The Zero Carbon Bill analysis – 2

Essay 2: 2050, costs vs benefits

The second (pdf, 267 KB) of these eleven essays by the Hon Barry Brill on the Zero Carbon Bill has a look at what it will cost us and what we will get in return. Barry asks the fundamental question:

Is such a near-term target worth the price?

The sacrifices in eliminating carbon emissions by 2050 will be far more painful than some undetectable heat, and far off, as it’s 30 years away. Admittedly this is a long time for government planning—usually tuned to about five years at a time—but it’s a savagely short time to create total disruption in our commercial, industrial, agricultural and other spheres—and then attempt to smooth it over.

Adding to the Bill’s faults that Barry set out in his first essay (The Zero Carbon Bill), its 160-page Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) doesn’t include a cost-benefit study. That’s a serious oversight, considering government modelling estimates economic losses will mean we pay a massive $300 billion over 30 years.

That will cost each household about $200,000—over $6,600 per year and about $130 per week for each household. Notice we no longer call them families, yet families haven’t disappeared.

Hammer blow on the poor

This must be opposed. Reasonable people would not consider it, so the Coalition shouldn’t be entertaining it. This huge cost alone means the Zero Carbon Bill does not deserve a second reading.

Barry notes considerable differences in carbon prices between government modelling and under the ETS:

Our current gross emissions are about 28 metric tonnes per household, so the modelled price might be slightly over $1,000 for each tonne reduced. Is that reasonable value for money? Why do no ETS themes reflect such a high cost? How can airlines and others “offset” a tonne of CO2 at a fraction of that price? Are more cost-effective methods available?

On Air NZ’s website, you can “offset” the carbon emissions of a flight from, say, Auckland to Wellington for between about $40 and $130 per tonne of carbon dioxide, depending on the plan you choose. They give your money to what they call “carbon offset projects” in third-world countries—what we usually call “helping the poor,” only this has a connection to climate change.

But the government plans to charge us up to 2500% more for our emissions than Air NZ charges passengers for theirs—and that’s the least of it.

The NZIER economic modelling suggests that aiming for zero carbon emissions by 2050 will cause GDP to plummet by between 10% and 22% by then—which former Reserve Bank chief economist Michael Reddell describes as “breathtaking“.

Reddell also says:

We will give up – well, actually, take from New Zealanders – up to a quarter of what would have been their 2050 incomes, and in doing so we will know those losses will be concentrated disproportionately on people at the bottom… But it is hard to see what is in it for New Zealanders – lagging badly behind other advanced countries on productivity anyway, with constant complaints about child (and other) poverty) – to just happily sign in to such a huge economic sacrifice? And for what?

It’s clear we’d get nothing. Later he says:

I would be surprised if ever before in history a democratic government has consulted on proposals to reduce the material well-being of its own people by up to 25 per cent.
To which I would add: for exactly nothing in return.

MfE consultation a ‘sham’

Tailrisk Economics (pdf, 1.1 MB) dares to conclude that the Ministry’s consultation process was a “sham”. Also:

… the modelling was manipulated and deficient (hiding many negative economic impacts), and that the world is unlikely to follow us to a 2050 zero carbon target.


The RIS itself cannot find any quantifiable benefits in achieving net zero emissions, not even in the surface temperature. The MfE lied to us in implying that NZ would have less future warming. This was unwarranted, since local temperatures have nothing to do with our emissions. Selecting 2050 is purely political. Its declared aim is “leadership at home and abroad” and that New Zealand be seen to be doing our fair share.

Barry concludes by observing the RIS gives no evidence that 2050 is the best target year.

Have you seen the Bill itself?

Read it online or download it (pdf, 312 KB).

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I took my submissions to Hamilton to the select committee on the Zero Carbon Bill and was given 5 minutes to put forward the main points ,which was all that I had time for . As is stated here the consultation process is a sham. When it is quoted nearly every day that 48% of New Zealand’s emission profile comes from biogenic methane from farmed livestock how do we counter that. I quoted the latest UN report on Land and Food Security that states that countries should endeavor to restrict GHG emissions in a way that does not THREATEN food production . I looked the three Labour list MPs in to their eyes . who comprised the select committee and stated that livestock do not add one atom of carbon as CO2 or methane to the atmosphere . Methane from livestock is cyclic and is emitted as livestock are digesting pasture and crops that has all absorbed CO2 ,Within 8 years all the methane is broken down into CO2 and H2O. not an atom added . Biogenic methane emissions should never have included in any countries emission profile. An old joke comes to… Read more »

Brigitte Allain

The poor will suffer worst from climate change. For example they tend to live in areas more susceptible to flooding, have fewer resources to deal with hotter weather, pay for increases in food prices etc.

Brill ought to read the NZ Herald and Dominion Post; both are running a series of climate change that explains what is happening.

NZ isn’t leading the way but has pledged to do its share, small as that may be.

Brigitte Allain

“The Herald and Dominion Post know nothing of climate science”

Neither do you, Richard Treadgold, but the writers have the good sense to consult the experts, whereas you won’t listen to them. You think you know better.

Which is why Professor Renwick and others don’t bother to respond to your “questions”. They know they are wasting their time.


Brigitte Allain, These climate scare stories are being run in all News Papers in New Zealand . The latest in our paper today is absolute bollocks . Now I know that is very strong language but the article it stated as a fact that the sea level will rise 30 centimeters in the next 30 years . The present sea level rise around the New Zealand coast is 1.5 millimeters a year which will be 4.5 centimeters in the next 30 years not 30cm. Willem de Lange an earth scientist at Waikato University and the best sea level scientist in New Zealand will vouch for these figures ,1.5 millimeters per year and no sign of acceleration. Most of these so called news items are straight out propaganda which has ramped up in the last two months and is greatly exaggerating any perceived problems . You have to look past the hype and you will find that these columnists are lying about many so called problems , 1 Polar Bears ,They are increasing in numbers and are healthy . 2 Sea levels are not accelerating. 1.5 mm per year is what they have been… Read more »

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