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

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.


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)*


Excluding LULUCF**

Including LULUCF









New Zealand



+ 19.8



+ 59.5




+ 30.0



+ 13.7




+ 17.4



+ 46.4




– 15.4



– 16.8




– 0.7



– 1.0




+ 8.2



– 49.1




+ 2.2



+ 8.4




+ 10.4



+ 8.6





– 34.1



– 54.7




– 52.0



– 53.6




– 49.6



– 46.5




– 40.9



– 42.8




– 54.5


– 5.1

– 148.1




– 56.9



– 77.5




– 28.9



– 35.2




– 57.6



– 63.8




– 58.8



– 59.8

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

18 Comments Posted

  1. Nazurah – we can work to lower GHG emissions without sacrificing our agricultural exports. One obvious way is to cut down on our space heating energy usage by better insulation – one of the few areas where the National government is actually working on. We can increase the use of renewables for our electricity generation and decrease our fossil fuel usage there. We can decrease our net CO2 emissions by planting more forest and improving the health of our existing forests by tackling pests such as dear and possums. We can install more solar waterheating, particularly in new houses instead of automatically opting for gas water heating, a gas fire and gas hob.

    Yet I see little progress in most of these areas. Contact Energy and the SOEs are disbanding their geothermal teams. There are a number of wind farms consented but not under construction. Why? Because it is still cheaper for them to burn gas. And that means New Zealand will have to import more fossil fuels to make up for that gas usage.


  2. Nazurah… given the formatting I’d have to visit Farrar’s site to work out what part was a quote, and I ain’t gonna go there.

    Basically the problem here is that from a BAU standpoint ANY action that in ANY way impedes BAU is called “economic suicide”…. and the targets that have to be achieved to bring this under control are, because of the last 20 years of utter inactivity or actual promotion of additional emissions, are a lot steeper.

    It is… “INCONVENIENT”.

    Someone so reviled by the right, but he sure got the right word.

    This argument is about the relativity of our targets but our target is not relative to Great Britain… or China… those are “political” considerations… but the real target is relative to the actual CO2 emissions that might give us a shot at stabilizing the climate system.

    40% is – for us – not enough


    The target is around 2… we’re current at around 8 and rising. Better than others because we aren’t heavily populated and we have a lot of Hydro, but we have to do better, not worse. We SHOULD be doing better, not worse.


    The political-economic reality is that we can’t do it ourselves.

    That’s a true statement, the “tragedy of the commons” is not a problem solved by the actions of an individual, it takes collective action. We know that.

    At the same time, this is being managed by nations and nations collectively have roughly the same level of civilized discourse that is found on any schoolyard full of 7 year olds. Someone HAS to go first. Someone HAS to lead the way. No, it doesn’t HAVE to be us, but we can’t make “someone else” do it and it can’t wait any longer.

    The tragedy is not resolved by individual actions. Yet persuading humans to act to govern themselves to CONTROL themselves, is easier if one provides the example.

    The conflict is real and I’d be happy to see our emissions shrinking at ANY rate at present.

    The problem is that we have OTHER problems with the BAU regime. We have castrated every industry that isn’t a farm. We have outsourced our ability to build everything and import it all paid by farming. We can’t continue to grow that sector though… the land and water is already degraded, and an economic system based on monetary fraud says we HAVE to keep growing.

    The EU is driving its emissions down. Iceland – down. France – down.

    It isn’t impossible to push it down. It is impossible to push it down if you aren’t TRYING to push it down.

    We can do better.

    This government makes excuses while funding additional emissions out of the taxpayers pockets, and it bases its targets on technology that does not yet exist, to be funded and employed by the NEXT two governments, to make up for their lack of action. Basically “Wishful Thinking”.

  3. The fact that a 40% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 now seems impossibly out of reach is due to the lack of action from both National/Act and Labour over the last 2 decades since it was internationally recognised that AGW could become a major problem, along with peak oil. Labour achieved little. National and Act between them destroyed most of what Labour had achieved and have promoted policies that have had the effect of increasing CO2 emissions, and leaving us wide open to another oil shock.

    Had action been taken earlier, we would be looking at a CO2 reduction rate of not much more than 1% per year. Instead we would need 10% per year (of the 1990 emission level) to achieve that 60% target.


  4. This site has no association, affiliation, identification or ramifications for the Salvation Army. A seriously confused referent in an otherwise almost sensible query. I’ll have a look at the actual question asked after work.

  5. Just a question… Does the poomotirn of a cause on this website indicate that cause is sanctioned by The Salvation Army?If so, have we done any serious research on the ludicrous push to reduce our emissions by 40% by 2010. (Which in itself is misleading as the actual is a 50% drop from current levels) I quote David Farrar:The UK government has just announced an ambitious plan to meet its 34% by 2020 climate change target. The details look like nothing less than a green revolution:Now you may look at this and think hey the UK is going for a 34% by 2020 target, so why not have NZ go for a 40% by 2020 target.But here is the key difference. This is about how much below 1990 levels you can get. Now as of 2007 NZ was around 20% to 25% above 1990 levels. So in fact we would be having to go from 120% of 1990 to 60% of 1990 in other words cut our emissions in half in just a decade. It simply can not be done without shooting a hell of a lot of cows.The UK in 2006 was already 20% below its 1990 level. So the UK has to just go from 80% to 66% (a 14% reduction on 1990 levels), while NZ would have to go from 120% to 60% (a 60% reduction on 1990 levels).This is why I call a 40% target by 2002 madness. It ignores where we are at today. It would lead to a huge number of jobs destroyed, and could well lead to increased emissions from other countries as they would take up our drop in agricultural production.Can you please advise which research body TSA used or is this just a nice sounding bandwagon to get on (I agree it would be great if it were achievable without committing economic suicide but…)

