After a year how transformative has the Labour-led Government been?

Not much, yet.

The Labour-NZ First-Green government is now a year old. Thomas Coughlan at Newsroom asks whether the current Government is truly a government of change – One year on: Change worthy of its name?

Transformation is a word we hear a lot to describe this Government.

The Government’s speech from the throne promised a “government of transformation”, and followed that up in May with a Budget that Finance Minister Grant Robertson said was “the first steps in a plan for transformation”.

The second word we hear a lot is “transition”.

What they mean to say is “government of change”, which was Ardern’s wording in what became known as her reset speech, which she made in September.

All governments change things, and the world changes. The pertinent question here is whether Ardern and her government are living up to her hype.

The Government has finished just 18 KiwiBuild homes (although it has started construction on more), the waitlist for social housing has grown, and the $2.8 billion investment in fees-free tertiary education hasn’t changed enrolment numbers, although the University of Auckland has tumbled down global league tables.

As for climate change, apparently our “nuclear-free moment”, under the current Government, big dairy can still dial up a a $600 million M. Bovis bailout for a self-inflicted crisis, while the much-lauded Green Investment Fund gets just $100 million.

Nuclear-free moment? Pardon me, but I think I can smell the methane on your breath …

The problem for this Government is that it knows what change looks like and it’s afraid.

It knows that true change is ugly and real people get hurt.

People living under the big-change governments of the 1980s knew they were living in a time of massive change.

So, can Ardern be kind and transformative at the same time?

One year on, we’ve seen this Government’s definition of change.

With the exception of KiwiBuild, its flagship change policies signal change in direction without enacting specific policy.

Supporters say this means the change will be more lasting – and they’re probably right. Both the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the Zero Carbon Bill have bipartisan support, meaning they will likely survive into the future. Likewise, the Wellbeing Framework has the potential to change how we look at the economy, although proof of that is many years away.

But, especially on the issue of climate change, its slowly-softly policy platform absolves the current Government from making any of the tough decisions necessary when implementing change.

It’s an unpalatable truth that change means picking losers as much as picking winners.

The question hanging over the Government now is whether there is time to implement what it calls a “just transition”, to a halcyon economy of low unemployment, high productivity, and fair incomes.

“Just transition” is essentially the oil and gas exploration ban writ large — big change, but slowly. But a just transition doesn’t need to be slow and there’s nothing just about waiting 30 years for house prices to stabilise.

Just transitions could mean using the power of the welfare state to cushion the pain of change, like the governments of the 1980s should have done.

There’s little room to be complacent. The window of opportunity is closing.

Change is the sword of Damocles hanging over all our governments. And while this Government thinks the lesson from the 1980s is that slow change is best, it would be wise to pay attention to the other lesson from that decade: governments are not the only agents of change and those who fail to act in time will often find their hand forced by events.

Governments are always forced by events to act. They need to manage forced change along with reforming or transformative change, if they can.

In their first year the Government has changed some things, but they have only talked about most changes they propose, and it’s still not clear what they are going to change this term as they await the outcome of their many working groups/inquiries etc.

Also from Newsroom – One year in: the fault lines ahead

The first anniversary has provided a chance for Ardern and her team to look back on their successes and failures so far – but what challenges lay in wait for them before the next election?

Here are some of the fault lines the Government may need to navigate if it is to hold onto power in 2020:

Waterfall of working groups

National’s gleeful mockery of the coalition’s working group fixation seemed a little insincere at the start, given the party was not averse to the odd policy review and panel during its first term.

However, there is a kernel of truth in that the Government is now waiting on the results of numerous inquiries into some critical policy areas, some of which will not report back until just before the next election, until it takes action.

As the reports and recommendations trickle in, the potential bill for implementing all that is asked for will slowly mount up.

Justice reform:

The Government’s plans to shake up the criminal justice system loom as perhaps its highest-risk, highest-reward reforms.

If Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis succeed, the prison population will be reduced by 30 percent within a decade, addressing what Bill English once called the “moral and fiscal failure” of prisons.

However, National’s cries of the coalition being “soft on crime” provide a taste of its likely campaign against any firm proposals for reform, as well as the outcry which may result from any crimes following law changes (no matter their merit on balance).

Tax reform:

Part of that proliferation of working groups, but worthy of mention in its own right, is the Government’s Tax Working Group – a political slow-burner that could divide the coalition right up to the next election.

