Kennedy Graham

We’re doing fine, it’s the world that’s at fault – climate change, Philippines, and Mr Groser

by Kennedy Graham

The latest global storm, Typhoon Haiyan over the Philippines, is the strongest on record to make landfall.

The statement by the chief Philippine climate negotiator, Yeb Sano, at the 19th annual UN negotiations in Warsaw, is perhaps the most eloquent cry of pain on behalf of humanity yet uttered.

Mr Sano, whose family has been directly affected by the storm, appealed to the international community to make a breakthrough in the negotiations this year, rather than next year, sometime or never.

I spoke in General Debate about Haiyan and Warsaw, and New Zealand.  And separately in Question Time, I asked our own climate minister, Tim Groser, whether in light of Mr Sano’s appeal, he thought the NZ Government was doing enough to tackle climate change.

Yes, the Minister said: (a) we were, after all, managing the only trading scheme outside Europe; (b) we were making other efforts internationally; (c) we were responsible for only 0.14% of global emissions.

Respectful comment:

(a)     Factually wrong.  Emissions trading schemes are underway in Korea, China, US states and Canadian provinces, and several Latin American countries.  They are new, sometime pilot, but under way.

(b)     True but partially irrelevant: what we do elsewhere (such as the Global Greenhouse Gas Research Alliance for Agriculture and Friends of Fossil Fuel Reform) has no bearing on New Zealand’s legal obligation to reduce its national gross and net emissions.

(c)     Totally irrelevant: the size of a country’s emissions has no bearing at all on its proportionate share in global reductions.

Onward. Could the Minister confirm that combined pledges mean 54 billion tonnes of global emissions in 2020, way above the target of 44 b.t., guaranteeing dangerous climate change?

Certainly, replied the Minister.  The only answer can be that the international community is not doing enough, and needs to do a lot more.

Comment:

Something the National and Green parties agree on.

Why have we committed to only 5% reduction in net emissions by 2020, if we are doing our ‘fair share’?

A dual answer: (a) over 100 countries have made no commitment; (b) I continue to misrepresent the Government’s position, because the 5% unconditional target sits under a conditional target of 10-20%.

Respectful comment:

(a)     Misleading; because those 100 countries are in the developing world which, under the 1992 Framework Convention, are not obliged to make commitments to reduce emissions until the developed world has made progress itself.  That is the difference between Kyoto (2008-20) which Mr Groser derides as a ‘relic’, and the global legal agreement (post-2020) which he says is the ‘only game in town’.

(b)     Misleading; because the 5% unconditional target stands alone as an unconditional target.  Higher cuts are, in the event certain conditions are met, are not relevant to the unconditional target.

With regard to the suggestion that I misrepresent the Government’s position, I shall confine myself to the following table of emissions:

Total aggregate anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, 1990 & 2010

(Gt., CO2-e)*

Country

Excluding LULUCF**

Including LULUCF

 

1990

2010

%

1990

2010

%

 

New Zealand

59.8

71.7

+ 19.8

32.4

51.7

+ 59.5

Australia

417.9

543.3

+ 30.0

511.0

581.2

+ 13.7

Canada

589.3

691.7

+ 17.4

521.8

763.7

+ 46.4

EU

5,583.1

4,720.9

- 15.4

5,297.1

4,409.3

- 16.8

Japan

1,266.7

1,257.9

- 0.7

1,196.6

1,184.8

- 1.0

Norway

49.8

53.9

+ 8.2

41.1

21.0

- 49.1

Switzerland

53.1

54.2

+ 2.2

49.2

53.4

+ 8.4

USA

6,161.5

6,802.2

+ 10.4

5,293.4

5,747.1

+ 8.6

 

Russia

3,349.8

2.207.6

- 34.1

3,429.8

1,555.2

- 54.7

Bulgaria

128.6

61.7

- 52.0

114.4

53.1

- 53.6

Estonia

40.7

20.5

- 49.6

31.4

16.8

- 46.5

Hungary

114.8

67.8

- 40.9

112.6

64.4

- 42.8

Latvia

26.6

12.1

- 54.5

10.5

- 5.1

- 148.1

Lithuania

49.9

21.5

- 56.9

43.6

9.8

- 77.5

Poland

564.2

400.9

- 28.9

552.4

358.0

- 35.2

Romania

290.2

123.0

- 57.6

268.7

97.2

- 63.8

Ukraine

929.6

383.2

- 58.8

859.8

345.2

- 59.8

Source: FCCC/SBI/2012/31, pp.14, 15 (16 November 2012)