NZ scientists call for faster action on climate change

Again the Government is being pressured to live up to it’s hype on climate change. Jacinda Ardern said that climate change was her generation’s ‘nuclear free moment’.

A hundred and fifty ‘academics and researchers’ are ‘demanding bold and urgent action to tackle climate change’.

In August 2017: Jacinda’s speech to Campaign Launch

There will always be those who say it’s too difficult. There will be those who say we are too small, and that pollution and climate change are the price of progress.

They are wrong.

We will take climate change seriously because my Government will be driven by principle, not expediency. And opportunity, not fear.

And there is an opportunity, that we can turn into our advantage, and shape our identity. It is a transition that can, and must, be just.

This is my generation’s nuclear free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on.

Last month (October 2018):  Jacinda Ardern ‘upgrades position’ on climate change as nuclear-free moment

Jacinda Ardern says she has “upgraded my position” on her characterisation of climate change as her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”.

As part of a wide-ranging interview with the Spinoff, the prime minister said the challenge of climate change had one critical difference to the nuclear-movement. Then, “we were unified”, she said. “And yet what we’re doing on climate change – it is just that much harder, because it’s a call to action for everyone. And so I’m hoping we can get to the place of having that same unified moment that we had around nuclear free for climate change.”

It was an elaboration of a position she outlined in a speech to the One Planet Summit in New York last month. Then she identified the “stark difference between the nuclear free movement and climate change: unity”, adding: “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.”

But ‘academics and researchers’ want action rather than words – Top academics call on government to take climate action

One hundred and fifty academics and researchers from around Aotearoa, including Dame Anne Salmond, Emeriti Professors and several Fellows of the Royal Society, have signed a strongly-worded open letter to the Government demanding bold and urgent action to tackle climate change.

I don’t know why Salmond has been highlighted – her own description: Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond, FNAS, FRSNZ, FBA, FAHNZ, DBE, CBE, Department of Māori Studies, University of Auckland.

The letter refers to the recent Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which contains its strongest message yet about the seriousness of the situation and the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5C. The report says we have about 12 years to make the dramatic reduction in global net carbon emissions necessary to get climate change under control. And, it says that to do so will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

“There’s a big gap between the severity of the warnings from the world’s most authoritative scientific body on climate change and the actions of our government. They need to be honest with us about the risks we’re facing and act accordingly” says senior lecturer Cordelia Lockett, who wrote and coordinated the letter.

“Cordelia Lockett, Senior Lecturer, Bridging Education, Unitec”

“Clearly, academics and researchers around the country are deeply concerned about climate breakdown and want the government to act swiftly and decisively.

“But it’s the wider New Zealand public as well. A survey from earlier this year showed that 79 percent of people believed climate action needs to start immediately. A large majority also said we need to meet or exceed our international commitments, and that we should act even if other countries don’t. The message is clear.”

Climate scientist Professor James Renwick:

“This government has shown a commitment to addressing climate change, including the Zero Carbon Bill and steps to limit fossil fuel prospecting, but it needs to ensure that its policies actually produce the deep and lasting emissions reductions required, especially in the transport, industry and agriculture sectors” .

An open letter to the NZ Government urging immediate action on climate change:

We the undersigned, representing diverse academic disciplines, call on the government to take robust and emergency action in response to the deepening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are indisputable, and it is unacceptable to us that future generations in Aotearoa and globally should have to bear the terrifying consequences of climate breakdown.

Infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is not viable. And yet successive governments have promoted free-market principles which demand rampant consumerism and endless economic growth, thus allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is disastrous.

The recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is unequivocal. The world’s leading climate scientists warn that we have only 12 years to halve global emissions and get on track to avoid warming of more than 1.5C and catastrophic environmental breakdown. They have advocated urgent and unprecedented global action. As Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC working group says: “this is the moment and we must act now”. The message could not be clearer.

New Zealand has a history of taking courageous political initiatives which have had global influence. We can, and must, do it again with bold and urgent action on climate. New Zealand could lead the world by immediately developing a data-informed plan for rapid decarbonisation of the economy. We demand that the government meets its duty to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come.