Chaired by former finance minister Michael Cullen, it will present its final report on the future of New Zealand’s tax system next February.

However, the Government has committed to putting any recommendations from the group to the electorate in 2020, meaning any changes would not be implemented until at least April 2021.

The sticking point is the issue of a capital gains tax.

So at best this will be a plan for transformation put to voters at the next election.

Climate change

It’s one thing to call climate change the nuclear moment of our generation, it’s another to do something about it.

Climate Change Minister, and Green co-leader, James Shaw said the IPCC report was broadly in line with the Government’s direction on climate change. But talk, as they say, is cheap.

There have been some climate-related policy changes, including a ban on new oil and gas permits and the establishment of a $100 million green investment fund. Also in the wings are a Zero Carbon Bill, emissions trading scheme changes and the creation of a Climate Change Commission.

The biggest pressure on the Government is its own rhetoric. Those disappointed by the environmental record of Helen Clark’s Labour-led coalition will be looking to the Green Party to push the Government into taking stronger, tangible steps.

Ardern has talked big on climate change, but we are yet to see how her Government will transform things.

Also, not mentioned in the Newsroom article, is another issue that Ardern has staked her reputation on, child poverty. Her Government quickly increased some benefits, but there has not been much sign of a revolution on poverty yet.

The Government has another two years to prove to voters that they are capable of walking the walk and delivering meaningful transformation at the same time as they competently manage normal management and also dealing with things that are thrown at them.

Greens also have a lot at stake – they have talked about a green revolution for long enough. They have to deliver something significant to justify voters’ trust in them.

NZ First probably just need to deliver Winston Peters to the voting papers for the party to survive.

As a whole the Government has been far more talk (and working group) than walk.  They may end up sprinting to the next election hoping voters will pass them the baton for another term.

The issues with methane emissions

Livestock methane emissions are contentious as New Zealand looks to how it can do it’s bit in reducing the greenhouse effect and global warming.

With calls to significantly reduce herd sizes there is obviously a lot at stake for farmers – not just their incomes but also their assets.

This information is from Pastoral Farming Climate Research:


Fact sheet Methane emissions, what they say and what is the issue?

With the upcoming Carbon Zero Legislation bound to create discussion about the impact methane emissions have on global warming. This fact sheet is intended to help those involved in that discussion to understand the issue.

It is commonly stated that livestock are responsible for half our greenhouse gas emissions.

This statement is misleading and gives the wrong impression of the extent to which livestock biological emissions are a problem.

Livestock are responsible for half our ‘carbon’ emissions but carbon is not a greenhouse gas. Carbon is a theoretical unit only and is correctly called ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’

All the greenhouse gases are quantified in terms of the amount of warming they are said to cause when compared to CO2. A tonne of methane for example is said to equate to 25 tonnes of CO2 so an emission of 1 tonne of methane is quantified as 25 tonnes of ‘carbon’

The majority of the carbon emissions attributed to livestock are from their methane emissions.

The carbon unit however is highly problematic, as is the concept of trying to equate different greenhouse gases. It is simply not possible because they are too different.

The following statements from well-respected individuals and organsiations demonstrate the problem;

Dr Andy Reisinger Deputy Director NZAGR said of the use of the carbon dioxide equivalent system to quantify methane emissions, that it does not measure the actual warming caused by emissions and ignores the fact that methane does not accumulate in the atmosphere in the same way as CO2. (1)

This is a significant admission. If the carbon unit does not measure the actual warming methane may cause and ignores the fact that methane does not accumulate in the same way CO2 does then it is of no use at all.

ALSO

Motu Economic and Public Policy Research state in their paper Cows, Sheep and Science;

To stabilise the climate, it is necessary to reduce the overall (net) emissions of long-lived climate forcers (CO2) to zero. By contrast, emissions of short-lived climate forcers (methane) do not have to decline to zero; they only have to stop increasing. (2)

AND

Ministry for Environment in its Carbon Zero Consultation document.

