic ice melt triples

Scientists are uncertain whether this acceleration will continue at the same rate but fear unless political decisions are made to protect Antarctica the results could be catastrophic.

Sea level contribution due to the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2017, from data gathered by international ...

Better understanding in recent years about ice loss means they now also believe that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase as they have done in the past, sea levels could rise by up to two metres by the end of the century – double the previous estimates – putting half a billion lives at risk.

Professor Tim Naish, of the Victoria University of Wellington, who contributed to the study, said the scenario had “sent shockwaves around the world” and painted a “grim future”.

But he said there is still hope if there is concerted global collaboration to tackle global warming.

“There is still time to prevent major meltdown of the ice sheets, and other far-reaching dangerous impacts if nations collectively reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement target of 2C warming above pre-industrial levels,” he said.

“I think the acceleration from Antarctica represents the beginning of the effect on the ocean, which we haven’t seen until about a decade ago.

“But there is still a very valid question as to how we predict that into the future, and whether we can keep that acceleration going for 100 years or whether that part of Antarctica will stabilise a little bit and things will slow down.”

A one to two metre rise in sea levels by the end of this century would have major implications for places like Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland.

There are already issues with the current sea level. ODT: Edgar Centre warped by subsidence

Dunedin’s Edgar Centre sports complex is being lifted and lowered by the tide, as water strips away sand and leaves voids in the reclaimed land beneath the complex, reports show.

…they also showed the entire complex was being warped by subsidence, having dropped by up to 1m, and being affected by the tide as water washed through the sedimentary layers of reclaimed land the venue was built on.

And ‘Bill’ raises a valid concern at The Standard in Let’s Build a Hospital! – they are planning to build a new hospital in Dunedin on reclaimed land, but new buildings – like the stadium, have foundation piles driven down to solid rock.

How much of a rise would be needed to cut Auckland off from New Zealand? It probably isn’t the biggest issue there if the sea rises a metre or two.

Other parts of the world have much bigger worries if they take the increasing amount of scientific evidence seriously.

 

Public input into ‘net zero emissions by 2050’

James Shaw and the Green Party are encouraging public input into what can be done to address climate change:


Consultation is underway

We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change and it’s not just an environmental issue – there are social and economic implications too.

You have a part to play in deciding how New Zealand responds to climate change. The Zero Carbon Bill will set the long term commitment to transition us to a low-emission, climate resilient economy.

For information about our specific proposals for the Zero Carbon Bill read the discussion document Our Climate Your Say. Consultation on the Bill runs until 5pm 19 July.

Eat less meat

I eat a lot less meat than I did ten-twenty years ago. A lot less.

I enjoyed a very nice meat-less burger at urio Bay yesterday (I admit i didn’t realise it was meatless until i couldn’t find any in it).

But James Shaw wants everyone to consider eating less meat, like one more meatless meal per week. That is unlike to be bad for anyone, and will probably be good for some of us.

Newshub: Climate Change Minister James Shaw wants you to eat less meat

Climate Change Minister James Shaw wants you to stop eating so much meat.

“Ninety-five percent of new Zealanders consume meat, and it is fairly obvious there is a lot of water, a lot of energy and a lot of land use that goes into protein production that way,” the Green Party co-leader told TVNZ’s Q+A.

“If somebody wanted to have an immediate impact, they could eat one less meat meal per week. We’re not encouraging that as a Government. What we’re trying to do is to ensure that there’s settings right across the economy that make sure people are supported, that they’re really clear about the direction of travel, that there are sufficient incentives to support that transition, right?

“And then essentially what consumers do is really up to them.”

This is a good approach – encourage without compulsion.

Mr Shaw says encouraging Kiwis to say no to beef and lamb won’t harm our agriculture-led economy.

“New Zealand has enough land to feed about 40 million people with current production methodologies. We know that the middle classes in China and India and in parts of Europe and so on, there is a huge demand for our food products.”

The study, conducted at the University of Oxford, found while meat only supplies 18 percent of the world’s calories, it takes up 83 percent of farmland and produces more than half the agricultural sector’s emissions.

The most efficiently produced beef takes 36 times more land to produce than peas, according to the research, and created six times the emissions.

So easing back on meat consumption is mostly a good thing.

New Zealand farmers may have to adapt anyway if world meat consumption declines.

