Friday, February 05, 2016

Climate change: Pure fiction

The Ministry for the Environment released three reports on the Emissions Trading Scheme today, including an evalation of its performance against short, medium and long-term outcomes. So how is it doing? Unsurprisingly, in the executive summary, MfE declares that everything is going great:

The evaluation found that the NZ ETS has been successful in assisting the Government to comply with international commitments and to meet national targets. The NZ ETS has resulted in an overachievement of New Zealand’s first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (CP1).

The reality in the body of the report is a little different. The key question for me is "has it reduced emissions". And the answer to that is "not really":
Research for this evaluation, and evidence from the interviews, found no sector other than forestry made emissions reductions over Kyoto Protocol Commitment Period One (2008–12)(CP1) that were directly caused by NZ ETS obligations. The 6NC identified that the waste sector was the only sector to have reduced emissions over CP1 other than forestry, but those reduced emissions were not due to the NZ ETS [they were due to Labour's direct regulation in 2004 - I/S].

Or, to put it another way, the ETS has not resulted in any reduction in pollution from the energy, industrial, or transport sectors. And that's not really surprising, given that the government has subsidised those sectors to continue polluting, while letting them use fraudulent Ukranian "credits" to meet their paltry obligations. As for forestry, the estimated impact of the reduction is 0.2% of our annual emissions, which is within the margin of error of business-as-usual.

So how does MfE turn this obvious failure into a success? Simple: because "reducing emissions" isn't the only metric they're reporting against. They're also assessing whether it assists in "meeting international climate obligations and maintaining international reputation" (whether it gives us something to write about in our UNFCCC reports, which it does), and whether it assists in "maintaining environmental integrity, equity and economic efficiency, at the least cost, in the long run" (for which they say outright that they have no measures, before proceeding for half a page about a 2008 report on possible impacts, before noting that post-2008 policy changes probably make that report useless). But even then, it seems to be a huge stretch to claim a failure, a success against a bullshit and purely bureaucratic target, and a "we have no fucking clue" equate to the ETS being "successful". As to their headline attribution of our Kyoto overachievement to the ETS, that seems to be pure fiction. And if policy is being "assessed" in this manner, and obvious failures being rebranded as "success", its no wonder that we're in such a mess.