Minister praises Green MP on climate change efforts

In Parliament this week Minister for Climate Change Paula Bennett praised Green MP Dr Kennedy Graham – “Can I acknowledge the member for his tireless effort to have cross-party work”. This related to GLOBE-NZ, a cross-party group of members of Parliament that Graham chairs.

On Thursday this exchange between Bennett and Graham was more positive and more convivial than the usual questions.

Climate Change Issues, Minister—Response to Vivid Report

6. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Which of the four scenarios in the March 2017 Vivid report—”Off Track”, “Innovative”, “Resourceful”, or “Net Zero 2050″—is the Government considering using as the basis for its own climate planning?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): The Vivid report is a welcome addition to the debate and it outlines, as the member says, a number of scenarios that New Zealand could follow to reduce emissions. I believe there is more work to be done on the basis of that report, and I think it is a really good start, but we would have to do more work to decide which track we would go down, or whether there might be others.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister agree with the fourth conclusion in the report—that if substantial afforestation is combined with extensive technological innovation, it could be possible to achieve domestic net zero emissions by 2050?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have a crystal ball. So it is hard for me to say—[Interruption] So it is difficult for me to say what will be happening in 2050 and what those technological advances could be, but I have to say that I am hopeful.

Dr Kennedy Graham: What steps will she consider taking from here to strengthen the relationship between GLOBE New Zealand and the executive in light of recommendation No. 5 of the report?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am very supportive of the work that GLOBE New Zealand has done. Can I acknowledge the member for his tireless effort to have cross-party work.

Hon Members: Hear, hear!

Hon PAULA BENNETT: —yeah, he does deserve that—and that the National Party, through the work that Scott Simpson is leading for us on this side, has got a number of members and is committed to it. I, as Minister, am interested in an ongoing involvement.

Dr Kennedy Graham: If GLOBE New Zealand were to commission a follow-up study to explore in more depth the “net zero 2050” scenario, would the Government be prepared to seriously consider such an analysis?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would not be prepared to commit to that right now, but I certainly do not want to rule it out completely, either. We would have to see the terms of what that might be.

Bennett, the deputy Prime Minister, actually spoke at the launch of the Vivid report last month, which Graham posted about:

Vivid’s Report Will Help Parliament Debate the Climate

On Tuesday evening, I hosted the launch in the Beehive Theatrette of a report which could prove to be a game-changer in the long and somewhat agonised saga that is New Zealand’s policy debate on climate.

Present for the launch were the Speaker of the House, the Deputy Prime Minister (who spoke), former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, and OCED Environment Director, Hon Simon Upton, among 140 others. Public launches are also being hosted by the Mayor of Christchurch and the Auckland Council.

The report, Net Zero in New Zealand: Scenarios to achieve domestic emissions neutrality in the second half of the century, was produced by Vivid Economics, a London-based consultancy that has internationally-recognised expertise on the subject.

The report was commissioned by GLOBE-NZ, with funding support from foundations, individuals, companies, embassies and individual MPs.

The report identifies four scenarios for achieving emissions neutrality.  One, ‘Off-Track NZ’, would see neutrality achieved well into the 22nd century. As such, it would not meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement which calls for global net emissions to be zero before 2100 in order to limit temperature increase to below 2ᴼC.

Two scenarios, ‘Resourceful NZ’ and ‘Innovative NZ’, meet the requirement of neutrality not long after 2050, through innovative technology resulting in considerable reductions in energy emissions, far-reaching forestry programmes and significant change in land-use patterns.

A fourth scenario, ‘Net Zero 2050’, is envisaged though not explored in analytical detail.  The report states that this scenario is possible, albeit far-reaching and ambitious.

The report is a very good one, as our Executive Committee has said, in an Op-Ed for the NZ Herald on Wednesday. It has been welcomed across the spectrum.

Put simply, this is groundbreaking. The main significance of the Vivid project is that it was conceived and commissioned, and is now owned, by a cross-party group of MPs.  GLOBE-NZ, established in October 2015, now has a membership of 35 MPs drawn from all seven political parties in Parliament.  It is developing a cross-party dialogue on climate policy, receiving briefings from international and local experts.

The breakthrough here is that the group now owns a shared report on emissions reductions that it can debate with greater clarity than ever before.  Parliament has in fact decided to hold a debate in April, focused specifically on the report.  That, too, is unprecedented.