  6. Robyn, if you’re after good answers, you could try asking bjchip. He may not see himself as a ‘boffin’.
    Short of that, from wiki, via google “A review of published studies indicates that annual volcanic emissions of carbon dioxide,… are only the equivalent of 3 to 5 days of human caused output…counteracting the uptake by sedimentary rocks and other geological carbon dioxide sinks.”
    ” Eruptions large enough to affect climate occur on average several times per century, and cause cooling (by partially blocking the transmission of solar radiation to the Earth’s surface) for a period of a few years.”

  7. Man made climate change is a bit like a court case ……. with our planet as the judge.

    The deniers, as lead and represented by the National government believe that money and how much of it they can personally accumulate should be the judge of any activity.

    Exploitation of any and everything ….. money before people …..

    The National party is a grubby example of how a political party looks and operates if lead by greedy millionaires

  8. To all the boffins out there…can the emissions from active volcanoes be measured and to what degree might they effect “climate change”?
    I assume there is dubious and harmful matter that should be of concern.
    Man must do his bit, certainly, but there will be some things that we will never be able to control.

    This is a serious question, incidentally, so any serious ( not snide ) reply would be interesting.

  9. Lessee – What are we looking at. The Daily Mail, which is comparable to Fox news except that it has a Pom accent.

    A report from BEFORE the IPCC report was released… and the IPCC report didn’t ignore anything at all.

    Also, despite your assertion, all the actual claims that the article says were seen were from “governments”, not a single scientist EVEN according to the Mail. Nor was anything referenced, quoted, or brought into context.

    In short this is a story that is, in the best possible tradition of the Mail, woven from whole cloth. I don’t doubt that some governments WERE uncomfortable with the report as it is, but it is what it is and it is nothing like you are imagining or would imagine, having read that article. The IPCC report is the best science we can get… for the past 5 years… it doesn’t cover this one.

    Now we know more again… for we’ve developed better means to estimate the areas not previously measured at the surface, removing the Hadcrut bias.


    … and this looks like a scorcher of a year too.


  10. There are some things we know really well.

    1. The pressure at the center of the storm was exceptionally low. Joan was 905, Haiyan was 895.

    2. Some of the instruments one would expect to measure this storm (the doppler radar in particular), were destroyed by it instead.

    3. Everyone BUT (to the best of my ability to determine) a single meteorologist in the Philippines, has come up with something like 190 or 195 for the windspeed. Not just Masters but also NASA. It isn’t unlikely.

    4. The Wall Street Journal has an agenda too.


    I don’t think it is really like a court case. WE aren’t looking for proof of something, just the most accurate possible science. We already know the temperature is rising. We already know the ocean is rising. We already know we are dumping too much CO2. Some models tell us that this is to be expected, it didn’t happen in the Atlantic, it DID happen in the South Pacific. What does that mean?

  11. I guess that it is just like a court case with two sets of expert witnesses then. On the one hand this, on the other hand that.
    At the moment all we can really say is that this was a very strong cyclone. We may be able to qualify the real intensity as more infomation comes to hand.

  12. The minister neglects to mention that because of his policies our ETS is failing. We allow unrestricted imports of hot air credits, we give agriculture (which is responsible for 50% of our national emissions) a free ride, and the government cannot resist giving away free credits in ways that violate the principle of carbon trading (irresistible presumably because giving away free credits is fiscally neutral in the short term). The result of these policies is a domestic credit price that provides no incentive for NZers to change behaviours.

    The minister should resign. He is failing in his duty.

  13. There maybe a few MPs in the Govt. that say they are concerned about global emissions & climate change.. but ACTION speaks louder than words !

    More mining & oil drilling is hardly action to reduce our emissions. I frankly believe that a majority of the KEY-party are climate change deniers & possibly members of the ‘flat-earth society’.. probably a bunch of staunch monarchists too ! (living in the 19th century, in THEIR minds)… “oh dear !!”

    kia ora

  14. Key’s National govt only feels the need to comply with so called “international obligations” such as fighting America’s war, Not with other moral obligations which will benefit small people domestically and worldwide, i.e. emission reduction is irrelevant to National’s money grabbing agendas.
    All they care about is what else can we sell fast? before the end of our term…

  15. Why, in your first paragraph do you repeat a falsity?
    The “Global storm”, as you refer to it, is NOT the “strongest on record to make landfall”. It is not even the strongest to hit the Phillipines.
    This storm is apparently the seventh strongest to come ashore in the Phillipines. The strongest was typhoon Joan, in 1970. It had centre winds of 171mph and gusts of 193mph. Haiyan was a mere stripling by comparison with centre winds of 147mph and gusts to 171mph when it reached land.
    I would refer you to http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/11/14/is-typhoon-haiyan-the-strongest-storm-ever/

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