The costs of climate change

The costs of doing something about climate change are contentious. How much should be spent? Will it make any significant difference?

What will be the costs of not doing enough?

What will be the costs of rpid and major changes to society that some are calling for?

The warnings about the possible effects of climate change continue, and the calls to do something significant about it grow stronger.

RNZ: Dire climate change report warns of ‘threat to civilisation’ within decades

Australian organisation Breakthrough said in its report the current research on climate change is too conservative.

It said there is an urgent need to build a zero emissions industrial system, as well as a global response on the scale of World War II emergency mobilisation.

The report said that feedback cycles could push warming to 3C by 2050, making climate change a “near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation”.

Breakthrough research director David Spratt told Morning Report if the commitments from the Paris climate talks were not improved the world was heading for 3C or more of warming.

He said top scientist Hans Schellnhuber, science advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pope Francis, recently said if we continued down this present path there was a real risk that human civilisation would end.

“He says ‘the human species will survive somehow, but we will destroy almost everything we have built over the past 2000 years’.”

Mr Spratt said all the worst climate change scenarios were now on the table.

He said studies showed communities around the world believed climate change was the most important issue society faced, and the private sector needed to step up.

Some still claim that climate change isn’t a problem, with some claiming it’s some sort of hoax to fund scientists or take over the world (it’s unclear who will take over). But there are more and more concerns being expressed and demands that drastic action is taken.

Remarkably, when Minister  of Climate Change James Shaw spoke in Parliament on the first reading of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, he didn’t mention costs. But he did refer to the consensus he had been working on.

I want to thank the Prime Minister for her personal leadership in this, the nuclear-free moment of our generation, and the Deputy Prime Minister for his efforts in getting us to this point.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to National Party leader, Simon Bridges, and National’s Climate Change spokesperson, Todd Muller, who put politics to one side and worked with us in good faith to try and shape a Bill that could be supported across the House.

Madam Speaker, this Bill has a thirty year time horizon – it must survive multiple changes of Government in that time.

The pressures will be even greater in the future than they are today.

However National has expressed concern about costs, and also possible impacts on farming in New Zealand. Muller tweeted yesterday:

But there is no guarantee that spending 1-2% of GDP on climate change will be enough – the actual costs to make a significant differenced may end up being much higher, and the unintended consequences of significant changes to farming, to society, may be difficult to predict let alone quantify.

Muller’s tweet attracted a number of responses.

@swevers89:

Hammond was only considering costs of action. No 10 quickly rebuffed him (significant in itself) and said costs of inaction far higher (citing recent Climate Commission report). It’s false economic analysis and misleading politics to only mention one side of the ledger, surely?

Note ‘estimating’:

@lancewiggs:

Yes and if we don’t start spending serious cash now it is, basically, our economy and society at stake.

It is also our economy and society that’s at stake if we spend ‘serious cash’ and change the way we live.

@jamesbremner:

NZ climate change policies will cost a fortune and have absolutely no effect. The idea that China and India will be inspired by NZs self immolation is delusional. The most destructive policy in NZs history. Madness.

@MckenzieAl:

How did you get the idea that humanity can negotiate out of this situation? Or somehow we have a degree of choice in the matter? At what stage will deniers say “Shit. This seems really serious. Existentially serious. And finally get urgent in the response?” When it’s too late?

Debate over our warming planet is hotting up for sure. But in New Zealand we seem to be a long way from committing significant resources to try to deal with it.

More importantly, the countries emitting the most greenhouse gases are making the most difference to the climate, but don’t seem to be doing a lot about  it. Especially United States under Donald Trump’s leadership – he is virtually the denier-in-chief.

China and India, and Europe, will need to lead the charge if there is going to be any real stemming or reversing of emissions. otherwise New Zealand would be pissing into howling winds of indifference and inaction.

I think that unless there are major technological breakthroughs on alternative energy there won’t be a lot of progress made.

There are calls to make major changes to our capitalist/industrial society, but I have seen nothing coming close to serious of what we should change to and how that change should happen. I have also not seen any serious analysis of what the effects and costs that could be.

While there are growing calls for urgent action that doesn’t look like happening here or anywhere. We don’t even know what actions should be taken.

Are we fiddling while our planet burns?

Or is the sky not falling quite as badly or as quickly as some claim?

