Kennedy Graham
In preparation for Doha: Assessing New Zealand on Climate Change

With the 18th UN climate change conference under way, every country will have its climate change policy under scrutiny.  This blog sets out where New Zealand stands.

Four criteria are relevant to assessing a country’s performance.

  1. How has it done with emissions record from 1990 to 2012?
  2. What targets has it announced for 2020 and 2050 and what is their status?
  3. How is it approaching the ‘transition period’ (2013-20)?
  4. What pathway has it devised to attain the targets?

Let’s measure.

  1. 1.     The Record: 1990 – 2012

The year 1990 is the baseline for all countries’ records.  The 1992 Framework Convention required the developed countries (the North) to ‘take the lead’ with ‘immediate action’ in reducing emissions, and aim to return to 1990 levels by 2000.  New Zealand failed to do this.

The Kyoto Protocol (signed ‘97, in force ’05) imposes a legally-binding obligation on 37 countries to reduce their total net emissions (gross emissions + or – net emissions from land use and forestry) by a specified percentage, off their 1990 level, in the 5-year period 2008-12.

New Zealand’s 5-year amount is 309.6 m. tonnes.  Our projected net amount for 2008-12 will be below this limit by some 23 m. tonnes.  But this is because of high forest plantings 10 to 20 to years ago having an effect on carbon absorption during this period, which is at its peak in that five-year period.  Both before 2008 and after 2012 the situation is different.

From 1990 to 2010, NZ’s gross emissions (all gases) grew by 20%, from 60 m.t. to 72 m.t., the 5th worst Kyoto country with reduction obligations.  Net emissions grew by 59% (from 32 m.t. to 52 m.t.), the very worst performance of all.

Our methane emissions (mainly from agriculture) grew by 4%, 6th worst.  Our nitrous oxide (mainly agriculture) grew by 26%, 2nd worst.

Amazingly, our net carbon emissions (including land use and forestry) has deteriorated from being a net absorber of carbon in 1990 (2 m.t.) to a net emitter in 2020 (13 m.t.).

The conclusion is clear from the UN compilation ((FCCC/SBI/2012/31) that New Zealand has perhaps the worst track record of all (developed) Kyoto-obligated countries.

  1. 2.     The Targets: 2020 – ‘50

The IPCC in 2007 identified a scenario of 450 ppmv of GHG atmospheric concentration, associated with a 2°C temperature rise (from pre-industrial level), as the limit for avoiding dangerous climate change (the stated objective of the 1992 Framework Convention).  Governments adopted that at its 16th annual climate change conference at Cancun in 2010.

To stay below the ‘danger threshold’, the IPCC calculated that emission reductions by 2020 (off 1990 levels) by the developed countries would need to be within the range of 25% to 40%, and 80% to 95% by 2050.  That, too, was acknowledged by governments at Cancun.

The EU has pledged 20% unconditional for 2020, and 30% if others front up.  So has Norway and Switzerland.

The UK Parliament has bound itself by statute to 80% cut by 2050, with a consequent 34% by 2020.

New Zealand has unilaterally pledged 15% (range 10-20%) for 2020 and 50% by 2050.

The World Bank has just released a report concluding that, on the basis of such voluntary pledges of this kind, the world is heading for a 4°C temperature rise.  That takes us into a potentially catastrophic zone of climate change – within one generation.

  1. 3.     The Transition Period

The good news is that the distinction between North (developed countries) and South (developing countries), laid down in the ’92 Framework Convention, is now being merged into one global community of states, in the negotiations for the 2020 global agreement.

The bad news is that, with respect to the ‘transition period’ (2013-20), the North is now fundamentally split between those favouring the ‘Kyoto route’ and those favouring the ‘Convention route’.  EU, Norway, Switzerland and Australia are opting for the former; New Zealand, along with US, Canada and Japan are opting for the latter.

The difference is that the Kyoto route is a legally-binding multilateral agreement for a 2nd commitment period.  The Convention route is a potpourri of unilateral, non-binding pledges.  The NZ Minister (Groser) describes it as ‘politically-binding’, claiming there is no discernible difference with Kyoto, and deriding those with an ‘obsession’ with Kyoto.

