The Local Government and Environment Committee is due to report back today on National's Environmental Reporting Bill. One of the key themes of submissions on the bill was that no-one trusts the Minister to decide the topic of the reports. And with good reason. Because Statistics New Zealand announced their Ministerially-approved national environmental reporting topics today, and they're a complete disaster.
The list of topics is here. And you don't have to look very far to find some obvious gaps.
- Emissions of key air pollutants will be tracked for home heating and transport, but not industry or farming;
- Global greenhouse gas emissions are included, but not national ones. Meanwhile there's a strong focus on natural drivers of climatic variation such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation and on temperature, rainfall and sunshine-hours time-series.
- Their definition of "extreme weather events" will focus not on the droughts, fires and floods highlighted by the IPCC, but on lightning strike density.
- The impact of climate change will be measured by milk production, the economic performance of the agricultural sector, and by ski-field operating days. The health effects will be measured by melanoma statistics rather than heatstroke deaths.
The Minister for the Environment and Minister of Statistics approved the final list of topics in September 2014.Submitters on the Environmental Reporting Bill were entirely right to be concerned. And if this is what National means by "environmental reporting", we're better off without it.