Letter with 150 signatories (.docx)

They describe themselves as ‘top academics’ – I am not able to judge that – but their areas of speciality are diverse, including (words in their descriptions):

  • 1 with ‘climate’
  • 22 with ‘environment’
  • 5 with ‘psychology’
  • 2 with ‘creative arts’
  • 3 with ‘philosophy’
  • 5 with ‘sport’ or ‘physical education’
  • 8 with ‘architecture’
  • 4 with ‘community development’
  • 2 with ‘nursing’
  • 22 with ‘health’

Some have general descriptions that don’t rule out climate expertise.

Diversity of expertise could be a good thing but not all of the academics appear to be ‘top’ in climate science.

Also yesterday: Joint Statement by His Excellency Sebastián Piñera, President of the Republic of Chile, and the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern

The Leaders shared their concerns on climate change, noting the need to take urgent action.  They undertook to work together during the upcoming COP24 in December in Poland, in order to achieve an ambitious outcome that includes clear rules and procedures for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Chile and New Zealand share a common interest in collaborating to develop better climate policies, including carbon pricing mechanisms and developing national legal frameworks that address the specific needs of each country.

Note “noting the need to take urgent action”.

What urgent action is New Zealand taking?

NZ businesses dealing with climate change

As well as general political consensus on the need to do more to address climate change issues in New Zealand, there are growing moves by big businesses to do something about it.

This is likely for mixed reasons, including they have a public duty to do something about it, pragmatic business reasons, and doing something to try to reduce the chances of Government forcing them to do more.

Stuff:  Businesses band together to tackle climate change

Sixty firms that contribute almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are pledging to help the country reach its net zero emissions target by 2050.

The businesses’ chief executives have formed the Climate Leaders Coalition after talks with the Sustainable Business Council. The group includes leaders of Z, Westpac, Ngai Tahu Holdings, Vector, Air New Zealand, Spark and NZ Post.

By signing the CEO Climate Change Statement, each of the business leaders has committed to measuring and reporting their greenhouse gas emissions and working with suppliers to reduce emissions, with the aim of helping to keep global warming within two degrees, as specified in the Paris Agreement.

The businesses will individually set targets to reduce emissions and report on progress annually. Most businesses involved in the coalition are already reporting their targets to reduce emissions.

Voluntary measures may avoid more drastic regulations and taxes and other disincentives.

Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts, leading the collective commitment…

…said it would be up to the consumers, media and the general public to hold each business involved in the coalition accountable, for every emission reduction report they puts out.

“When it comes to emissions, customers want to know what the businesses they are shopping at are doing. It will come down to individual customers and their connection with these individual companies,” Bennetts said.

Z Energy has committed to reducing its emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 for its internal operations.

Bennetts said Z Energy sold 9.3 million tonnes of carbon to its customers but was also looking to reduce New Zealanders’ reliance on fossil fuels.

Tricky for a petrol pump company.

Fonterra global operations chief operation officer Robert Spurway…

…said the company had also pledged to 30 per cent reduction, but by 2030 from a 2015 baseline.

“At the moment there is no legal requirement for businesses to complete emission reporting. The Government is looking at this over time, as part of New Zealand’s commitment to climate change, but this accelerates that,” Spurway said.

“It gives businesses that opportunity to lead through commitment by all those businesses within the coalition to report on an annual basis. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Professor James Renwick, of the Victoria University school of geography, environment and earth sciences…

… said it was good news for climate change action in New Zealand.

“This coalition, comprising almost half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and including some very prominent businesses such as Fonterra and Air New Zealand, has the potential to make a significant difference. We will have to wait and see what actions the members of the CLC actually take, but the stated aim of reducing emissions to meet Paris Agreement limits is excellent”.

Professor Tim Naish, a climate scientist at the Antarctic Research Centre…

…said it was significant that the aviation, dairy and petroleum sectors were signatories.

“But just as it applies to governments that pledged in Paris, good intentions must translate into action, and time is short.”

“The science shows us that collectively if we leave it much longer this will require negative emissions and a technological solution.”

It is likely to become a mix of voluntary, incentive based and regulatory changes.

Whatever happens it is widely acknowledged there is a growing need to do something about climate change, and increasing efforts to do something from both Government and the business sector.