  1. The distinction is qualitative.  Which is why we have treaties.  A legally-binding obligation carries penalties, financial (as in Kyoto’s 1st commitment period) or otherwise.  A political route does not.  Canada welched on its Kyoto-1 commitment (2008-12) when it became clear it would incur a financial penalty, and withdrew.  Is that the basis on which this NZ Government made the decision?
  1. 4.     The Pathway

The EU has led the way with carbon budgets and national allocation plans for its members.  The UK has bound itself by statute to a series of five-yearly carbon budgets (starting with 2008-12; then 2013-17, and so on.

New Zealand has an emaciated emissions trading scheme that is now so weakened that it encourages emissions, with no discernible pathway for arriving at its weak 2020 and 2050 targets.

New Zealand goes to the 18th UN climate change conference in Doha with perhaps the worst credentials of developed Kyoto states.

26 thoughts on “In preparation for Doha: Assessing New Zealand on Climate Change

  1. Don’t forget “gone by lunchtime” – the history of the Labour Government’s moratorium on new gas and coal fired base load generation under the National Government in 2008.

    About the only good thing the current government has done is the Warm Up New Zealand scheme, which has been a success. Of course there is no mention in the news of the Green Party’s support for this scheme under the MOU between the government and the Green Party.

    Trevor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

  2. Most of the problem comes from here:

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2012/11/28/meet-the-climate-denial-machine/191545

    Not a reputable scientist among them.

    Nor Senator Inhofe…

    nor the Koch Brothers, or the Scaife Institute or Exxon-Mobil which find ways of funding the rubbish being dumped into the media inboxes.

    The problem is the media, which thrives on controversy and fails to deliver fact, even when it is important that the public be informed to be able to make informed decisions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5 (+1)

  3. Kennedy

    I am sure you’ve done the press release for this and put it out to our media.

    I am equally sure that it wasn’t as important as Bilbo and Gandalf.

    The only thing we can be sure of is that not a blessed thing will happen until we manage to get the PM and his cronies out of office… preferably out of the country and, if I had a wish, on a high speed trajectory towards Rigel-Kent. Traitors to the human race.

    With that delightful thought fading reluctantly from my imagination, the reality is that we have to make this as nasty for the PM and his government as it can possibly be made to be.

    Two reasons. One is that they undoubtedly deserve it but the second is much stronger… the best way to get press coverage is to make the conflict loud and ugly.

    I call the PM a traitor because I believe that overall his actions amount to treason against the people of New Zealand and the Human Species. You managed a brief splash with the bit about the moral crime against humanity. That has to continue… backed up with the facts as you just presented them… and it cannot be just you.

    The PM and Groser have to be put in the position of facing a pack of wolves tearing at them from the minute they wake in the morning to the minute they fall asleep. Noplace to hide. Never.one.minute.of.peace.

    Your mission Dr Graham, should you decide to accept it, is to make this government’s existence a living hell.

    As always, should any member of your team be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions. Our civilization will self-destruct in 10 decades.

    respectfully
    BJ

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2 (0)

  4. Kennedy chose not to put a link to the numbers he’s using, so I used the easy sources available to Joe Average, which means Wikipedia here. I also grabbed their List of OECD countries by GDP per capita and did a bit of a rough and ready comparison.

    Our “neighbour” countries in the OECD rankings (Spain above, Greece below) both have large positive Koyoto allowances against them, whereas we have, well, zip. Compared to our “neighbours”, our changes in emissions are not outliers in percentage terms. But because they have large positive allowances, they’re OK, whereas we’re beating ourselves up. Greece increased its emissions by two and a half times more tonnes than we did, (and Spain more than 10) and that’s OK.

    There was a time when New Zealand had the third highest standard of living in the world, and back then, it would be fair to compare and contrast us with the best at everything. Now, by most measures, we are a lowly country, yet we still try and behave like we are right up there.

    I’m all for us doing our fair share (even though our fair share is almost nothing in the scheme of things), but fair has to be fair.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1 (+2)

  5. Greece increased its emissions by two and a half times more tonnes than we did, (and Spain more than 10) and that’s OK.

    What makes you think that’s OK? Who said so? Wasn’t anyone here.

    The point of comparing us to people who manage to do even less than we do has always been to excuse us doing less than we should. It is the favored argument from the right, but it is a false justification.

    Again:

    1. My responsibilities to the future and to my species and its civilization, are not EVERY dependent on someone else’s failure to take THEIR responsibilities as seriously as they should.

    2. It is the economic system that cripples Spain and Greece and prevents them from undertaking the changes THEY need to handle to get their emissions under control.

