The Herald ran a very compelling op-ed by Jeanette Fitzsimons yesterday, suggesting that from a climate perspective our priority must be to keep most of the remaining fossil fuel in the ground.
For 35 years I have been wrong about how to prevent climate change. It’s time I confessed.
For 35 years I have worked to improve energy efficiency – insulating homes, efficiency standards for appliances, better light bulbs, fuel-economy standards for cars and energy-saving technologies in industry and farming.
The assumption was that this would result in less fossil fuel being burned and less carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. Well, it doesn’t.
She details State-Owned Solid Energy’s plans to make money out of lignite, and how that would spell disaster for New Zealand’s climate emissions.
In addition to oil and gas exploration there are well-advanced plans to use more than 3 billion tonnes of economically recoverable lignite from three fields in Southland. These plans are big, and New Zealanders are hardly aware of them.Because we don’t need coal for electricity; state-owned coal company Solid Energy has developed plans to use the lignite for fertiliser and diesel.
This is why changing your light bulbs will not reduce greenhouse gases – Solid Energy, and its government owner, are determined to use that coal.
Of course Don Elder, CE of Solid Energy, imagines that somehow mining Southland’s lignite would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. We think Don is dreaming, and couldn’t agree more with Jeanette’s call to action:
We need to refocus international negotiations to keep most of the world’s remaining coal in the ground. As citizens, we need to refocus our domestic action to tell Solid Energy and the Government by every means available to us to keep the coal in the hole. Every tonne of lignite New Zealand keeps in the ground is 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide that doesn’t get into the atmosphere.
We can let energy efficiency give us a good standard of living, a prosperous economy, more jobs and a clean, green marketing brand. But if we mine the coal, we are fooling ourselves that those “green” developments will do anything for the climate.