Mallard sparks chaos and consternation, alleged Parliament predator stood down

Yesterday morning the Speaker Trevor Mallard sparked consternation when he said that the Francis report suggested there was a sexual predator in Parliament. There was widespread reaction in media, and behind the scenes party leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges met with each other and with the Speaker. By the end of the day a staffer was stood down.

Stuff: Speaker Trevor Mallard believes bullying report alleges rapes in Parliament

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard says some allegations made to a review into bullying and harassment at Parliament amounted to rape.

Debbie Francis’ review included interviews with employees, past and present. Five reported sexual assault to her and all the allegations involved male on female violence. “Three of the alleged incidents disclosed to me in interviews were in my view extremely serious and some appeared to be part of a multi-year pattern of predatory behaviour,” she said.

Speaking to Radio NZ on Wednesday, Mallard said his impression from the report was that one person was involved in the three extremely serious incidents.

“I don’t know that this is an MP, and if it’s not an MP then it will be the Parliamentary Service, of Office of the Clerk, or Ministerial Services chief executives who will be the individuals who will take leadership.” Mallard said he hoped any one involved in such an incident would go to the police or Rape Crisis, or other support agencies.

“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mallard said.

Asked if people had been raped in Parliament, he said: “that is the impression I get from the report, yes.” The impression he had was that It happened within the past 4½ years.

“Clearly it’s an intolerable situation.”

A number of people spoke up about how intolerable they thought the situation was.

One pointed claim on social media was that if there was a suspected murder or drug pusher loose in Parliament the police would be called in immediately.

1 News: Paula Bennett calls for police to be involved ‘immediately’ over alleged rapist at Parliament

Speaking to media later this morning after the Mallard interview on Breakfast Ms Bennett said there was a “duty of care to people working in this place that police are involved immediately”.

“There are people here feeling unsafe, uncomfortable and nervous at the moment, particularly after the Speaker’s comments this morning.”

“In light of the Speaker’s comments this morning about there being alleged sexual assault and rape happening for staff members and others on premises here in Parliament…. I think there is a duty of care for Debbie Francis and the Speaker to have police involved immediately so those allegations can be followed up and the safety of people working here be put first.”

“They have a responsibility to make sure if there is someone here that has alleged criminal activity, this is not just a bit of inappropriate behaviour, the Speaker is alleging a very serious criminal act, I’m not convinced that everything is being done that should be.”

RNZ: Politicians respond to Parliament rape claims

Political party leaders held a meeting with Speaker Trevor Mallard this afternoon, following his comments to RNZ this morning that he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

After the meeting, Jacinda Ardern said she was very concerned when she heard Mr Mallard’s comments on Wednesday morning.

“We have to ensure that the people who work with us are working in a safe place,” Ms Ardern said.

“Ultimately that’s the job of the Speaker.

Labour MP and party whip Kiri Allan had said after the meeting if there were allegations of rape then police should be involved.

She said discussions were held between Labour female MPs and “there will be further action taken by our leadership”.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said if the allegations of rape were true then it was very serious.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the allegation of rape was substantiated then “it’s right for the appropriate action to be taken”.

The Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he couldn’t talk about the meeting with the Speaker and other party leaders but said Mr Mallard had assured them that he’d taken “immediate steps to secure the campus”.

A bizarre report: Winston Peters says alleged Parliamentary rapist is not MP, staffer

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the alleged serial sexual offender at Parliament is not an MP or Parliamentary staffer.

“It is not a parliamentarian and it is not a parliamentary staffer – that’s number one – all the parties are clear on this matter,” Peters said on Wednesday.

“You just can’t go out and have an allegation where everybody’s now under scrutiny when none of them should have been.”

When asked what that’s based on, Peters said: “It’s based on going and finding out, because I wasn’t prepared to hear what I heard this morning.”

Peters appears to have been wrong.

By late afternoon (RNZ): Parliamentary service staffer stood down after sexual assault allegation

Speaker Trevor Mallard said a female staff member came forward following his interview with RNZ where he said he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

The woman made a complaint to the Parliamentary Service general manager and the matter is now an employment investigation.

“I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.

“Because the matter is now under investigation as opposed to being part of a review, it’s not appropriate into further detail,” Mr Mallard said.

Parliamentary Services said the alleged incident had been previously investigated but, after a direct approach from the complainant to the newly appointed GM of the Service, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, he reopened the investigation today.

It said the original investigation was not into allegations of rape.

