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.

Inevitable criticism of Zero Carbon Bill

The Zero carbon Bill proposals were never going to please everyone. The more radical it was, the more strident the criticism was likely to be.

Some want more radical change, while others won’t less or no efforts made address climate change. Some of the opposition is ideological, some is due to potential effects on business and the economy.

Newsroom – Zero Carbon Bill lives or dies on politics

The long-awaited Zero Carbon Bill is essentially non-binding, sets targets for long-lived and short-lived gases differently (good news for farmers), and an ultimate zero-net carbon emissions target for 2050.

It’s pretty good, but also pretty much what was expected. The immediate aftermath was anger on both the left and the right – Greenpeace called it “toothless”, Federated Farmers called it “frustratingly cruel”. I would call it “predictable”.

RNZ:  Government’s Zero Carbon Bill already facing heavy criticism

The government’s plan for combating climate change is already being condemned as toothless.

The plan is in line with New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Agreement but there are questions about how it will be enforced. Courts cannot impose legal sanctions on those who drag their feet, they can only issue a determination.

Greenpeace New Zealand chief executive Russel Norman, a former Green Party co-leader, said the bill was toothless.

“What we’ve got here is a reasonably ambitious piece of legislation that’s then had the teeth ripped out of it. There’s bark, but there’s no bite,” he said.

The Green Party won’t be happy with this attack on their flagship policy proposals.

“The bill sends some good signals, until you get to the section at the end that negates everything else you’ve just read. This section states there is no remedy or relief for failure to meet the 2050 target, meaning there’s no legal compulsion for anyone to take any notice.

“The most anyone can do is get a court to make a ‘declaration’ that the government isn’t achieving its climate goals, but this declaration doesn’t make the government actually do anything.”

James Young-Drew from youth-led climate change group Generation Zero said that needed to change. He will be pressing for amendments at the select committee.

“That includes giving the courts the power to impose legal sanctions. The carbon budgets and the targets that we are signing onto, absolutely must be legally enforceable,” he said.

Farmers are on the other side of the fence.

Federated Farmers said the legislation sent the message New Zealand was willing to abandon pastoral farming.

Spokesperson Andrew Hoggard said the provisions calling for the sector to reduce biological methane emissions was “frustratingly cruel”.

Fonterra’s director of sustainability Carolyn Mortland said much more research was required.

“There needs to be significant investment in innovation and research. We have jointly partnered with the government and will continue to do so, but we will be looking for continued and significant investment from the government,” she said.

RNZ – Climate change plan: ‘Setting the bar so low’

Bronwyn Hayward was New Zealand’s lead author on last year’s major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which said limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is necessary to ensure a more sustainable and equitable society.

She said the bill is hopeful, but troubling. “The hopeful part is that this is really the framework that we have to get into law in order to make the really big changes… that said I find it quite troubling that we’ve had to set the bar so low, especially around things like our near-term methane targets in order to get everybody on board.”

The deputy director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, Andy Reisinger said the move is consistent with the science and the targets in the IPCC report and with the global effort needed on agriculture.

He said it would not have been unreasonable to ask for a net zero methane level, but it would have changed farming in this country fundamentally.

“You can’t take methane out of the atmosphere faster than it decays naturally, so to get to zero methane, you basically have to have zero livestock, and that transformation is presumably stronger than people could imagine for now,” Dr Reisinger said.

Newsroom – Methane target: too soft, too hard or just right?

Unlike many lay submitters, and unlike the scientific case for CO2, climate scientists generally agree that methane need not fall to zero to keep the climate reasonably habitable, or even fall too close to zero. But there are various policy and scientific arguments for how much or little to shrink it.

Methane mostly disappears from the atmosphere within a decade or two, although it leaves some lingering effects. That makes its lifetime short compared to carbon dioxide, which is basically immortal. But while methane remains in the atmosphere, it’s very potent.

Meanwhile, climate scientists internationally are puzzling over an unexplained spike in methane, which might be more farms in the tropics, or rice paddies, or gas leaks – or maybe a sign the world’s self-cleaning process for methane is breaking down.

Agriculture is New Zealand’s largest emitting single industry, contributing 48.1 per cent of emissions as New Zealand currently reports internationally. Methane makes up about 35 percent, with the rest coming from nitrous oxide.

According to a recently published Greenhouse Gas Inventory report, New Zealand’s net emissions rose by 23 percent since 1990, with the biggest recent increases coming from transport. The Government has noted cutting carbon is its biggest and most urgent priority.

Newsroom – Zero Carbon Bill lives or dies on politics

If the bill succeeds, it will vindicate the ability of our complicated, imperfect democracy to solve the great problems of our age.

If it fails, it will prove the opposite: that our democracy isn’t up to handling the great problems of our age.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Q&A – join the Zero Carbon conversation

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has announced “From today New Zealanders can register their interest in being part of the Government’s consultation on what the Zero Carbon Bill should look like”.

If you don’t think ‘zero carbon’ is practical or feasible can you be a part of the conversation?

Sign up to join the Zero Carbon Bill conversation

“We know many New Zealanders want to be part of the discussion on how we reduce our emissions and want to be kept updated in the lead up to formal consultation starting around the end of May.

“So we’ve set up an online registration process on the Ministry for the Environment website for individuals or organisations who want to be kept informed between now and then.

“You don’t have to register to be part of the consultation. Anyone can make a submission. And we’re planning lots of activities before and during the consultation process to ensure everyone knows how they can make submissions and be part of the national conversation on climate change and the Zero Carbon Bill.”

The Zero Carbon Bill will be a cornerstone of New Zealand’s transition to a low emission climate resilient future that will help us achieve our international commitments.

“This whole transition has to be shared by all of us. Consultation has to be with New Zealanders across the country; from farmers and factory workers, to iwi and innovators. We want everyone’s thoughts and ideas.”

The consultation will also cover the role of the new independent Climate Change Commission.  The Commission is intended to take a long-term non-partisan view, provide independent advice to the government of the day, and ensure New Zealand stays on track to meet its climate change goals.

“I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in being part of the discussion on the Zero Carbon Bill to sign up at the Ministry for the Environment’s website here. And tell your friends to sign up too.”

The sign up page: Have your say on the Zero Carbon Bill

What to expect

Zero Carbon Bill

  • The Government has signalled that it will introduce a Zero Carbon Bill in late-2018 to provide a vision for how we transition to a sustainable and climate resilient future.

  • The Bill will see New Zealand put a bold new emissions reduction target into law, and establish an independent Climate Change Commission to keep us on track to meet our goals.

  • Consultation on the Zero Carbon Bill will open in late May. Information on the Bill’s proposals will be released at that time.

So it seems that it’s a bit early to be having a conversation about it.

Shaw will be having a conversation this morning on Q&A.

Shaw first has announced a new Green policy – they are going to give all their ‘patsy’ questions in question time to the Opposition. He says the Government questions are a waste of time, and Question Time should be about holding the Government to account.

This isn’t just talk, it is real action and it’s positive for Parliament, and Shaw and the Greens deserve credit for doing this.

This follows a Green commitment to publish their MP’s diaries as a move towards more open government.

These are fundamental democratic changes that the Greens can differentiate themselves from the other Government parties on.

Shaw was adamant that it isn’t an olive branch towards National.