Reducing long-lived greenhouse gas emissions (like CO2) to zero and stabilising our short-lived gases, (like methane) which would mean our domestic emissions would not contribute to any further increase in global temperatures. (3)

AND

Dr Jan  Wright (former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment)   MANAGING BIOLOGICAL SOURCES AND SINKS IN THE CONTEXT OF NEW ZEALAND’S RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Methane in the atmosphere is short-lived, in contrast with nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. If the flow of methane into the atmosphere stopped rising, and there were no other greenhouse gas emissions, the temperature of the atmosphere would stabilise in a few decades. (4)

AND

Productivity Commission In its 620 page report Low Emissions Economy methane produced by the belching of sheep and cows – is unsuitable for inclusion in a single-cap ETS due to the difficulty such a scheme would have in driving emissions reductions in a manner that recognises the different atmospheric properties of short and long-lived gases. (5)

____________________________________________________________________________________

The quotes above demonstrate why it is universally accepted now that long lived gases like CO2 need a different target and policy response to short lived gases like methane.

However it is not possible to state that in order to stabilize the climate carbon emissions sourced from CO2 need to reduce to zero and carbon emissions sourced from methane only have to stop increasing, without concluding carbon is not an equivalence unit. Carbon’s only purpose is to equate the impacts of a number of different greenhouse gases and quantify them using one unit and it fails. One carbon emission is supposed to be the same as another and quite clearly it is not. It is not a credible unit and should not be used.

So the statement that half our greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock is wrong and therefore misleading for two reasons.

1         Carbon is not a greenhouse gas

2         Carbon is not a credible unit and emissions of ‘carbon’ do not reflect the impact an activity may have on global warming.

Putting methane emissions in to perspective’

Livestock emissions of methane when produced from a stable source of livestock do not cause the atmospheric concentration of methane to increase at all.

Most biogenic methane emissions in NZ are produced from a stable source and do not contribute to an increase in atmospheric methane.

Methane emissions in NZ have increased by 4% since 1990. Transport emissions of CO2 have increased by 82.1% since 1990

For full explanation view video The Methane Mistake (7mins)  https://youtu.be/BOJdz_LgDBE

___________________________________________________________________________________

1 Andy Reisinger, Harry Clark, How much do direct livestock emissions actually contribute to global warming?

2 Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Cows, Sheep and Science 2016 written by Michele Hollis, Cecile de Klein, Dave Frame, Mike Harvey, Martin Manning, Andy Reisinger, Suzi Kerr, Anna Robinson  http://motu-www.motu.org.nz/wpapers/16_17.pdf

3 Ministry for Environment Carbon Zero consultation document http://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/Consultations/FINAL-%20Zero%20Carbon%20Bill%20-%20Discussion%20Document.pdf

4 Dr Jan Wright Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Climate Change and Agriculture 2016

5 Productivity Commission Low Emissions economy 2018

0.5-2.0 metre sea level rise possible, more frequent floods

A ‘best case’ scenario of an average 0.5 metre sea level rise, with far more frequent extreme coastal water levels, would caause a lot of problems. A ‘worst case’ scenario is an average 2 metre rise, equivalent to ‘100 year floods’ every day. If scientists are wrong it could be less – or more.

Noted:  The impact rising sea levels will have on New Zealand

Under present projections, the sea level around New Zealand is expected to rise between 30cm and 1m this century as warming ocean waters expand, mountain glaciers retreat and polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica shrink. Even if global emissions were to stop today, more warming over the next few decades is inevitable, bringing a trail of storms, ocean surges, flooding and erosion.

The Ministry for the Environment says extreme coastal water levels, currently expected to be reached or exceeded once every 100 years, will, by 2050-2070, occur on average at least once a year.

Evidence is already piling up. Waihi Beach in the Bay of Plenty, Beach Road south of Ōamaru, and small seaside towns in Taranaki and the West Coast  all bear the signs of coastal erosion. Low-lying areas in Napier, Whakatane, Tauranga, Motueka, Nelson, parts of Auckland and Wellington have all been inundated by storms.

Just before Christmas, the Whakatane District Council declared 34 properties in Matata in the Bay of Plenty “unliveable” due to severe flooding risk.

“We are a coastal nation so we are going to get whacked by sea-level rise,” says GNS climate scientist Tim Naish, head of a new Government-funded programme set up to assess the magnitude and rate of sea-level rise. “We’re talking places we will not be able to live in because a so-called one-in-100-year flooding event becomes a daily event.”

Worst-case scenario, he says, is an average 2m sea-level rise by the end of the century. Best-case scenario, if we achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement and keep temperature rise well below 2°C, is 50cm of sea-level rise.

