Response to introduction of climate change bill

This is a big deal for the Greens.

Edgeler has been unusually critical of the Claytons binding referendum on cannabis law reform.

Rising to challenges, now

The world has always been changing, but in the last couple hundred years it has changed enormously, and the rate of change is increasing. Somehow we have to adapt to these changes without stuffing up the economy or the planet.

Rod Oram (Newsroom):  Be bold to thrive in a changing world

As it happened, 1980 was also the year we Kiwis began to realise our tried and true economic orthodoxies were failing us. So, we made radical changes in that decade, which helped us prosper in the following two.

This year we must make even bigger decisions about our economy, society, environment and international relations. But the orthodoxies we learnt in the 1980s and 90s continue to largely define our debates today. Thus, we believe some tweaks to business as usual will keep us going.

Yet evidence from around the world shows us the present, let alone the future, is no approximate continuation of the past. Economies are stagnating, politics are polarising, societies are shattering and environments are degrading. Only fundamental changes will turn those around. Any nation failing to respond constructively will be far worse off.

Social change has been pronounced too. We’re less conservative and more ambitious; we’re more ethnically diverse, yet more confident in our ethnicities and our Treaty relationships; and MMP has made our politics more representative and our governments and policies broader-based, and in some ways more effective.

We’ve considerably degraded our ecosystems, as Environment Aotearoa 2015, the Government’s first comprehensive report across land, fresh water, air and marine domains showed us. Many measures continue to deteriorate, subsequent updates confirm.

The world keeps changing. We have little influence on those changes, so New Zealand has to try to adapt to those changes.

Resolving the big debates

Setting us on the right course will take innumerable initiatives by individuals and myriad strategies by organisations, with the help of many key policies by Government. In turn, effective policies are best shaped by rigorous, broad and informed debate involving all the people affected by them.

We need urgent resolution of many of those debates. Here are snapshots of six of them:

Capital gains tax:

Any economy is distorted if one source of wealth generation is favoured over others. In our case, the lack of tax on most capital gains feeds the housing market, starves business investment and disadvantages wage earners.

Fair pay agreements:

Our businesses and their employees need to become far more sophisticated and flexible so they can keep up with, or better, exploit warp-speed changes of business skills, technology and markets. A fair pay agreement is a bottom line in a sector which encourages employers and employees to be ambitious.Good companies and their people will far excel the low bottom line of a fair pay agreement.

Wellbeing budget:

In May our government will announce its first cut at a Wellbeing Budget, based on the Living Standards Framework Treasury has been developing since 2011. There’s a fair measure of support for this from some business leaders.

No doubt, though, this partial and rather simplistic first version will be criticised as being far too complicated, a distraction from pure economic measures, and an unrealistic attempt to measure the unmeasurable.

All good progress is hard.

Zero Carbon Act:

To tackle our monumental challenges of climate change and related aspects of unsustainability we need a very long-term goal for drastically cutting greenhouse gasses, a system for setting interim targets and a way to measure our progress towards them.

My column last week described the unassailable logic of this and the great benefits other countries are reaping from it.

Resource management reforms:

When we passed our Resource Management Act in 1991 it was world-leading for its twin goals of promoting economic development while protecting the environment. Many amendments since have improved it in some respects and hindered it in others. Overall, though, it has failed to adequately deliver on either ambition.

Given our vastly increased economic activity and the resulting escalation of demands we’ve put on our environment in the past almost 30 years, further attempts to modify the RMA simply won’t work.

…we need a fundamental redesign.

Relations with China:

China has changed hugely over the past decade. Its economic scale and technological prowess, and its global influence and sense of power have grown dramatically. Yet, it has become more authoritarian in political and social terms, while reasserting the clout of state-owned or influenced corporates over private enterprises.

Consequently, economic and political tensions between China and the US, EU and many other countries are escalating fast.

Now and for evermore we need to be very clear what our values are and who we share them with; if that causes some slowdown in our growing ties with China that will help us from becoming too dependent on China; that in turn will make us less vulnerable to adverse pressures from it and will help preserve our options and resilience.

The first five sound like a pro-Government manifesto. China is a problem the Government has in part created and has to find a way of dealing with.

Housing is barely touched on under CGT and not even mentioned under the RMA.

Rising to all of the challenges above, and many more, is utterly daunting. If we are so timid as to believe tweaking business as usual will get us there, we’ll fail. But if we boldly embrace the wonderful opportunities for us in this fast-changing world, we’ll succeed.

So if we do what Oram and the Government says they want to do we should be good.

Zero-carbon – as much pie in the sky as CO2 in the sky

Greens have long been big on ideal but absent on credible costings for their policies. Until now they have not had to actually cost and budget for policies. Now they are in Government the cost of their primary policy, net carbon zero by 2050, gets important.

But does anyone have any idea what it will cost?

Some called (Stuff September 2017): What a zero carbon act means for New Zealand

HOW MUCH MIGHT IT COST?

The effects of runaway climate change will damage our economy much more than taking steps to reduce emissions. By joining the Paris Agreement, we’ve already committed to being part of the global transition to net zero emissions.

The zero carbon act will require the Government to set out a fair, sustainable and cost-efficient pathway for New Zealand to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. What will really cost is delay – delay in reducing our emissions, and in dealing with impacts of climate change that are already on our doorstep.

The longer we continue on our current path of emission growth, the more we lock in bad investments that will become stranded assets tomorrow. A smooth, well-managed transition is in New Zealand’s best interests – otherwise we’ll be forced to make a costly and abrupt transition later.

Insurers and local councils are also ringing the alarm bells that we need to get serious about adapting to climate impacts like sea level rise now. The longer we wait, the more risk and the more cost we are creating for ourselves.

