Saturday, April 21, 2007

Climate change: the real vanguard

Back in October, Helen Clark proposed putting New Zealand "in the vanguard" of the fight against climate change, by setting a long-term goal of carbon neutrality. It's a great objective, but still to be backed by real policy which lays out a pathway for achieving it (expect something in a couple of months). Meanwhile, another country has just declared that they will be going carbon neutral: Norway:

"By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced drastically. Rich countries should become carbon neutral. This does not mean no emissions from the countries in question. But it does mean that each tonne of greenhouse gases emitted is to be offset by an equivalent reduction elsewhere. This adds up to zero emissions," [Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg] said.

"Norway will be at the forefront of international climate effort. I propose that in the period up to 2050 Norway will undertake to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 100% of our own emissions." He said the government would "sharpen" measures to meet its existing obligations under the Kyoto protocol by 10% in the period up to 2012, and had agreed to a 30% cut in emissions by 2030.

Unlike Clark, Norway's Prime Minister has set a clear timetable: carbon neutrality by 2050. And unlike New Zealand, Norway has serious policies already in place to limit domestic emissions. They've had a carbon tax since 1991, which has driven significant improvements in energy efficiency; greenhouse gas emissions are subject to planning laws (we removed them from ours); and they have actively encouraged forest sequestration (rather than leaving it to the market). They will still be dependant on purchasing offsets on the international market to achieve neutrality, but it is backed by a solid policy base which is pushing their economy in the right direction. Compared with New Zealand's seventeen years of inaction on climate change and utter lack of policy over that period, and its not difficult to see who the real vanguard is.


Interestingly, Norway are running big tourism adverts here in London showing some amazing scenery with a slogan something along the lines of 'Just as beautiful but closer than New Zealand...'

Posted by Anonymous : 4/21/2007 09:53:00 PM

To be frank I find it somewhat embarrassing that NZ has been so tardy in actually doing anything significant to help address climate change over the last 17 years and then we come out and set such a lofty goal of carbon neutrality. On the other hand at least the PM is setting the scene to try and do something - the goal post is in the right direction! Which is better than the moving feast that National constantly have. Sad to say, but when I was reading the back issues of the climate change cabinet papers written in 2001/2002 it seemed evident that we haven't even gone at a snail's pace since 2001. You could probably dust off a few of those Cabinet papers and submit them in 2007 without anyone even blinking an eye-lid. Although you might want an extra reccomendation about actually doing something this time!

Posted by Anonymous : 4/22/2007 04:35:00 PM

Anon: I've read those cabinet papers in depth, as well as OIAd ones which aren't on the website, and again at the time they were fairly clearly moving in the right direction. The policy itself was based on bad data (we had massively overestimated out 1990 baseline, as well as forest plantings, and so had a very rosy picture of where we would stand), but the core of it - the carbon tax - was quite robust. Its just a shame the government backed itself into a corner with stupid promises over not introducing a carbon tax until after the 2002 election (when it no longer had a majority to do so).

I think there's a greater awareness now of the need to move on agriculture, to actually do something about forestry rather han leaving it all to the market, and a greater willingness to consider regulatory solutions rather than relying on a single all-encompassing economic instrument. All of which bodes well for the future. Though I'm still worried that once again we'll design a good policy and then fail completely to implement it - leaving us totally exposed in CP1.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/22/2007 05:03:00 PM

Yeah I think the scene has changed somewhat. But you never know what might happen if Labour starts losing more ground on the National Party and officials start getting overly excited at the power they could wield through some "single all-encompassing economic instrument". I'm sure there are some officials frothing at the mouth just thinking about the prospect of such a policy. And yes maybe there is a bit of room for consideration of regulatory-type measures as well (I hope so) but I'm also hoping that they engage on other approaches - like credible and robust statistics, information and research programmes which underpin some real work in technology innovation and diffusion amongst the primary sectors. The Govt. needs to be prepared to put some actual money into helping educate and innovate to get some real reductions of emissions in the ag and forestry sectors and make NZ a world leader here. I think Pillar 3 and 4 of the SLM and Climate Change Consultation was a bit weak. But looking back on the 2001 Cabinet paper on buisiness opportunities it was also weak - so no surprises there. I don't think the Gov. can just introduce a single all-encompassing economic instrument to price carbon and that will be the end of the story. Sadly (or gladly) we need those crazed harpies in the forestry and Ag sectors to keep the country afloat so they will need a lot more incentives and help to get up to speed to be able to cope in the brave new world of carbon awareness and all the consumer driven demands that that will create for a small little exporting-nation in the middle of nowhere.

Posted by piwakawaka : 4/22/2007 07:38:00 PM

It's a pity that these measures being done in Europe mean that the Amazon rainforest and other areas are more under threat of being wiped out.

With the demand for bio-fuels increases in Europe to meet the targets set by politicans the forest is being wiped out and plantations put into to supply the demand.

Good one for the Greens in Europe in getting rid of the rainforest and animal diversity all in an attempt to lower there carbon emissions.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/23/2007 12:57:00 PM

How does Norway account for the 2.5mbpd of oil production from its fields?


Posted by Anonymous : 4/23/2007 03:05:00 PM

Insider: They don't; instead its accounted for by the people who burn it.

Remember, Kyoto isn't based around a top-down conceptual framework of consumption or production; it's based around what's easy to measure. And we're probably locked into that for some time to come.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/23/2007 03:18:00 PM

Norway almost certainly only counts what it burns itself. All the Kyoto stuff is based on that, because most things can be used in multiple ways. So Norway pays for the extraction costs and the shipping costs, and any refining it does, but not the cost of whatever the final user does (because turning oil into plastic, say, emits less CO2 than burning it).

More locally, coal that's shipped to China counts against their Kyoto "obligations", and not against ours. If you counted it against ours it'd be pretty horrid for us, and give the Chinese no incentive to improve things at their end (they could make methane from the coal instead of CO2, say).

Posted by Moz : 4/23/2007 03:21:00 PM

Is not digging up oil is fabulously easy to measure - far more so than CO2 output? it jsut becomes a matter of counting ships or litres through a pipe as opposed to some sort of convoluted guess.

> because most things can be used in multiple ways.

fundimentally if you take it out of a excellent long term storage zone and put it ANYWHERE else you are creating a polution liability that someone else is inevitably going to realize.

> incentive

If you counted digging up coal against ours kyoto numbers - in the long run we would stop digging it up because it would no longer be feasibile.

We would still need environmental legislation to prevent - for example people pouring oil into the ocean or burning fuel to methane as opposed to CO2, of course, but that doesn't have to be the main tool.


Posted by Anonymous : 4/23/2007 05:42:00 PM

GNZ, Kyoto isn't concerned with pollution liability in that sense, it is specifically and only about global warming. So pouring oil into the ocean only counts for Kyoto if you set it on fire or something eats it once it's there. More usualy behavior like turning oil into non-biodegradable toxic waste in landfill is "good", but incinerating toxic waste is "bad".

But of course, Kyoto is not the alpha and the omega of pollution measurement, for which I'm very grateful. It's just that a lot of Kyoto nonsense is based on exactly what I'm talking about - turning Kyoto measured problems into waste and burying them in the hope that we never see them again. Don't laugh, "clean coal" is big business.

Posted by Moz : 4/23/2007 05:56:00 PM