Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Like it or not, climate change is going to drive significant changes with energy use, transport, travel and food. In other words, to the way we live.

Newshub – Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Newshub Nation explores what will be different about how we get our energy, how we get around, how we shop, how we travel and what we eat.

Energy:

The Government has set a target of being 100 percent renewable by 2035. Currently, 82 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources – mainly hydropower.

“We’ve obviously got lots of wood lying around and the problems we had in Tolaga Bay – you can imagine that would have been much better used as a source of energy if we’d had the supply chain set up,” says James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change.

Another potential solution to the storage problem is using renewable sources to produce hydrogen gas, which acts a bit like a battery.

“Hydrogen plants can make a lot of energy at short notice, and that’s a really key capability that we need to push the last bit of coal and gas off the grid and get to 100 percent renewable,” says Katherine Errington, Helen Clark Foundation executive director.

Transport:

Transport accounts for 19 percent of the country’s emissions, mainly because New Zealanders love their cars.

We imported 319,662 light vehicles in 2018. Of that total, just 5,542 or 1.7 percent were electric or hybrid cars according to the Ministry of Transport.

This needs to change and fast. By 2030, the Productivity Commission says 80 percent of NZ vehicle imports need to be electric and by 2050, nearly every vehicle will need to be electric. As at March 2019, electric vehicles (EVs) made up just 0.3 percent of our fleet.

Drive Electric’s Mark Gilbert says the quickest way to get more EVs into the market would be through adjusting the fringe benefit tax, to incentivise businesses to transition their company fleets.

For trucks, trains, ships and planes, green hydrogen offers a potential climate-friendly solution.

Air Travel:

Aviation is one of the trickiest areas to reduce emissions. It currently produces about 859 million tonnes of carbon each year or around two percent of global emissions. However, by 2050 it is expected to emit more than any other sector.

solution put forward by the UK Climate Commission is having industries like aviation pay to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. It estimates the cost of this at $20b-$40b in the year 2050, with that cost likely passed on to consumers. This means the price of flights will start to increase from 2035 as emission removals are predicted to scale up.

Shopping:

Online shopping can actually be better for the environment than traditional shopping, because it means people aren’t driving their cars to and from the store.

However, US research found online shopping is only better when consumers choose regular delivery rather than express shipping, which creates nearly 30 percent more emissions.

Food:

This is probably the most controversial area to make changes, but with the world’s food system accounting for nearly a quarter of all emissions it is one of the areas we need to adapt.

In New Zealand, agriculture makes up half of our emissions – mainly from livestock burping methane. This gas breaks down in the atmosphere after 12 years, unlike carbon, which can hang around for hundreds of years. However while it is shorter lived, methane is 25 times stronger than carbon when it comes to warming.

“There are ways to try and reduce methane which are being researched – what you feed the animal on, how you breed the animals to produce less methane,” says Ralph Sims.

“But if we can increase the productivity [e.g. more milk from each cow] then that’s a better alternative than having to reduce stock numbers.”

Sims also says that the potential of vegetable protein is something that New Zealand’s agricultural sector should keep an eye on.

The world may change significantly as a result of climate change.

I think there is no doubt how people live will change significantly regardless. Climate change as well as population, resource depletion and pollution will all at least need to be adapted to, one way or another.

Fracking fractured in Labour

There appears to be a significant fracture within Labour on oil drilling and fracking.

Shane Jones, Labour’s regional development spokesman, has starkly differentiated Labour from the Greens on oil and gas exploration – see Jones distances Labour from Greens on oil and gas.

But it seems he has also separated himself from Labour’s own Energy spokesperson, Moana Mackey, who seems to lean towards Green policies.

Jones has been visiting Taranaki with Andrew Little, talking to people in the oil and gas industry as Stuff reports in Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

“Sustainability is as much about sustaining the livelihood of people as it is about guarding the ecological habitat of the Hochstetter’s frog. As long as I am in politics as a Maori politician I am going to be unambiguous in standing up for jobs and people,” he said.