A 2 metre rise would cause major problems for a large part of Dunedin, the reclaimed South Dunedin area. It would also stuff the Portobello road, parts of the road to Port Chalmers (which links the city and Otago province to the port) and also the road to Aramoana.

Stuff:  Coastal hazards report warns sea-level rises a ‘slowly unfolding red-zone’

The threat of rising sea levels has been likened to a “slowly unfolding red-zone” as a major Parliamentary report warns thousands of homes could become uninhabitable.

Environment Commissioner Dr Jan Wright released her national report on coastal hazards on Thursday, recommending a major overhaul of the way New Zealand prepared for coastal erosion and rising sea-levels.

She found Christchurch and Dunedin would be the cities most affected by future sea-level rises, resulting in potential damage costing billions of dollars.

In Christchurch, nearly 10,000 homes and 200 kilometres of road were less than 1.5 metres above the spring high tide mark, more than Auckland and Wellington combined.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said the report showed the city would likely be the “most extensively affected” by coastal hazards.

“We have an exceptionally large number of homes at risk, as well as infrastructure.”

The report found nearly 2700 homes, mostly in South Dunedin, were less than 50cm above the spring high tide mark.

This already impacts on many property values. Anything like a 2 metre average rise would also impact significantly on Mosgiel and the Taieri Plain, where floods are already common. The Momona airport runway would go under.

But we always have the option of arguing that nothing adverse will happen and doing nothing is fine.

2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C

A new IPCC assessment warns that urgent action is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and this would “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.


Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5°C, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be. “The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development, the report notes.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future, said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

“This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” she said.

The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options.

The report was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups. Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change.

The Paris Agreement adopted by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015 included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

As part of the decision to adopt the Paris Agreement, the IPCC was invited to produce, in 2018, a Special Report on global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. The IPCC accepted the invitation, adding that the Special Report would look at these issues in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Global Warming of 1.5°C is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. Next year the IPCC will release the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and Climate Change and Land, which looks at how climate change affects land use.

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) presents the key findings of the Special Report, based on the assessment of the available scientific, technical and socio-economic literature relevant to global warming of 1.5°C.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) is available at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15 or www.ipcc.ch.

Key statistics of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C

91 authors from 44 citizenships and 40 countries of residence
– 14 Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs)
– 60 Lead authors (LAs)
– 17 Review Editors (REs)

133 Contributing authors (CAs)
Over 6,000 cited references
A total of 42,001 expert and government review comments
(First Order Draft 12,895; Second Order Draft 25,476; Final Government Draft: 3,630)

James Shaw on progress on the Zero Carbon Bill

On Newshub Nation this morning (repeated Sunday morning):

As the Government inches closer to passing the Zero Carbon Bill into law, Emma Jolliff asks its architect and Party co-leader James Shaw what the chances are of getting New Zealand’s farmers across the line.

From Thursday: Zero Carbon consultation feedback shows strong support for climate action

The Ministry for the Environment has today released a summary of submissions made during consultation on the proposed Zero Carbon Bill.

“I firstly want to thank all those people who made submissions on the Bill,” James Shaw said.

“The vast majority of respondents want New Zealand to do everything we can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible, and offset the remainder, to reach ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2050.

It should be remembered that submissions are a democratic process, not a democratic measure, so the number of submissions for or against something is not a measure of public support. It is more an indication of levels of organises lobbying.

“At the same time, there was a strong representation from people and businesses who, whilst supporting the overall direction, expressed caution about the speed and scale of the transition and the pressure it will put their sectors under.

“We have to ensure that those concerns are heard and included as we put together the final shape of the Zero Carbon Bill. We need to take everyone with us and leave no one behind.

  • A full report of the submissions is available here.
  • The Ministry for the Environment media release is here.
  • The summary of Zero Carbon Bill submissions is here.

I’ll be busy doing some of my zero net carbon (-ish) tree felling and firewood cutting so might get a chance to add to this later.

 

 

Jacinda Ardern on ‘Redefining successful government”

In a speech while in New York Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has outlined what she sees as successful government, as in her lofty agenda.

Redefining successful government

Speech at International Conference on Sustainable Development

I began preparing my comments for today’s event while sitting at my constituency office in Auckland, New Zealand…

You could say the artefacts I sit amongst in that office sum up my life in politics.  It started with my family, has been full of role models and support, but ultimately is motivated by the idea that politics is a place you can address injustice.

