Friday, August 16, 2013

Climate change: Promising less than we've already achieved

The government has finally set its emissions reduction target, promising a 5% cut by 2020:

"In deciding this target, the Government has carefully balanced the cost to New Zealand households and businesses against taking ambitious action to tackle climate change," Groser said.

It is unconditional but weaker than the conditional reduction of 10 to 20 per cent the Government has previously tabled in international negotiations.

Groser said he was confident the target could be met without any changes to settings of the domestic emissions trading scheme.

[Emphasis added]

So, the government explicitly sees this as a "do-nothing" target, then - one designed to give the appearance we're making a commitment, but one where the government doesn't expect it to be any effort at all. but looking at the 2011 Inventory Report again, its actually promising less than what we've already achieved - 2011 net emissions were down 6% from 1990 (thanks to economic collapse and an end to deforestation).

I expect this to be treated with the scorn and contempt it deserves by the international community. That gurgling sound you can hear is our mana-based foreign policy going down the toilet.

I'm also less sanguine than Groser that merely keeping emissions at the same level they are now will require no changes to the ETS. Maybe he's forgotten, but that broken system has production-based pollution subsidies, handing out more credits to polluters the more filth they spew. This doesn't set an incentive for reductions, and it doesn't set an incentive to cap growth. If we want even to merely limit emissions to where they are now, we will need to eliminate those subsidies - otherwise we're going to see an explosion of pollution when the recession finally ends.