Nation – fossil fuel use in regions that rely on it

On Newshub Nation this morning:

John-Michael Swannix is in the regions to find out how communities that rely on the fossil fuel industry can be part of a carbon neutral future.

 

No cost benefit analysis of oil and gas policy

Matthew Hooton is suggesting that James Shaw has done no Cost benefit Analysis of the Government’s oil and gas policy.

The response from James Shaw to an Official Information Act request:


Dear Matthew

I write regarding your Official Information Act request of 15 April 2018 for

all advice to you or other ministers from Treasury, MBIE, MfE or other relevant departments on the effect on New Zealand and global CO2 and CO2 equivalent emissions of the new oil and gas policy announced by the Government last week. This includes short-term, medium-term and long-term effects.

I have been advised verbally by MfE that not exploring for more oil and gas would prevent emissions from oil and gas rising any further than they would anyway if all known reserves of oil and gas are burnt. I cannot speak for other ministers.


It took over three weeks to effectively say ‘none’. What Shaw has responded with is vague verbal waffle.

More important is what Shaw doesn’t say – this indicates he received no advice on the short term, medium term or long term effects of the oil and gas policy announced by the Government last month.

This is what Shaw said after the oil and gas policy announcement:

The Green Party is heralding today’s announcement ending new fossil fuel exploration in New Zealand’s oceans as a massive step towards a stable climate and to protecting our marine life and beaches.

“The Green Party and thousands of New Zealanders have been working for decades towards this day and this decision – that fossil fuels are not our future,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“Ending deep sea oil and gas exploration has long been a key goal of the Green Party and today, in Government, we’ve delivered on it.

“This is truly the nuclear free moment of our generation, and the beginning of a new and exciting future for Aotearoa New Zealand,” said Mr Shaw.

The Green Party have been working for decades towards this, however Shaw effectively admits he has received no advice from any Government department on the effect on New Zealand of the policy.

 

National ‘resetting approach’, moving more to climate change mitigation

The National Party is moving more towards climate change mitigation, but sounds caution on moving too far or too fast. Leader Simon Bridges has challenged the party on “resetting our approach to environmental issues”.

Climate report reinforces need for careful transition – National Party Spokesperson for Climate Change Todd Muller…

…welcomes the release of the draft report released by the Productivity Commission today but is warning of the risks of going too far too fast.

“The report calls for careful preparation and balance as we transition to a low emissions economy,” Mr Muller says.

“We have to reduce emissions significantly to meet our international obligations, but it’s important that we transition in a way that maximises opportunity and minimises costs.

“It is also important to adjust at the pace of available technology and remain conscious of our competitors and the wider global response. For instance, bringing agriculture into the ETS would make us the only country in the world to expose our industry in this way, making us outliers, not leaders.

“Going too far too fast could decimate our most productive sectors, costing jobs and actually increasing global emissions. Introducing agriculture to the scheme at the very entry level of 90% free allocation and $50 a tonne would cost the agricultural sector $190 million a year.

“The more extreme estimates of carbon prices of $250 a tonne and no free allocation would cost the agricultural sector $9.7 billion a year and wipe out the entire industry.

“My concern is that if we push too hard and fast here, we could leave communities behind. The National Party will support the careful preparation and balance needed to ensure a just transition to a lower carbon economy.”

Stuff: National Party ‘resetting our approach to environmental issues’ – Bridges

National leader Simon Bridges has pledged his party will have a strong environmental focus with a broadchurch approach to thinking.

However, he says the Government’s announcement to halt deep sea oil exploration is “perverse”.

Alongside Bridges, there were people from Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and Oil and gas and former Green Party MP Kennedy Graham addressing the 100 strong crowd at the annual Bluegreens Forum in Darfield, Canterbury, on Saturday.

Bridges challenged his party, staff and supporters with “resetting our approach to environmental issues”.

He said a strong economy, education, healthcare and social services were not worthwhile “if we’ve ruined the environment”.

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.

“My view is that people aren’t used to hearing a National Party leader talk like this, but I’ve said right from the start that the environment is important to me and the National Party … The environment isn’t an optional extra.”

Bridges was “proud” of the work the previous government achieved during its nine years, introducing an emissions trading scheme, Predator Free NZ and the Environmental Reporting Act, but a continued and ramped-up effort was needed.

“Climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more,” he said.

“We now need to wrestle emissions down, just staying stable doesn’t cut it … We need to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions.”

The Bluegreens, National’s environmental arm, has operated for 20 years since being formed and represented by just a few party members, including former Environment Minister Nick Smith.

Forty-six of its 55 MPs were now signed on.

All the main parties in Parliament support measures to mitigate the possible effects of climate change, with the possible exception of a vague Seymour and ACT.

Macron: No planet B rebuke to Trump

A day after putting on a show of bonhomie and unity with Donald Trump the French President Emmanual Macron switched to plan B in a speech to the US Congress, criticising a number of Trump policy positions.

Macron spoke against isolationism and nationalism, and one of his biggest rebukes was over climate change, saying there was no planet B.

RNZ: Macron attacks nationalism in speech to US Congress

French President Emmanuel Macron has used his speech to the joint houses of the US Congress to denounce nationalism and isolationism.

Mr Macron said such policies were a threat to global prosperity.

The speech was seen as rebuking Donald Trump, who has been accused of stoking nationalism and promoting isolationism through his America First policies.

Mr Macron said the US had invented multilateralism and needed to reinvent it for a new 21st Century world order.

The French president was given a three-minute standing ovation as he took his place in the chamber for his speech.

On isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism:

Mr Macron said isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism “can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens”.

He added: “We will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity.”

He said the UN and the Nato military alliance might not be able to fulfil their mandates and assure stability if the West ignored the new dangers arising in the world.

On trade…

…Mr Macron said that “commercial war is not the proper answer”, as it would “destroy jobs and increase prices”, adding: “We should negotiate through the World Trade Organization. We wrote these rules, we should follow them.”

On Iran…

…Mr Macron said his country would not abandon a nuclear deal with Tehran that was agreed by world powers when President Barack Obama was in office but which Mr Trump has branded “terrible”.

Mr Macron said: “This agreement may not address all concerns, and very important concerns. This is true. But we should not abandon it without having something more substantial instead.”

Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never.”

On the environment…

… he said by “polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying biodiversity we are killing our planet. Let us face it, there is no Planet B”.

Trump has not responded yet. Prior to Macron’s speech:

I haven’t heard that reported anywhere. Instead Washington is abuzz with Macron’s plan B.

A lot to learn about a serious renewable energy strategy

Whatever may happen with the climate a shift to as much renewable energy as possible makes sense (but don’t forget energy conservation as a key part of a more energy sustainable future).

Anna Berka, a research fellow in the University of Auckland’s Energy Centre, suggests that New Zealand has a lot to learn about successfully moving in this direction. She writes What NZ should learn about renewable energy:

Political and social science research on climate change shows some countries have been far more successful than others in orchestrating state-led transition to renewable energy over the past 40 years.

Without exception, it is countries that have fully embraced climate change objectives into industrial policy that have succeeded. They have seen clean technology as the ticket to new domestic technology and service markets, employment, and new export markets, as well as a means of addressing specific domestic issues such as regional development and resilience of electricity supply.

Conversely, very little tends to happen where climate change policy is not crafted around social and economic benefits directly relevant to domestic stakeholder groups. The reason? Tax payers, established industries and the media are consumed by the short term costs of climate change policy, blind to generally more diffuse and long term benefits.

And those who do promote long term benefits are often vague and sound more idealistic evangelistic rather than realistic. The New Zealand public has not been convinced that any urgency is required.

And what has already been announced by the new Government has been poorly thought through.

Announcing a moratorium on oil and gas exploration as the first agenda item in the Government’s climate change policy – without linking it to a broader programme that convinces New Zealanders they can and will benefit from the Government’s climate change objectives – could alienate both industry and the public and set a dangerous precedent.

Delivering winning climate change policies is a careful balancing act that requires a willing-to-learn government with ears on the ground. The Government must serve as a knowledge broker and matchmaker, using grants and public loans to bring existing expertise out of the woodwork, putting in place incentives to invest, regulations and public procurement programmes to guarantee demand that can scale up pilot projects.

This involves working with all stakeholders and independent research institutes to design policy instruments and set technology standards. So while market players ultimately do the heavy lifting, the role of central and local governments is essential. They need to nudge, prod and finance for a period of years, to steer the rate and quality of technological innovation in a desirable direction before market dynamics can take over and drive down costs.