RNZ:  Speaker accepts some responsibility for chaotic way rape allegations emerged

Mr Mallard said he accepted it would have been better had the day not played out as it did.

“I have some responsibility for that, and I accept it. The main thing now is to minimise the further trauma that was caused.”

He has urged anyone who has been assaulted to go to the police or Parliamentary Service.

So a clumsy start to the day by Mallard, followed by chaos, but sort of sorted out in the end.

There was probably no tidy or easy way of dealing with this. At least what Mallard started precipitated fairly rapid action.

 

 

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passes first reading vote

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passed it’s first reading in Parliament yesterday by a vote of 119-1.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw:

“This Bill provides the framework, institutions, guidance and targets New Zealand needs to plan climate action that will help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“It also puts in legislation the requirement to develop a national adaptation plan to address the impacts of climate change.”

The National Party vote for the Bill to proceed, but expressed ‘major concerns’, and didn’t guarantee support right through the process.

“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.”


Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passes first stage in Parliament

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament with near unanimous support.

“Today’s vote across political party lines to pass the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill through its first reading signals strong bipartisan support for most aspects of this proposed climate legislation,” the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said.

“Now New Zealanders have the opportunity to make their submissions to select committee on what they think the final shape of this key legislation should look like,” James Shaw said.

“This Bill provides the framework, institutions, guidance and targets New Zealand needs to plan climate action that will help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“It also puts in legislation the requirement to develop a national adaptation plan to address the impacts of climate change.

“I appreciate the broad support the Bill has received in Parliament to take it to select committee.

“I particularly want to acknowledge the National Party’s willingness to continue in the spirit of good faith with its support to send the Bill to select committee.

“I acknowledge that there are differing views on aspects of what’s been drafted. Select committee is the chance where people can put those views and argue their merits. I urge New Zealanders to do so, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of that process,” James Shaw said.


Shaw has aimed to get wide consensus across Parliament for this bill, which he sees as essentially to make enduring changes towards ‘zero carbon’.

This bill is a big deal for Shaw and the Greens, and also for Jacinda Ardern who has saikd that climate change is one of the big issues of the present time.

The current National party position:


National supports Climate Change Bill, but with major concerns

National has decided to support the Climate Change Response Act Amendment Bill through its first reading, but with serious concerns around the proposed methane target and the potential economic impact, Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.

“National supports many elements of the Bill including establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, a framework for reducing New Zealand’s emissions and a framework for climate change adaptation.

“We have serious concerns about the target level that has been set.

“The proposed 24 – 47 per cent reduction in methane is not reflective of scientific advice and is too much too fast. A range of scientific reports have suggested agriculture would contribute no further warming with a 10 – 22 per cent reduction, which would be a more reasonable target.

“This is exactly the sort of decision the newly formed Climate Change Commission has been set up to consider and provide advice on. Unfortunately the one thing the Commission should be advising on is the one thing they haven’t been asked to do.

“The Regulatory Impact Statement for the Bill raises some big concerns around the economic implications for New Zealanders.

“In total, $300 billion is forecast to be shaved off the New Zealand economy between now and 2050, New Zealand’s economy will be nine per cent smaller under this target compared with the existing 50 per cent reduction target set by National.

“This figure already banks on new technology such as a ‘methane vaccine’ that allows farmers to reduce emissions. It assumes electric vehicles make up 95 per cent of our fleet, renewable electricity makes up 98 per cent of all electricity supply and 20 per cent of our dairy, sheep and beef land is converted to forestry.

“Without these assumptions, forecast costs quickly double or even quadruple.

“We need to reduce emissions and support global efforts to avoid climate change, but we also need to be open and honest about the potential costs of doing so.

“National is aware that we are talking about the future standard of living for us all, so we’re calling on the Environment Select Committee, who will now take the Bill forward, to consult with New Zealand’s science community and focus its attention on understanding an appropriate target level for New Zealand.”


I think that’s a fairly responsible approach from National – supporting the aims in general but questioning aspects of concern.

Provincial climate emergencies going national?

During the week the Canterbury Regional Council symbolically declared a climate emergency. Nelson City Council did the same soon after.

Environment Southland  and Invercargill City Council are considering doing something similar.

And Climate Change Minister James Shaw says that “some MPS” are considering doing it at a national level.

RNZ on Thursday: After Canterbury, Nelson declares climate emergency

Canterbury Regional Council earlier today voted to declare a climate emergency, becoming the first council in the country to do so.