I was raised the daughter of a policeman, and was a product of the 1980s where New Zealand went through a rapid period or privatisation and economic liberalisation. We called it Rogernomics after our Finance Minister of the time, in America the same phenomenon was called Reaganonmics, and the impact on working families was similar. Jobs were lost, manufacturing moved off shore, regulations removed and the gap between rich and poor rapidly expanded.

Then came the 1990s. A conservative government in New Zealand introduced reforms that brought user pay to the fore and welfare cuts for the poorest.

I was young when all of this was happening around me, but I still remember it. If it’s possible to build your social conscience when you are a school girl, then that is what happened to me. I never looked at the world through the lens of politics though, but rather through the lens of fairness.

And that sentiment captures one of the most pervasive values that we have in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are proud but also self-deprecating. Dreamers but also pragmatists. And if there is one thing we hate, it is injustice.

These are the values I believe we need to display in our politics. Because politics is increasingly a dirty word, but values are not.

An earnest politician would be hard pressed to argue with goals like halving poverty, preserving the sustainability of our oceans or inclusive education.

And we’ve started by redefining what success looks like.

Traditionally, success or failure in politics has been measured in purely economic terms. Growth, GDP, your trade deficit and the level of debt you carry. On those terms, you would call New Zealand relatively successful. But in the last few years the deficiency of such measures has become stark.

So we are establishing brand new measure of national achievement that go beyond growth.

Like many, New Zealand has not been immune to a period of rapid and transformational change these past few decades. Globalisation has changed the way we operate, but it has also had a material difference on the lives of our citizens.

Not everyone has been well served by those changes, however.

While at a global level economic growth has been unprecedented, the distribution of benefits has been uneven at the level of individuals and communities. In fact for many, the transition our economy made in the wake of globalisation has been jarring,

Now as politicians, we all have choices in how we respond to these challenges.

We’re investing more in research and development so that we improve the productivity of our economy, we’re focusing on shifting away from volume to value in our export, and we are committed to lifting wages.

We are modernising our Reserve Bank so that it works to keep both inflation and keeps unemployment low, and we’re committed to a better balanced and fairer tax system.

But we also need to do better at lifting the incomes of New Zealanders and sharing the gains of economic growth.

We are signing pay equity settlements with new groups of predominantly women workers, taking the pressure off families by extending paid parental leave to half a year, closing the gender pay gap and raising the minimum wage.

When fully rolled out our Families Package – a tax credit policy aimed at low and middle income earners – will lift thousands of children out of poverty.

But economic gains and growth matter for nothing if we sacrifice our environment along the way, or if we fail to prepare for the future. That’s why we are transitioning to a clean, green carbon neutral New Zealand.

But of course, we are nothing without our people. We have set ourselves some big goals, like ensuring that everyone who is able is either earning, learning, caring or volunteering – including making the first year of tertiary study completely free of fees.

We’re supporting healthier, safer and more connected communities, ensuring everyone has a warm, dry home, and last but not least, making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

This agenda is personal to me.

I am the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction.

If I were to sum up our agenda though, it would be simple. I want to demonstrate that politics doesn’t have to be about three or four year cycles. It doesn’t have to be self-interested or have a singular focus.

It can think about long term challenges, and respond to them. It can be designed to think about the impact on others, and show that it’s making a difference. And it can even be kind.

As an international community I am constantly heartened by our ability to take a multilateral approach, to sign up to a set of aspirations that are values based.

But perhaps it’s time to also challenge ourselves to move beyond aspiration to action.

That is what we will be doing in our corner of the world.

And I can assure you we will never, never, never give up.

Highly idealistic. It will be good if some of this can be achieved reasonably well over time.

This is in stark contrast to the succession of problems of competence the government is having to deal with back here while she is away in New York – the realities of politics can be quite different to the lofty speech written rhetoric.

Ardern has already stumbled on her ideal of ‘open transparent government’, this has blown up further in her absence this week.

She has admirable goals, and is adept at talking the talk, but the challenge for her and her government will be walking the walk. They seem to be stumbling somewhat more than she cares to admit.