    The economic system, the MONETARY system, is the enemy of the environment. This has been true for most of 100 years. It will not go away as a problem until right to create money is taken back by the governments of the world and the banksters are jailed and broken.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1 (+4)

  6. What makes you think that’s OK?

    ‘Cos they have achieved their Koyoto obligations.

    Who said so? Wasn’t anyone here.

    Well, yes it was someone here, actually, from right at the top:

    The conclusion is clear from the UN compilation ((FCCC/SBI/2012/31) that New Zealand has perhaps the worst track record of all (developed) Kyoto-obligated countries.

    If we have the worst track record, then others have, by definition, a less bad track record.

    2. It is the economic system that cripples Spain and Greece and prevents them from undertaking the changes THEY need to handle to get their emissions under control.

    Not convinced that doesn’t also apply to us. We did this recently – we could just stop dairying, and we’d dump nearly half our emissions. How would that work economically, for New Zealand? Not well.

    And that’s my point: we have unreasonable expectations of our capability.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3 (-1)

  7. Less bad is not necessarily OK dbuckley. It is merely not as bad as us.
    OK changes the meaning too much to be saying the same thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 (0)

  8. Ok, BJ, I concede. Replace “ok” with “compliant”.

    Our “neighbour” countries in the OECD rankings (Spain above, Greece below) both have large positive Koyoto allowances against them, whereas we have, well, zip. Compared to our “neighbours”, our changes in emissions are not outliers in percentage terms. But because they have large positive allowances, they’re compliant, whereas we’re beating ourselves up. Greece increased its emissions by two and a half times more tonnes than we did, (and Spain more than 10) and that’s compliant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 (+4)

  9. OK… DB when you discuss their positive allowances you mean the percentage over the 1990 baseline that they signed up to try to attain the 125% and 115% ? Not sure where the “allowances” are else. I AM trying to follow you here… lest I wind up arguing about something different.

    I thought that allowances had to do with tradable AAUs … ( maybe they do… reading the agreement in the Wiki leaves me with doubt). The target being 125% of the 1990 value seemed to me to be different from the AAUs. Which may not be true, or the AAUs may be the implementation mechanism for the target.

    I don’t pay THAT much attention to the way the paper works, but do pay attention to the fact that we have done less than nothing.

    Which has little to do with the Kyoto target and a lot to do with the attitudes of successive governments to the seriousness of the problem. It will get more serious and so will they… because people will start kicking them out for cause when the climate change turns into weather related disaster often enough.

    We have to do better…

    One problem for us is that growing a tree isn’t a permanent sequestration of carbon, so we for balance have to count the cow burps too.

    Counting cow burps makes it harder for our economy. Counting tree growth makes it easier… overall it could balance but IMHO neither is important over centuries. tree-grows-dies-falls-rots-co2-tree… grass-cow-milk-belch-methane-co2-grass…. don’t get us where we need to go as far as credits are concerned.

    The need to do something somewhere is real. We are here. Doing nothing is NOT an ethical or proper option for us. What we SHOULD be doing is a potent CO2 tax and dividend scheme, and the hell with the ETS. That would encourage the renewable energy sector and the energy conservation sector… neither of which are doing all that well… because they are still having to compete with the subsidized products of the extraction industries.

    Which is criminal and has to stop.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  10. BJ chip says “I call the PM a traitor because I believe that overall his actions amount to treason against the people of New Zealand and the Human Species. ”

    BJ – you used to debate intelligently.

    With such extremist nonsesnse, do you expect anybody to take you seriously?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3 (-1)

  11. I look at that SOS posing for the camera, whose banker co-workers called him “the smiling assassin” and who worked as the head of foreign exchange at the NY Fed while the LIBOR fraud was in full swing (I can’t imagine he wasn’t aware of it… I didn’t call him “incompetent” or “stupid”). I examine his actions, and who actually benefits from them… and it isn’t any New Zealanders I know, and most often it is the banks…

    … and I have to ask WHO THE FUCK IS HE WORKING FOR REALLY?!

    Watching him it is almost impossible for me NOT to see the mask… and wonder what is behind it.

    The evidence is in his actions and the actions (and inactions) of his government. He is actively working to the detriment of this country and the human species… for the short term benefit of the have’s and have more’s, and in his position that IS treason… unless one postulates a rather more extreme and subtle incompetence.