It needs to combine the efforts of a smart Government and smart financial decisions with smart businesses.

A cogent argument is hindered by the zeal of some of those promoting a transition away from fossil fuels, in particular their insistence that ‘capitalism’ be scrapped in order to achieve a sustainable energy future. Linking an energy revolution with rapid  political and social revolution makes it much harder if not impossible to win public trust and support.

Our Government is deciding on the main elements of New Zealand’s climate change strategy. Once the key objectives are confirmed, policy design must be decided at political level, leaving implementing bodies to carry out specific mandates.

Countless examples show climate change policy tends to become ineffective where implementing bodies are left on their own devices to make complex trade-offs between different objectives and different stakeholder interests.

The Government seems poorly prepared for making major changes. This was highlighted with differences in expectations about the future of coal between the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister of Energy and Resources – see Ministers differ on banning coal.

The next challenge for the Government will be to bring ministries, key industry stakeholders and regulators on board and in alignment. This process won’t be helped by the fact that climate and energy policy is not integrated under one ministry.

For example, making the electricity market accessible to small-scale citizen-owned storage or generation assets is likely to require regulated power purchase guarantees, priority dispatch and buy-back rates as well as new channels to bridge the wholesale market with distributed electricity and ancillary services.

This will require full co-operation of MBIE, the market operator NZX, Transpower, distribution line companies and the Electricity Authority, who will need to adapt industry codes.

Win-wins are possible: That is, if our Government is ready to believe in the mission, rally the troops, and empower its people.

Making grand statements about new generation ambitions, bragging in Europe with incorrect claims, and imposing change without consultation as happened with the oil and gas permit announcement (followed by some rapid damage control) looks ad hoc and amateurish, and Ministers seem at odds.

The Government looks nowhere near ready to explain and implement a comprehensive and co-ordinated ‘mission’ on a transition to renewable energy.

And there is a substantial elephant in the energy revolution room – there is no obvious future without any reliance fossil fueled cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships.

Those who say we must change must first explain a lot more details about what we must change to, and how.

We don’t currently have the technology to time travel everyone to a miraculously fossil fuel free 2050, so we need to see a realistic way of getting there.

‘Nuclear-free moment’ a bad climate analogy

Dave Frame, Professor of Climate Change and Director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington, says that Jacinda Ardern’s analogy of climate change being this generation’s ‘nuclear-free moment- is a bad analogy.

Climate change is a slow burn rather than a mushroom blast.

Newsroom: Climate change a slow burn issue

The Government has promised to make climate change a priority area, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arguing climate change will be this generation’s “nuclear-free moment”.

This is a bad analogy, for several reasons. One is that leadership implies followers, and in the case of the nuclear-free policy no country explicitly followed our lead. Much more significantly, it confuses a short-term political momentum issue (the nuclear-free declaration) with a long-term political structural issue (decarbonisation).

Climate change shares far more in common with other slow-burn issues like pension reform, intergenerational tax and benefit arrangements, and monetary policy than it does with suffrage movements or the nuclear-free policy. ‘Moment’ movements are predicated on single-shot legislative change. Slow-burn issues depend on the ability of democracies to resist the temptation to indulge now and pay later (or ask others to pay later).

Decarbonisation will take several decades, at least.

That sounds realistic – something some Green MPs and especially supporters should have a good think about.

Globally, it will involve concentrated costs on those leading the decarbonisation, while the benefits are diffused. This is just the sort of problem in which there are political incentives, often strong incentives, to renege on your commitment to conduct ambitious climate policy.

True bipartisanship is a commitment to a process. It requires mutual forbearance and the sharing of burdens and benefits.

Bipartisanship is not just a good idea; it’s the only plausible way to manage the socioeconomic transformation climate change demands.

Ardern is right that we should look to policy innovations in our past. But to look at politically divisive single-shot total victories would be a mistake.

And we should ease up on the idea that those who don’t share our specific vision of a low-carbon economy are moral degenerates.

All of that points towards a long-term, bipartisan commitment towards the development of institutions capable of creating and sustaining broad support for prices and regulations where the temptation to overturn those policies will be strong.

This is going to take serious, sustained leadership rather than announcing analogies that may sound catchy but miss the serious points that need to be worked on.