It will take time to see whether New Zealand will improve noticeably under Ardern’s leadership. If things like inequality, child poverty and climate change are substantially improved she will have done very well, but it will take much more than successful speeches on the world stage.

Ardern On the Night Show, One Planet Summit and UN General Assembly

Jacinda Ardern has been making a number of TV appearances and speeches while in New York.

She handled an interview on Steven Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ with aplomb.

RNZ – Watch: Jacinda Ardern cracks jokes on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won the applause of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s studio audience in New York.

Stuff – Jacinda Ardern wins fans as she appears on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Praise is rolling in for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after her appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Ardern was an invited guest on the show, which has a viewership of four million.

Her success on the show and the positive public response is similar to the reaction she’s had while on formal United Nations duties in New York.

She has done well for New Zealand there.

One Planet Summit keynote address

President Macron’s One Planet Summit

Can I start President Macron by acknowledging your leadership in pulling together this summit for a second time; along with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Michael Bloomberg and Dr Jim Yong Kim for jointly organising this event.

I have said a few times before that climate change is New Zealand’s nuclear free moment. I want to share with you what that means.

There was a time when my nation was unified by a movement against nuclear testing in the Pacific, declaring ourselves nuclear-free in the mid-1980s. At its core New Zealand’s anti-nuclear campaign was about protecting our beautiful and unique Pacific environment – our waters, our lands and our people. We felt a sense of guardianship.

She doesn’t mention the French sinking of the rainbow warrrior.

Today we face a new threat, and while the same issues are at stake, there is a stark difference between the nuclear free movement and climate change. Unity.

In the past we were defined as a nation by the coming together for a cause, and now, as a globe, we need to do the same again. Not because of the benefits of unity, but because of the necessity of it.

This is especially the case for the Pacific.

My country has always been a firm supporter of strong multilateral solutions to global challenges. We may be small but Kiwis take the attitude that no problem is too big to solve.

We were the first country to give women the vote, the first to set up a welfare state to support the poor during the depths of the depression and the first to scale the imposing heights of Mt Everest. We intend to be with you on the forefront of this challenge too.

I believe, as firmly as ever, that a global response is required to meet the global challenge of our generation. With unity, ingenuity and innovation, we will meet this challenge head on and we will succeed.

That’s a big call – calls actually, that we (new Zealand and the world) will meet the challenge, and that success is possible, whatever that may be (it will be very difficult to measure).


And Ardern is speaking to the UN General Assembly about now.

“It is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s big day at the UN as she delivers her first statement as Prime Minister to the UN General Assembly. Ardern is due to give her speech early this morning, likely between 6am and 7.30am.” Herald

Some live links to Jacinda’s UN speech:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/107404413/jacinda-ardern-to-speak-to-the-un-general-assembly

Live: PM Jacinda Ardern to say where NZ stands on ‘two world views’ in UN statement
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12132926

http://webtv.un.org/

Changing the conversation on climate change to reflect women’s perspectives

A curious comment from Climate Change Minister James Shaw:

NZ climate change ambassador Jo Tyndall & I got the chance to talk with fmr Irish President Mary Robinson & a room full of inspiring women about changing the conversation on climate change to reflect women’s perspectives.

Hard to guess how that might work, or work out.

But one thing I think is certain – women’s perspectives on climate change are going to be as diverse as men’s perspectives. It is not an us versus them sort of issue, and I don’t think it should be played that way.

I have just asked one woman what her perspective and it’s actually quite similar to mine.

Climate change protests, & destroy Fonterra, destroy the economy?

Destroy dairy farming, destroy the economy?

Newstalk ZB: International calls for climate change

Hundreds of people joined climate action groups across Aotearoa New Zealand today, calling for bold and ambitious climate leadership in response to the Global Climate Action Summit hosted in California next week.

Interesting to see the use of ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ in a news report.

Events in Auckland, Whanganui, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill, each highlighted different demands for local leaders.

Their main focus: removing the social licence of the oil, gas and coal sectors – the most carbon intensive industries.

Aucklanders gathered in The Domain, targeting the Museum’s sponsorship from coal industry partners, the Stevenson Foundation.

In Wellington, protestors called for the controversial annual Petroleum Conference to be banned from Wellington City Council-owned venues.

In Nelson, they discussed future campaigns to build a Fossil Free Nelson.

Other protests were more general:

Christchurch hosted a climate discussion and a spring fair.