It was “mischievous” to talk about Labour’s policy as designed to suit the Green Party and though he occasionally found common cause with New Zealand First it was only with the aid of a telescope that he might do the same with the Greens.

Jones and Greens seem to be on different energy planets. But it also appears that Jones is following a different energy orbit to his Labour colleague, Mackey.

Labour have scant published policy and nothing on oil drilling or fracking, but in March Mackey released a statement.

Exploration not such a golden opportunity

The government appears to be drawing its economic strategy from reruns of the “Beverly Hillbillies” – crossing its fingers and blindly hoping it will strike oil, Labour’s Energy and Resources spokesperson Moana Mackey says.

“The government should be looking at every opportunity to grow existing businesses in provincial New Zealand and develop new sustainable industries that create well-paid local jobs.

And last year from Mackey:

National’s ‘drill it, mine it, sell it’ approach not the path to economic growth

“This is not where New Zealand’s economic future lies. We need to be investing instead in renewable solutions.

“As a Gisborne-based MP, I know how concerned communities up and down the East Coast are about any expansion of oil and gas exploration in our backyard, in particular the impact on our environment and our tourism industry. And who pays if something goes wrong?

Moana Mackey also questioned whether the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ was part of TAG Oil’s plans for the East Coast.

“An increasing number of governments around the world are reviewing or banning fracking because of concerns about the safety of the practice and in particular the impact on drinking water supplies.

Mackey sounds far more in line with the Greens on this.

Back to Stuff and Jones:

There was an appetite for such growth in Taranaki but the “anti-development” message was strong on the East Coast, where oil and gas exploration is on the increase, and in the Far North, where he was attending an anti-mining hui next month.

Mr Jones said the Greens, some non-governmental agencies and some hapu were delivering that message.

Labour’s own Energy spokesperson has also been delivering that message.

And just last week Mackey was promoting her member’s bill – Renewable energy bill is the best way forward

A member’s bill that aims to address the Government’s ‘hope and pray’ attitude to tackling climate change would ensure all new base-load electricity generation is from renewable sources,  Labour’s Energy spokesperson, and sponsor of the bill,  Moana Mackey says.

“While renewable generation is currently economic in its own right, this bill provides investment certainty for the sector that a major fossil fuel discovery in New Zealand would not change those economics for base-load generation projects.

What’s going on in Labour? Does anyone talk? Does anyone try to coordinate portfolios and policies?

Clashing with the Greens on drilling and fracking will made a Labour-Green coalition difficult enough. But such big differences within the Labour caucus on an important issue like this seems like bad management and bad presentation – at best.

And it points to a much bigger problem – how fracking fractured Labour are.

20 year low emissions due to fracking and market forces

The Associated Press reports on US emission reductions:

AP IMPACT: CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low; some experts optimistic on global warming

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Better ways of recovering gas leads to lower energy prices:

While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.

A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from $7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced. As a result, utilities are relying more than ever on gas-fired generating plants.

More gas used, less coal (from about a half to about a third):

Both government and industry experts said the biggest surprise is how quickly the electric industry turned away from coal. In 2005, coal was used to produce about half of all the electricity generated in the U.S. The Energy Information Agency said that fell to 34 percent in March, the lowest level since it began keeping records nearly 40 years ago.

And one of the reasons why the use natural gas is increasing is fracking. Therefore…

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions at 20-Year Low Thanks to Fracking

Lots of environmental activists dislike cheap natural gas because it outcompetes their first loves, photovoltaic and wind power. It spooks the nuke folks too. I noted a Washington Post headline back in February that actually read: “Cheap Gas Jumbles Energy Markets, Stirs Fears that It Could Inhibit Renewables.”

I ask again: Can an energy source be all that bad if it scares the two most heavily subsidized sectors of the electric power generation industry?

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/ap-impact-co2-emissions-in-us-drop-to-20-year-low-some-experts-optimistic-on-global-warming/2012/08/16/0ec787da-e7ca-11e1-9739-eef99c5fb285_story.html

http://reason.com/blog/2012/08/17/us-carbon-dioxide-emissions-at-20-low-th