The council said it joins other local governments in Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States in adopting the stance.

“We have no doubt at council that urgency is required – the science is irrefutable and we have for some time now, been responding accordingly,” deputy chair Peter Scott said.

This morning’s vote followed lobbying from the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion.

While declaring a climate emergency is largely symbolic, members of Extinction Rebellion said it was an important first step towards achieving bigger environmental goals and openly acknowledging the seriousness of climate change.

Councillor Lan Pham said she hoped it had a snowball effect and inspired other organisations around the country.

Three councillors voted against it, saying there were other options to tackle climate change which the council was already pursuing.

So it wasn’t unanimous.

Regional council chair Steve Lowndes is an ordinary member of Extinction Rebellion, and as such declared an interest and did not take part in the council decision.

Lowndes’ interests are likely to have play a part in it going before the council.

Nelson later joined Canterbury in declaring a climate emergency.

A decision was made by the Nelson City Council, after a three-hour debate this afternoon.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese brought the declaration to the table because of the level of community interest, and noticeable environmental changes in the past few years.

She said the region had recently endured natural disasters on a scale she’d never before seen.

Some councillors were nervous about making what they called a symbolic gesture, and its implications for ratepayers.

Efforts to delay the decision were lost eight votes to five, but a decision was finally made 10 votes to three.

Also some opposed.

Stuff on Friday: Southern mayors to consider climate change state of emergency

Southern councils are watching closely the moves made by Canterbury and Nelson to declare a climate state of emergency.

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the council would be discussing the moves made by Environment Canterbury and Nelson with its councillors in upcoming weeks.

“The Southland Mayoral Forum and their councils are taking climate change seriously and have recently released a report on the likely impact of climate change in Southland,” he said.

Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said it would look into declaring a state of emergency but there were circumstances for Invercargill that needed to be taken into consideration.

“We will look into it but it needs to be looked into properly,” he said.

The effect of a declaration would have on industries such as the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter would need to be taken into consideration, Shadbolt said.

There would be huge celebration and a huge uproar if the smelter was shut down. I don’t know if no energy alternatives to smelting aluminium have been developed yet.

Stuff Friday night: MPs may vote to declare national climate emergency following regional leads

Climate Change Minister James Shaw agrees global warming has created an emergency, and applauded Environment Canterbury (ECan) and Nelson City councillors for taking the step.

And he revealed some MPs are in discussions about taking a similar stance on a national level.

That would require MPs to approve a motion in Parliament, as they have done in Britain and Ireland in the last few months.

The state of emergency isn’t binding and has no legal standing.

So what’s the point?

But Shaw says it does have practical significance.

“It says to council offices you need to respond to this as an emergency.

“And I have to say, my own experience of being in Government over the last 18 months, is it is hard to martial the resources across Government around this overall goal unless you get a political statement that says ‘look the elected members are saying this is so serious that we are actually declaring it as an emergency and therefore we have to organise around it’.”

More than 500 local authorities in 10 countries have adopted the stance which recognises that action on climate change should become a priority.

There is no single definition of what it means, but most regions want to become carbon-neutral by 2050, at the latest.

“For those councils it will be a significant move because it sends a signal to their own communities that they are treating this very seriously.

It means they are talking seriously about it, but it doesn’t mean they are doing anything serious about it.

 

Tweaks to the Emissions Trading Scheme

James Shaw calls them reforms but these look more like tweaks to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

It’s hard to know what the ETS is actually achieving.


Latest Emissions Trading Scheme reforms target transparency and compliance

The second set of improvements to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) have been announced to further encourage greenhouse gas emissions reductions and increase forestry planting, said the Minister for Climate Change.

These latest changes will:

  • improve transparency within the NZ ETS,
  • increase rates of compliance with the scheme,
  • pave the way for robust NZ ETS auctions,
  • ensure that the fixed price option is removed no later than the end of 2022,
  • enable a price floor to be added to the NZ ETS if necessary in future.

From 2021, changes designed to increase transparency of the NZ ETS will let the public access more information about the scheme, including the emissions of individual NZ ETS participants.

“It’s critical for public trust in the NZ ETS that information is readily available,” James Shaw said.

“It’s also crucial that participants comply with their obligations”.

NZ ETS compliance rates are expected to increase as a result of planned changes to the existing penalty regime which will see penalties separated into two categories; one related to reporting compliance and the other related to surrender/repayment obligations.