Whanganui there was a soapbox for community speakers on climate change.

Invercargill and Southland communities demanded true climate action in Aotearoa.

Dunedin wasn’t mentioned in that report but it was at The Standard – A Tale of Two Protests:

A few minutes later, on the way through the Octagon, I stopped to chat with a few people who’d gathered as part of the global day of action called “Rise for Climate”, and I picked up some leaflets. When I first passed through, it was before their advertised “start” time and there was a very light smattering of something like a dozen people.

Fast forward one hour.

Coming back through the Octagon, I’d say there was maybe twenty people.

Not a well supported protest.

All white and all exuding a definate air of middle classness There was an electric car and some electric bikes and, to be honest, I immediately thought of a stall at a sales expo.

‘All white’ is a risky assumption.

Anyway, I’ve just this minute read the leaflets I gathered from the Octagon. There’s some good information within the half a dozen or so leaflets I grabbed. But some of the information is also, quite frankly, incredibly unhelpful, while a lot of it is decidedly naive. Overall, there’s too much confusing or irrelevant smash, and no timeless and simple “banner message” that might offer unity and a basis for people to built on.

Just to be clear. I’m not suggesting that everyone ought to be saying the same damned things about global warming or climate change, or that everyone ought to cleave to the same set of priorities.

But there has to be something short and sharp, something unequivocal and easy to grasp that allows people “entry”.

Until then, I suspect actions around global warming will remain somewhat “soft” – places and events where people already familiar with one another can gather to say hello – and the prospects for growing a large and broad based constituency of people, willing to stand up and proclaim that they give a shit –  well, that will remain decidedly low.

The problem with climate change activism and protest is that while many people acknowledge (and most climate scientists) acknowledge it as a significant and real problem, or potential problem, that vast majority of people see no imminent risk.

It must be hard to motivate people to protest now over things that they may or may not think might happen by the end of the century, or at some vague time in the future.

Attacking Fonterra (I don’t know where that banner was shown but it’s from NZH) is unlikely to prompt a popular uprising.

A problem for hard core climate protesters is they tend to be the more idealistic doomsayers who fail to come up with popular or practical solutions.

 

Productivity Commission – low emissions economy

James Shaw (@jamespeshaw):

Getting to net zero emissions by 2050 is achievable & starting now is our best option to seize the opportunities and make a just transition says the Productivity Commission. I thank them for their work on a pathway to NZ becoming a low emissions economy


New Zealand Productivity Commission – Low-emissions economy

Final report August 2018

Context

New Zealand is part of the international response to address the impacts of climate change and to limit the
rise in global temperature, requiring a transition of the global economy to one consistent with a low carbon
and climate resilient development pathway.

New Zealand has recently formalised its first Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement
to reduce its emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Paris Agreement envisages all
countries taking progressively ambitious emissions reduction targets beyond 2030. Countries are invited to
formulate and communicate long-term low emission development strategies before 2020. The Government
has previously notified a target for a 50 per cent reduction in New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions from
1990 levels by 2050.

New Zealand’s domestic response to climate change is, and will be in the future, fundamentally shaped by
its position as a small, globally connected and trade-dependent country. New Zealand’s response also
needs to reflect such features as its high level of emissions from agriculture, its abundant forestry resources,
and its largely decarbonised electricity sector, as well as any future demographic changes (including
immigration).

Scope and aims

The purpose of this inquiry is identify options for how New Zealand could reduce its domestic greenhouse
gas emissions through a transition towards a lower emissions future, while at the same time continuing to
grow incomes and wellbeing.

Two broad questions should guide the inquiry.

What opportunities exist for the New Zealand economy to maximise the benefits and minimise the cost that
a transition to a lower net-emissions economy offers, while continuing to grow incomes and wellbeing?

How could New Zealand’s regulatory, technological, financial and institutional systems, processes and
practices help realise the benefits and minimise the costs and risks of a transition to a lower net emissions
economy?

Exclusions

This inquiry should not focus on the suitability of New Zealand’s current, or any future emissions reduction
target. In addition, the inquiry should not focus on the veracity of anthropogenic climate change, and should
only consider the implications of a changing climate to inform consideration of different economic pathways
along which the New Zealand economy could grow and develop.

