Thursday, February 10, 2011

Climate change: The Kyoto scam writ large

The Greens have a press release this morning pointing out that the government's much-vaunted "50% by 2050" emissions reduction target - the one they've legally committed to fail to meet - actually means an increase in net emissions from 1990 levels:

“It’s just an accounting trick. The Government’s actual target is for our net greenhouse gas emissions to increase slightly from 1990 to 2050.

New Zealand’s net emissions in 1990 were 29 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (CO2e). Dr Norman said that National’s net emissions target for 2050 was 30 million tonnes CO2e.

“They try to pretend that this is a reduction by comparing the gross figure in 1990 with the net figure in 2050.”

This is all true. The figures are all there in the latest inventory. But its also entirely consistent with the international norms. While the Kyoto Protocol requires us to reduce our average annual 2008 - 2012 emissions to 1990 levels, that's its using net 2008 - 2012 emissions vs gross 1990 emissions (oh, and better yet - gross 1990 emissions as we computed them in 2006. If you can "refine" your measurement of emissions in a way which lowers them in 1990 and now, you get to benefit from the reduction while the baseline remains fixed. MAF has an active program of trying to find such recalculation benefits so as to juke the stats). So when the Greens lament that
“If the rest of the world takes this disingenuous approach to reducing carbon emissions, we have no chance of averting dangerous climate change.
They already are. Everyone is comparing apples and oranges in this way. And it means that those "bold" emissions reduction targets need to be subject to intense scrutiny to ensure that they actually involve reducing emissions.

(Another favourite trick: moving the baseline from 1990 to, say, 2000 - giving the impression of a cut, while actually giving the country a decade of free pollution and no real progress at all).

Such scams may make the government's books look good. They may fool people into thinking government is acting, rather than just handing out subsidies to polluters. But you can't fool the planet. Carbon is carbon, and if we keep polluting, its going to catch up with us. But John Key would no doubt be "relaxed" about that, because it'll happen on some other government's watch.