NZ ETS auctions, which are planned to begin in late 2020, will also be strengthened by these changes.

“We have enabled the appointment of an auction monitor to independently oversee NZ ETS auctions. An auction monitor will minimise anti-competitive behaviour and promote fair access to auctions,” said Mr Shaw.

Under the latest changes the current $25 fixed price option price ceiling (FPO) will be removed when auctioning begins, or no later than 31 December 2022.

“This ensures that the FPO will be removed while also allowing for any unexpected events, such as a delay to the introduction of auctioning,” Mr Shaw said.

As previously announced, the FPO will retain its current $25 level for surrenders due in 2019 in order to support ongoing regulatory predictability.

“It’s not out of the question that a price floor might be introduced in future,” Mr Shaw said.

“Submitters called for a price floor so their confidence in the NZ ETS would increase. We will enable a price floor if it’s necessary in future to protect against unacceptably low prices.

Both sets of improvements to the NZ ETS; along with further decisions expected over the coming months on industrial allocation, will form a single bill to amend the Climate Change Response Act 2002.

Parliament will consider this bill alongside the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, which was introduced to Parliament last week and is expected to pass into law at the end of this year. Both bills will support New Zealand’s aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to levels that help limit global warming to 1.5o Celsius above pre-industrial level.

The public will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the Bill when it is referred to select committee.

The Government also plans to consult, in due, course on regulations for auctioning and NZ ETS settings (including supply volumes and price ceiling levels), amongst other topics.

In addition, the Government is considering its response to recommendations from the Interim Climate Change Committee on setting up a system to reduce agricultural emissions and transitioning to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035.

Proposals to introduce a broader market governance framework for the NZ ETS will be developed over a longer time-frame and will not form part of the amendment bill to be introduced later this year.

“It is worth taking more time to develop a market governance framework for the NZ ETS that is comprehensive and coherent, and to ensure the impacts of any proposals on market participants are fully understood,” James Shaw said.

“Landmark action on climate change” bill introduced to parliament

The Government has announced today that the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has been introduced to Parliament:


Landmark climate change bill goes to Parliament

The Government is today delivering landmark action on climate change – the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand.

“To address the long-term challenge of climate change, today we introduce the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to Parliament,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’ve built a practical consensus across Government that creates a plan for the next 30 years, which provides the certainty industries need to get in front of this challenge.

“In March this year, tens of thousands of New Zealand school students went on strike to protest the lack of decisive action on climate change. We hear them. The Zero Carbon Bill outlines our plan to safeguard the future that those school students will inherit,” Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said.

“The critical thing is to do everything we can over the next 30 years to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and the Zero Carbon Bill makes that a legally binding objective.

“Carbon dioxide is the most important thing we need to tackle – that’s why we’ve taken a net zero carbon approach.

“Agriculture is incredibly important to New Zealand, but it also needs to be part of the solution. That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane.

“The split gases approach we’ve agreed on is consistent with that commitment.

“The Bill sets a target for 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050.

“That provisional range will be subject to review by the independent Climate Change Commission in 2024, to take account of changes in scientific knowledge and other developments.

“The independent Climate Change Commission, established by the Bill, will support our emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly “emissions budgets”.

“The Bill also creates a legal obligation on the Government to plan for how it will support New Zealand towns and cities, business, farmers and Iwi to adapt to the increasingly severe storms, floods, fires and droughts we are experiencing as a result of climate change.

“New Zealanders have made it clear they want leadership and consensus on climate change legislation.

“We’re delighted that the three Government partners have reached an agreement over such a significant piece of legislation after lengthy consultation.

“I also want to acknowledge National Party leader, Simon Bridges, and National’s Climate Change spokesperson, for conducting negotiations in good faith and setting politics to one side while we’ve worked through the Bill.

“The fact that, across Parliament, all parties have engaged constructively in this process signals mutual interest in creating enduring climate change legislation that will stand the test of time and deliver long-lasting commitment to action on climate change for future generations.

“But the work’s not finished. I urge people to engage with the Zero Carbon Bill as it passes through Parliament. Have your say in the select committee process.

“All of us have a part to play our part in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global temperature increases.

“That includes New Zealanders making their contribution to see the Zero Carbon Bill become law by the end of this year,” James Shaw said.

 

Atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa hits 415 ppm as NZ waits for Government action

The carbon dioxide data measured as the mole fraction in dry air, on Mauna Loa constitute the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. They were started in March of 1958 at a facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average readings reached 400 ppm in 2015 and have continued to trend upwards.