    I can’t prove he is smart enough to walk and chew gum at the same time… the only people he’s assuredly smarter than, is the rest of the National Party, but I do believe he is smart enough to know what he does and who really benefits… and therefore must also be unethical enough not to care about the long term damage that results.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

  12. BJ says “… and I have to ask WHO THE FUCK IS HE WORKING FOR REALLY?!”

    Ooooohhhh!!! A big conspiracy.

    Key hasn’t been put there by NZ voters but by some secret organisation.

    BJ – Get a grip – you’re losing the plot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 (0)

  13. Bjchip is entirely correct in his assessment of Key. Photonz1′s ability to remain blind to so many of the indicators bjchip cites, is a testament to either the ideology he clings to or his own self-imposed blinkering. Or it might be that photonz1 does know that Key is as bjchip describes, and is bound to try to counter any such on-line claims. I may be glamorising photonz1, but I have to do something to make his comments seem more interesting than they actually are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2 (0)

  14. Photonz

    I asked who he was WORKING for, not who ELECTED him, and that difference is what can make treason of more normal criminal fraud.

    Moreover, I said that I have to ASK, and I do. His actions are, almost invariably against the best interests of New Zealand and its people. The people who elected him. That no small number of them remain too besotted by his mask to recognize what is being done to their children and their children speaks volumes for Kiwi gullibility.

    One could even speculate that the “inability” to keep the educated kiwis here has more to do with the need to dumb down the electorate enough to keep getting a National majority.

    Ignorance is bliss, and they (National Voters) are way too happy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2 (0)

  15. However Key is working for, IT IS NOT FOR NEW ZEALANDERS.

    As for Photo. I am sure he is a paid astro turfer. Nobody else would so consistently defend the indefensible.

    And, Nobody with a full time job elsewhere or without the support of the NACT research team could spend so much time pulling up fudged or misleading stats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3 (0)

  16. Now that Photonz has aided me in derailing this thread I guess it is up to me to try to put it back on its tracks. The issue is whether we are doing enough, reducing our carbon intensity and building renewable generation capacity.

    On those fronts the evidence Dr Graham provides is damming.

    The question of HOW we should do what we should do, is still somewhat debatable. Our responsibility to act is not.

    On that I offer the following.

    1. We have a responsibility to manage our CO2 emissions and their equivalents, for the benefit of future generations.

    2. We have a responsibility to manage the land and water so as not to destroy them both, for the benefit of future generations.

    3. We need to do these things without utterly destroying ourselves in the effort.

    4. We need to leave to our children, an infrastructure that will support them as the consequences of the global failures come home to us.

    ______

    I will also assert the truth of this:

    * Free Market Competition with economies are not reducing CO2 and continue BAU production based on subsidized emissions, can destroy any industry or sector of our economy that attempts it.

    * Free Market Competition is an ideal that New Zealand has embraced to the exclusion of any regulation or economic assistance to any sector of its economy. Ricardo is God here… though he’d be spinning in his grave to see the extremes we’ve gone to.

    * Despite any efforts of ours the oceans and temperature WILL rise, nigh on 4 degrees and 1.5-2.0 meters in the next 100 years. 9 meters in 250 years. 18 in 350. Considered against the history and geography of NZ we can see that this alone will be challenging.

    * Agriculture is carbon neutral in terms of the products and byproducts of dairy and the carbon uptake of growing trees the cycle of these things renders any increases or decreases they provide transient, at best a deferral of some part of a problem. Also, just as our contribution is minimized by some because we are so small, so too is our removal of CO2, for the same reason.
    ________

    It follows from these, logically, that:

    * Reducing our CO2/Methane by reducing/restricting our herds is not wisdom, as it reduces our tradable resources. There is another reason to do that, but reducing CO2 emissions is not a reason.

    * Increasing our CO2 equivalent absorption by growing trees (thus putting massive amounts of land under woodland cultivation regimes) does little to aid us in the long term.

    * It is impossible to increase our tradable resources beyond the natural limits of our land and water, so there is a limit to the growth of dairying and farming in general, independent of the CO2.

    * There is no realistic economic or environmental path based on the growing of trees and sequestering of CO2.

    * The emphasis of our effort therefore has to be in the conservation (efficient use) of what energy we generate and the generation of CO2 neutral and preferably renewable energy.

    —————–

    The third stage and conclusions are:

    1. To achieve both effective energy conservation and CO2 neutral energy development, a large and inescapable CO2 cost must be introduced to OUR economic system.

    2. To protect our economic system from the free-riders in other countries we have a recognized right to impose tariffs on those who “benefit” from their subsidized pollution. The worship of “free market competition” has to be pulled down to realistic levels.