That is alarmingly vague. There is no attempt whatsoever to cost the policy.

The author Leith Huffadine  reveals in the article: . “We [Generation Zero]…”. Greens credited Generation Zero for the formation of the policy.

The Spinoff (May 2018):  NZ has pledged zero carbon by 2050. How on earth can we get there?

The word ‘cost’ appears just twice in that.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) lithium-ion battery price index shows a fall from US$1,000 per kWh in 2010 to US$209 per kWh in 2017. This fantastic cost decline is a cause for celebration.

And:

Solar and wind offer a comparatively low-cost pathway to reduce emissions in most countries that currently have a high share of coal and gas-fired generation, but how we plug the gap between 95% and 100% in New Zealand isn’t obvious yet.

that was written by Briony Bennett: B.A. Political Studies, B.Sc. Physics, Mathematics, member of the Green Party, “I am for energy that is safer, cheaper and greener.”

What also isn’t obvious to me is how much extra electricity generation we will need if all our cars, trains, buses and trucks are run by battery (which need electricity to charge them). Important things like this don’t seem to have been quantified, or even estimated.

Earlier this month – Zero carbon: Policy meets science

For example, economics.

If “no further climate action is taken”, the per household national income will increase by about 55 per cent by 2050, models show.

No indication of what models show this.

If the the bill passes as roughly signalled, per household national income will increase by about 40 per cent, the same models show.

That’s a significant loss of economic activity and many have pointed out that New Zealand’s contribution to greenhouse gases is less than 2 per cent of global emissions.

Far less than 2% (actually less than 0.2%) according to New Zealand’s Environmental Indicators:

China produced 26 percent of global GHG (green house gas) emissions, nearly twice as much as the next- highest producer, the United States. New Zealand contributed 0.17 percent.

Today at Stuff: Zero-carbon economy may not be worth the cost

Before we decide if a zero-carbon economy by 2050 is worth the cost, we must know what the damage to our economy from global warming will be if we do nothing. Only then will we know how important and urgent action on global warming really is.

Estimates of the cost of global warming as a percentage of GDP to New Zealand are elusive. I drew a nil response when I asked for that information from James Shaw, the Minister for Climate Change, and from the Ministry for the Environment. Both said such an estimate was too hard to calculate.

Too hard to calculate?

Fortunately, the OECD rose to the challenge in its 2015 report on The Economic Consequences of Climate Change. The OECD estimated the cost of global warming to New Zealand and Australia between now and 2060 was a reduction of 0.9 per cent in their GDPs.

No details on that. And that doesn’t look at the cost of doing what will be required to get to zero-carbon by 2050.

James Shaw must come clean

It is time for the Government to fund an estimate of the cost of global warming to New Zealand.

Author Jim Rose (‘an economic consultant in Wellington) seems fairly negative about doing anything at all, but it’s more than fair to ask what it all could cost. there’s a lot of variables and unknowns, but surely there should be some estimates.

There are certainly risks of not doing anything, and also risks of spending a lot of money trying to do something.

I find the lack of information about possible costs quite alarming.

 

Growing support for New Zealand’s ‘Zero Carbon’ goal

New Zealand is seriously working towards dealing with reducing carbon emissions.

As James Shaw has been touring the country consulting on his ambitions for getting New Zealand to ‘Carbon Zero’ (net emissions) by 2050, support for the goal in principle at least is growing, with both National leader Simon Bridges and farming leaders committing to work with the government towards achieving some sort of goal.

Bridges last month Speech to Fieldays on climate change. And:

Three days ago (Stuff): Farmers on zero carbon: let’s do this

In a symbolic show of unity, the Farming Leaders Group has published to joint editorial statement with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, published today by Stuff.

While the piece is described the zero carbon initiative as “a very ambitious and challenging target” and said questions remained about what it meant for food production, it makes commits to working to achieving the goal.

“Today, farming leaders with the support of the Government are stating their support for this goal and the agri-food sector playing its part in achieving it,” it reads.

“The farming sector and Government are committed to working together to achieve net zero emissions from agri-food production by 2050.”

While the Farming Leaders Group is new and describes itself as “informal”, its members are luminaries of the sector, including the leaders of Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ, Beef and Lamb, the Meat Industry Association, the Fonterra Shareholders Council and Irrigation NZ.

It also has representation from major private companies, the Federation of Maori Authorities and Agriculture Trade Envoy Mike Petersen.

Today from Stuff: What is the NZ Government’s Zero Carbon Bill and will it do anything?

New Zealand politicians have a complicated history with climate change.

There has been little in the way of US-style denialism, but the debate on what to do about it has been just as fiery.

That debate has led to a series of arguable half-measures – like an Emissions Trading Scheme that omits our largest emitter – and no certainty for the country on what we are going to do to reach the far-off targets we have signed up to.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw is trying to fix all this and depoliticise the issue  so that, long after his Government is gone, parties from the Left and Right can continue efforts to fight climate change without it becoming a political football. He wants to do that by setting up a completely new legal and institutional framework for climate policy, with a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Change Commission. Here’s what that would actually mean.

What exactly is a Zero Carbon Act?

At its most simple, a Zero Carbon Act would set greenhouse gas emissions targets into law.

Greenhouse gases are the primary cause of human-influenced climate change. Long-lived gases like carbon dioxide are the big ones globally, but down here in New Zealand we also have to worry about short-lived gases like methane from cows.

The argument goes that actually setting these targets into real law will give businesses certainty about the direction of the country, so they can plan long-ahead without having to worry about a new government changing the rulebook from under them.

But it is complicated, politically, economically and environmentally.

This is an ambitious long term goal and it will take a lot of work top get all significant players on board and on track.