Mauna Loa CO2

Mauna Loa — Carbon Dioxide levels reach 400 ppm, a danger sign to scientists

Global concentration of CO2 in the air — the primary cause of global warming — has been increasing in recent years at record amounts, and it has now reached a level unprecedented in more than two million years. In March 2015, for the first time the average of all of NOAA’s 40 CO2 measuring sites showed a concentration above 400 parts per million (ppm). This follows the individual observatory high points of 400 ppm in the spring of 2012 at the Barrow, Alaska, observatory, and the April 2013 high of 400 as measured by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NOAA on the upper flanks of the Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii. In 2015 Mauna Loa is running consistently above 400 ppm month after month.

This is a concentration never before reached in modern measurements. It is measurably the highest concentration of CO2 for more than 800,000 years and probably the highest in several million years. Levels in the atmosphere result from natural and human emissions, but human emissions far exceed natural ones, such as from volcanoes. The concentration in the air varies through the year, because the oceans and the earth’s plant life absorb carbon dioxide at varying rates. CO2 is responsible for 63 percent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, and many scientists have recommended the world should act to keep the CO2 levels below 400-450 ppm in order to prevent even more irreversible and disastrous climate change effects.

Hawaii is remote from major direct human emissions, but is an active volcanic zone.

from New Zealand’s Climate Cghange Minister last month: Rising greenhouse gas emissions show the need for action on climate change

New Zealand’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows emissions are on the rise, underscoring why the Government is taking action on climate change.

The Inventory shows New Zealand’s gross emissions increased 2.2 per cent between 2016 and 2017, and have increased by 23.1 per cent between 1990 and 2017.

“That shows why we need the kind of clear policies and actions the Government’s proposing on climate change,” Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said.

“New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions need to start coming down and we will see that happen over time with the Government’s list of action on climate change, which also includes:

  • the ban on future off-shore oil and gas exploration,
  • $100 million start-up funding that’s established New Zealand Green Investment Finance Limited,
  • $20 million a year invested in reducing agricultural emissions,
  • transitioning the government fleet to electric vehicles
  • $14 billion dollars into public transport, cycle-ways and walk-ways.”

They seem relatively minor and hardly game changing (the offshore exploration ban may increase emissions in the medium term as dirtier energy is used). Major Government announcements on climate change have been delayed.

Stuff: Methane emissions deal kick starts climate change legislation

The government is close to announcing a deal on its contentious climate change legislation, striking a deal over agricultural emissions.

Stuff understands Climate Change Minister James Shaw and NZ First have negotiated a “split gas” target, which would see methane treated differently from other long-lived gases, like carbon.

It comes as Shaw took delivery on Tuesday of two reports – on agriculture and on transitioning to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035 – from the Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC).

But instead of immediately releasing them publicly, as expected, the reports will be held back until the Government decides how to respond.

Shaw said: “We have delayed release of reports to give Government time to consider the reports so that when they are released for public consultation people will have a clear idea of the Government’s thinking around the recommendations.

That seems to be standard practice from this Government – holding back reports until they decide what to do. Or until they work out their PR approach.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, New Zealand agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Scientists have long argued delays and inaction will increase costs and reduce chances of limiting temperature increase.

One report recently says New Zealand’s climate change policy too reliant on tree planting

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has released a heavy hitting report that says New Zealand is too reliant on forest offsets, calling it a “risky” short term fix to climate change challenges.

However, despite calling the report “thought-provoking”, the Government said it is “committed to retaining the use of forestry off-sets for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions”.

We are waiting to find out if this Government is tweaking or transformative on climate change.

Little ‘transformational’ about Government so far

Jacinda Ardern promoted her Government as being transformational, but apart from transforming Winston Peters and Shane Jones into well funded promoters of their own interests these is not much transforming going on.

Ardern opened her year claiming that this would be her Government’s year of delivery, but what they have delivered so far has been underwhelming.

The just announced welfare ‘reforms’ have been paltry – see Welfare advisory group – 42 recommendations, 3 to be implemented.

Tim Watkin: Government is running out of chances to be ‘transformational’

Strike one: Capital Gains Tax. Strike two: Welfare reform. The Labour-led government is running out of chances to be the “transformational” administration Jacinda Ardern promised in the 2017 election campaign.