17.3 Immediate priorities

Achieving New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets requires concerted effort and widespread change.
Among the numerous policies recommended in this report, three areas hold particular priority in
establishing the conditions needed for a successful transition. Change in these areas should be
implemented within the next two years to set the strategy on the right trajectory and avoid New Zealand
incurring unnecessary costs later in the transition.

Reform the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme and introduce biogenic methane into an
emissions pricing system

Ensuring that emissions are appropriately priced is an essential component in New Zealand’s mitigation
strategy. Emissions pricing provides a strong incentive to reduce emissions at least cost. It decentralises
decisions to invest, innovate and consume across the economy to people who have the best information
about opportunities to lower their emissions. An emissions price is also pervasive through the whole
economy – shaping resource and investment decisions across all emitting sectors and sources.

However, the current NZ ETS has a number of weaknesses. The reforms to the NZ ETS set out in Chapter 5
should be a high priority so that the scheme begins to drive behavioural change and changes in land use –
particularly greater rates of afforestation. The emissions price in the NZ ETS will need to rise significantly, so
the sooner this process begins, the more gradual the price increase can be. Also, a higher emissions price in
the NZ ETS will help to identify those emissions sources where complementary policies are required to drive
emissions reductions.

Further, while the NZ ETS should be the primary mechanism to drive reductions in long-lived gas emissions
(such as from carbon dioxide and N2O), a pricing system should also be established for biogenic CH4. This
system, either a dual-cap NZ ETS or an alternative methane quota system, will separately incentivise
emissions reductions of biogenic CH4 in recognition of its nature as a short-lived GHG.

Clear and stable climate-change policies

New Zealand lacks clear and stable climate-change policies. This lack of clarity and political agreement
about longer-term goals has weakened incentives for change and undermined confidence in existing
policies. The Government is currently developing a Zero Carbon Bill that will set a 2050 emissions target and
aims to establish the foundations and institutions needed to meet that target. The Bill should establish:

  • legislated and quantified long-term GHG emissions reduction targets;
  • a system of successive “emissions budgets” that, separately for short- and long-lived gases, translate
    long-term targets into short- to medium-term reduction goals; and
  • an independent Climate Change Commission to act as the custodian of New Zealand’s climate policy
    and long-term, climate-change objectives. The Climate Change Commission should provide objective
    analysis and advice to the Government on the scale of emissions reductions required over the short to
    medium term; progress towards meeting agreed budgets and targets; and barriers, opportunities and
    priorities, to reduce emissions.

Substantial investment in the innovation system

New Zealand’s strategy for its transition to a low-emissions economy should have a strong focus on
innovation. Government should devote significantly more resources to low-emissions innovation than the
modest and inadequate current allocation (Chapter 6). Yet, extra resources are unlikely to yield significant
discoveries to assist in reducing emissions immediately. Rather, the investment will pay off more gradually
throughout the transition. But given the long timeframes involved in bringing innovative ideas to fruition, it is
important that the significant additional resources and infrastructure needed to boost New Zealand’s
innovation system are established quickly.

17.4 Meeting the challenge

New Zealand can achieve a successful low-emissions economy, but there will be challenges. Stronger action
in the immediate future is required, as delayed action will compound the transition challenge and risks
New Zealand being left behind in technology and economic opportunities. Sixteen years ago, the
Government enacted New Zealand’s current climate-change law. Yet, New Zealand has since made virtually
no progress in reducing its emissions, in part due to the absence of political consensus around the
fundamental need for action across the entire economy.

Shifting to a low-emissions trajectory will critically depend on political leadership and fortitude. Inertia and
resistance to change can be expected. The challenge will be one of communication and conveying the
advantages and opportunities of transformational change to the population at large. But, meeting this
challenge will likely be futile without broad agreement across the political spectrum on both the need and
means to make the transition.

This report sets out the policy architecture for New Zealand to transition to a low-emissions economy, while
continuing to grow incomes and wellbeing. Implementing the recommendations in this report will set
New Zealand on the path to meeting its emissions-reduction targets. Inevitably, the journey will be long and
punctuated by change and uncertainty. Technological change, climate-change policy in other countries, and
unintended consequences stemming from mitigation policies could each conspire to slow or derail progress.
While challenging, the transition is achievable given concerted commitment and effort across government,
business, households and communities – up to and beyond 2050.


It is a lengthy report with many findings and recommendations.

Final report August 2018