Friday, February 05, 2016

Climate change: "Within the rules"

One of the core entries in New Zealand's political lexicon is "within the rules". Its politician-speak for "morally indefensible".

The Ministry for the Environment is now using that phrase to describe the way we paid our Kyoto obligations with outright fraudulent Ukranian "emissions reductions".

Following the release of the government's Kyoto CP1 "true-up" report (which revealed the use of these fraudulent credits), I submitted an OIA request for the Ministry for the Environment's advice on the composition of our Kyoto payment. The response claims that "New Zealand has met its Kyoto Protocol commitments within the rules, and in good faith". But the advice itself makes it clear that a deliberate decision was made to use the dodgy units - effectively laundering them - so as to maximise the number of units that could be carried over, and minimise the effort required to reduce emissions in future:

We recommend that you retain only units that can be carried over. If we find that New Zealand cannot carry any Kyoto Protocol units over into CP2, a domestic substitute would be needed to incorporate them in accounting for New Zealand's 2013-20 target.

This approach will facilitate the use of the Kyoto Protocol framework of rules in accounting for New Zealand's 2013-20 target, by ensuring that New Zealand's use of surplus units to comply with the target will be in line with Protocol rules.

This was done in clear knowledge that the units were environmentally worthless, as a later section on "Issues of credibility for imported units" makes clear:
Most of the ERUs now in New Zealand are from Ukraine, and come from projects that Ukraine registered and approved just in time for the units to be issued in 2012-13. The abatement claimed for these projects (in CP1) was therefore almost entirely retrospective. No international review was required. This will affect perceptions of environmental integrity.

And a Treasury proposal to retain some of these units was rejected on the basis of that low environmental integrity and because of
The perception that New Zealand's proposed contribution in the new agreement is devalued up-front by our proposing to offset it using carried-over CP1 project units.

So, instead they're proposing to offset it using carried over CP1 AAU - which we hav eonly because we used those dodgy, environmentally unacceptable Ukranian units to pay our CP1 obligation. Effectively, we've just laundered those "credits", without changing our actual position in the slightest.

As MfE notes, this is "within the rules". But it is neither credible nor moral. Kindof like our climate change policy as a whole.