Today the Welfare Expert Advisory Group handed the government a radical blueprint to not just tinker with welfare, but – in their words – to make “urgent and fundamental change”.

It was scathing about sanctions against beneficiaries, saying evidence shows they do little but create more harm to those already at the bottom of society. And it recommended a massive 47 percent increase in current benefit levels.

Those would be hugely controversial reforms… or, you could say, transformational. And they are not of the cuff ideas.

The current and previous Children’s Commissioners have urged such substantial benefit increases as the most effective way to tackle child poverty.

What people seldom consider though is that since then wages and salaries have continued to grow. Super, linked to wages, has grown to. But other benefits – with any increases linked to inflation, not wage growth – have not been increased nearly as much. Until, that is, Sir John Key and Bill English famously raised them in 2015. So the gap between work and welfare has grown since the 1990s.

That’s why the report today says, “The level of financial support is now so low that too many New Zealanders are living in desperate situations”.

In sum, the argument in support of this radical prescription is that you can raise abatements here and offer support there, but the best and least bureaucratic way to tackle poverty is to – wait for it – give the poor more money.

So as part of their coalition deal, Labour and the Greens commission this report. They get the transformational advice most of them would have wanted. How do they respond?

Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni agrees the welfare system is not working.

Marama Davidson agrees the welfare system is not working.

And then they commit to ignore the report’s big recommendations.

They say no to up to 47 percent benefit increases, preferring “a staged implementation”. The call for “urgent change” is rejected. Remarkably, Ms Davidson has put her quotes into the same press release, tying the Greens to this approach, when they could have been dissenting from the rafters.

The political and institutional reality is that no government can make these changes overnight. But the cold water thrown on this report underlines what we’ve learnt about this government in its handling of tax, its debt level, labour reform and more.

It is not just incremental, it looks timid.

If the Ardern administration wants to be the transformational government she and her allies think they are in their hearts, they are running out of issues.

A lot of transformation has been limited by NZ First, who seem to have got most of what they want while limiting Labour initiatives (like the CGT) and hobbling the Greens.

Much may depend on what the Government come sup with on climate change, the issue Ardern describe as the nuclear free issue of the present time. Announcements on climate change have been delayed months already. There have been further delays, but promises for next week.

RNZ: NZ First voters will be happy with Zero Carbon Bill deal – Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his party’s voters will be happy with the deal he’s struck with the Green Party over the Zero Carbon Bill.

Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw this week delayed the release of two reports from the Interim Climate Change Committee until the government makes a decision on how to respond, which will contribute to the final climate change legislation.

Mr Peters wouldn’t be drawn on what the specifics of the bill are but did give an inch when RNZ asked whether his voters would be happy with the legislation, replying, “yes”.

That won’t be encouraging for those wanting transformative action on climate change.

Mr Peters said he couldn’t comment on when the bill would go to Cabinet because that was a matter for the Prime Minister but he understood it would be “sooner rather than later”.

Asked if it would be on the agenda at Cabinet on Monday, Mr Peters said he couldn’t answer that question.

Ardern and Shaw will have a lot of questions to answer if they fail to measure up on climate change. Their reputations are depending on actual transformation.

The future of the Greens in parliament may well depend on this one.

 

Census failures and political accusations

The 2018 census has been a bit of a disaster, with the first use of extensive online responses, and a large reduction on the number of people who took part. This had led to significant delays in releasing what data they have gathered as Stats NZ has been doing what they can to fill the gaps in data.

The problems may impact on things like health funding, education planning and electoral boundary fixing.

And political accusations are flying, with National blaming the Minister of Statistics James Shaw, and Shaw and PM Jacinda Ardern blaming the last National government for underfunding the budget.

But this has been questioned – the 2013 census budget was $72 million, while the 2018 census budget was $117 million.

Planning for the census started while National were still in Government, but the actual census was done after Labour-Greens-NZ First took over.

RNZ – Census 2018: Stats NZ sets September release for ‘robust’ data

Stats NZ says it has plugged enough of the gaps in last year’s census to be able to start releasing data from September, but some data – including iwi statistics – are too incomplete to be regarded as official statistics.

Using a methodology that combines 89 percent of real census data and 11 percent of other government administrative data, Stats NZ said it now had records for 4.7 million people in the dataset.

In a statement, government statistician Liz MacPherson said the data now met the quality criteria for population structure information, meaning it could be used for planning, population-based funding for DHBs, and electorate boundaries.

