The Zero Carbon Bill analysis – 6

Essay 6: Big emissions reduction bang for every buck

Reducing emissions is expensive. Every dollar spent on climate change mitigation is a dollar unavailable for health or housing or poverty; waste is unacceptable. New Zealand’s new Commission must recognise that where emissions occur is irrelevant and stick with the “global peaking” aim.

The Hon Barry Brill’s sixth essay (pdf, 79 KB) of his series on the Zero Carbon Bill (ZCB) reminds us of the main aim of the Paris Agreement:

to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.

So the main objective is global and not national.

In ratifying these Articles our Parliament signed up to a global strategy and New Zealand, as a small cog in this global wheel, remains committed to that strategy. While it remains responsible for its own tactical moves, it should never adopt tactics that are incompatible with the strategy.

Gimme that good ol’ YIMBY attitude

He advises the Select Committee to remove the rather startling clause 5W:

Emissions budgets must be met, as far as possible, through domestic emissions reductions and domestic removals.

Clause 5W displays a self-centred and irrational impulse to say: “Yes, in my back yard” (YIMBY) but by way of explanation says only:

The Bill aims to support New Zealand’s domestic transition to a low-emissions economy.

I agree with Barry that this is meaningless jargon and a distortion of the English language. It presumably refers to the reduction in energy and carbon intensity over the past decade. The most visible energy usage in NZ is probably the family car, whose average carbon intensity is declining by over 3% per year. If it merely continues on at this rate, the average new car will reach zero carbon intensity before 2050.

Emissions reduction battle is global

This improvement comes from technological advances by overseas manufacturers, where future improvements are likely to occur. This underscores the global nature of the transition to low emissions.

Barry asks:

If a billion dollars is budgeted for permanent afforestation in any period and the options are to reduce 8 MT of CO2 by planting in Fiji or 4 MT by planting in New Zealand, how can we rationally or morally opt for the latter? Our leaders must always remember that the aim is to accelerate global peaking.

The common aim is to reduce global emissions, so it has long been recognised that merely moving an industrial plant, or even a whole industrial sector, from one location to another gains nothing. “Global peaking” is not brought forward by forcing the commodity products currently supplied by NZ Aluminium Smelters or Methanex or NZ Steel to be instead supplied from some other country.

The same applies to food commodities, such as meat, dairy products, horticulture or fish. Except the Paris Agreement adds this additional factor:

The fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger.

NZ obsession with ‘world leadership’ retards global goals

The government pursued “world leadership” in banning future oil and gas exploration within our EEZ. But that decision was widely perceived to merely relocate future hydrocarbon production from an efficient location to less-efficient locations, which would defer the “global peaking” of emissions.

The government justified its decision by reference to the “domestic economic transition” phrase. This tortuous explanation cut little ice with the opposition and is unlikely to form part of any future multi-party consensus.

For 20 years the UK allowed its goods production to shift to China, sharply reducing UK emissions and allowing politicians to claim they’re “world leaders” in fighting climate change. But the global target has been set back, as the energy intensity of UK plants was way ahead of China’s. But such setbacks are the norm when form is preferred over substance.

Barry reiterates that we want the most cost-effective emissions reduction methods chosen and appeals for the new Commission to choose public yardsticks that help businesses and the public seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Finally, there should be an all-party understanding enshrined in the Bill that all national climate change mitigation activity should abide by a single guiding principle – achieving or exceeding our international obligations at the least possible cost.


Have you seen the Bill itself?

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

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Peter Fraser
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Peter Fraser

New Zealand was the first country in the world to franchise women. For some reason this has morphed into a belief that the country must lead the world in all matters e.g. nuclear free (ships included), taxing agricultural methane emissions and stopping all hydrocarbon exploration. Western nations did not decide to emancipate women because of New Zealand’s example. They took this action because of the Emily Pankhursts who forced their hands. Similarly to imagine the world is going to be guided by a tin pot country of 5 million people in the middle of the South Pacific on matters of GHG emissions indicates conceit and arrogance which know no bounds.

Brett Keane
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Brett Keane

PF: Pankhursts marxist agitators, like the Ghandis. Liberal men voted to win it, no one else, in both countries. In UK, used the brilliant strategy of creating enough Lib Lords to get it past. Pankhursts just a pain, that’s all. Brett Keane

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