    3. Firm regulation and restriction on the damage done to the land and water are required to protect us from the temptation to try to over-produce from our farm sector. The effects of this are already present, as profit is an insidious motivation and it eats away at even the most ethical farmer. Profits will rise per agricultural unit shipped as climate change bites the butts of the bamboozled in the USA.

    4. Both the CH4 from our herds and the CO2 sequestration of our trees must be taken off the table (unless we sequester the WOOD for a thousand years)

    5. We can look for ways to sequester the wood for a thousand years… but it is not possible for us to grow enough forest to actually change things, so this must take a lower priority. It can become a tradable resource, but real civilization has to take place and survive elsewhere for that to be useful.

    6. NO infrastructure should be built/rebuilt less than 18 meters above mean high water, preferably higher. The lifespan of infrastructure can be considered and successive builds will be higher.

    7. Routes established North and South, should be still higher. Routes last longer than infrastructure. This is important, as homes, communities and lives are built along them, and stability of that sort (which we take for granted) will become very very valuable to our children.

    8. Consideration of the likely effects on our trading partners and the rest of the world makes the establishment of “seed” industrial capabilities and the establishment of some real industrial capabilities, important.

    9. On an urgent basis, establish cocoa and coffee plantations under glass here in NZ. Life without coffee and chocolate cannot be described as civilized :-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  17. bjchip – “* Reducing our CO2/Methane by reducing/restricting our herds is not wisdom, as it reduces our tradable resources. There is another reason to do that, but reducing CO2 emissions is not a reason.”

    Maybe you should mention this to the Green party policy makers because I am pretty sure they plan to decimate the dairy herd in 2014. What is the “another reason”. Is it part of a cunning plan to totally trash the economy so we go back to living like our hunter/gatherer forebears, at one with nature, without the corrupting influence of modern (or not so modern) technology?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2 (-2)

  18. dbuckley – your link goes on to say (regarding the drop in US emissions):
    “This development has arisen from lower oil use in the transport sector (linked to efficiency improvements, higher oil prices and the economic downturn which has cut vehicle miles travelled) and a substantial shift from coal to gas in the power sector.”

    So emissions will rise again if the US comes out of its economic downturn, or if the cheap gas becomes less available for electricity generation and they switch back to coal. Of course when peak oil has more impact, there will be a move to using gas in place of oil, so there may be a shortage of gas for electricity generation.

    So using gas is only a temporary solution. Switching to solar (PV and solar thermal) and wind power for electricity generation is a permanent solution.

    Trevor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  19. The changes in US power generation because of fracking

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2012/07/natural-gas-sets-record-in-equaling-coals-electric-output/1

    The economics of the coal vs gas rivalry (and wet vs dry gas economics)

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/energysource/2012/05/30/shale-gas-takes-on-coal-to-power-americas-electrical-plants/

    So if the dry gas areas (“crack methane”) are left to last, as they are the less economic of the gas sources, that is one positive. But this means a (methane) emissions sting in the tail when this is the gas that is left.

    Interestingly there is as yet no focus whatsoever it seems on using the gas to either power cars (LPG/CNG) or to convert it into methanol or synthetic fuel.
    As Trevor notes, peak oil will quicken the depletion of the gas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 (+1)

  20. Kennedy Graham

    New Zealand goes to the 18th UN climate change conference in Doha with perhaps the worst credentials of developed Kyoto states.

    From one of the worlds leading countries on environmental issues to one of worst… Not to mention Tim Groser is as deluded as they come. Pity he’s even started to mislead the House of Representatives with lies about New Zealands GHG emissions. How embarrassing to have a bunch of climate change deniers in power… Clearly New Zealand deserves better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 (+4)

  21. Trevor

    So emissions will rise again if the US comes out of its economic downturn

    Let me fix that for you

    So emissions will rise again if the world comes out of its economic downturn

    Yeah.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

  22. SPC – there is progress on using LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) for fuelling trucks and shipping. There have been planes flown on LNG too, but I don’t think the airlines are ready for that.

    LNG is another form of CNG, since both are methane (natural gas). LPG is not – it is a mixture of propane and butane, and doesn’t require chilling to liquify it or keep it liquid. Consequently LPG is easier to use and to transport by tanker.

    Trevor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

  23. Canada’s emissions have risen recently. How much of these emissions have come from the industries supplying gas to the US?

    Trevor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>