“This means Stats NZ will use 2018 Census data to update the official population estimates and projections that many organisations use for their planning,” Ms MacPherson said.

Earlier this month, Ms MacPherson admitted that nearly one in seven people did not complete the census. The low response rate has delayed the data release twice.

“The release of data has been delayed twice because of the complex and careful work required to lift the quality of the census dataset,” Ms MacPherson said.

She said she wanted to make it clear this dataset was reliable, robust, and based on maths, not guesswork.

While government records helped to fill in gaps, Stats NZ said it could not be used for all the census topics and as a result some data might not be released as official statistics.

Newsroom:  Māori miss out in Census 2018

Data relating to iwi affiliation, for example, will not be available for the 2018 Census.

A lack of iwi affiliation data could have an impact on Treaty settlements.

A Te Arawhiti spokesperson told Newsroom it used iwi affiliation to build understanding of the groups it was negotiating with and to create regional profiles and help the public sector with iwi information.

The data was also a “secondary” factor the Crown considered when developing its Treaty settlement offers.

The spokesperson said Te Arawhiti would work with Statistics NZ and iwi to gather the best usable data from 2018.

Data on Māori ethnicity had been collected accurately, and would be able to be used – just not at the level of iwi.

The Government has announced extra funding, and has slammed the last Government for cutting funding.

James Shaw:  Stats Minister confirms funding for Census fix

Extra funding has been confirmed in this year’s Budget to fix issues arising from the 2018 Census and to ensure the next one is the best it can be, the Minister of Statistics announced today.

“Stats NZ has now confirmed it will provide reliable, quality 2018 census data to calculate how many electorates will be needed for next year’s General Election and to revise electorate boundaries where necessary,” James Shaw said.

“It had to delay other work and re-allocate funds to do it.  As a result there’s a shortfall of $5.76 million needed to complete the delayed work, and that’s being covered in this year’s Budget,” James Shaw said.

“There’s also Budget approval this year of $10.36 million to enable Stats NZ to get ahead of the next census. The money will develop the business case for the 2023 Census and start development work on it.

“The previous National-led Government decided to shift the Census to a mostly online survey and, at the same time, directed Stats NZ to cut costs over two census cycles,” Mr Shaw said.

Moving to a mostly online survey has been contentious. It appears that not enough effort was put into making it easy for people to still do it offline.

But the cost cutting accusations have been challenged.

The way data was collated was changing, and that rate of change is being accelerated.

Newsroom:  Annual census could replace five-year form-filling

The five-yearly national census could become an annual affair as the official statistics agency uses more of the data constantly collected by government agencies rather than rely on declining response rates from individual citizens.

The agency had been testing and refining models for use of administrative data for seven years already. It had intended to use an increasing amount of such data from the 2023 census onwards and instead accelerated its modelling processes to create a statistically robust 2018 census result, McPherson said.

Some 1.2 percent fewer people participated in the census than anticipated. Data gaps left by people not completely filling in their forms meant partial information equivalent to around 500,000 citizens was drawn from administrative data sources rather than census forms filled in on census night, March 6 last year.

“The team at Stats NZ has risen to the challenge and delivered a new way of confidently combining the strengths of census and administrative records to create the 2018 census dataset.

“There are now records for approximately 4.7 million people in the census dataset. The number of records is 1.2 percent, or 58,000 people, less than our best estimate of the population on Census Day 6 March 2018. In 2013, the official census undercount was 2.4 percent, or 103,800 people.

McPherson said the 2018 data was robust enough to allow the re-setting of electoral boundaries for the 2020 election and the population funding models used by public hospitals to determine their budgets, contrary to speculation from critics of the census process.

Change was inevitable. The transition seems to have been stuffed up.

 

No sign of Zero Carbon Bill yet

A Zero Carbon act was supposed to be in force this month, but a draft bill hasn’t even been presented to Parliament yet.

This was the number one item in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Sustainable Economy

  1. Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050,
    with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form,
    energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent
    Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions
    and industries.

a.   Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission
b.   All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.
c.   A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators will be developed.
d.   A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.

So an April introduction of the bill is now ‘mid-2019’.

There has been speculation that the Zero Carbon Bill may be progressed as a quid pro quo for NZ First stopping any CGT. James Shaw has denied this – see James Shaw on “do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?” – but as Shaw seems to have been shut out of discussions over the CGT he may not know what Ardern and Peters may have agreed on.