Friday, April 24, 2020

Climate Change: A timely review

Back in 2015, the then-National government set a new climate change target of "30% by 2030". While it alliterates nicely, the target isn't as good as it sounds: the cuts are measured against a 2005 baseline - a peak year - and it uses the gross-net accounting scam, comparing apples and oranges and effectively stealing a huge amount of progress by a shitty accounting trick. To see how shoddy the target is, you only have to look at MfE's interactive emissions tracker: 2005 gross emissions were 81.27 million tons, and 2018 net emissions were 55.47 million tons. Some quick work with a calculator shows that we've already met it, not due to any serious emissions reduction, but because of forests planted long ago and some dodgy accounting.

This makes a mockery of the target setting process. So its good news then that Climate Change Minister James Shaw has asked the Independent Climate Change Commission to review the target and see if it can come up with one more consistent with our new statutory goal of net-zero (non-agricultural methane) emissions by 2050. The most obvious fix is simply to shift to net-net accounting, comparing like with like. To hit our target, we need to cut net non-agricultural methane emissions by roughly a third each decade from now to 2050 (plus whatever agriculture is expected to do). In 2005, net non-agricultural methane emissions were a shade over 25.8 million tons. On that basis, our emissions have actually increased slightly, to 25.9 million tons. And to follow a linear path, we need to get them down to 17.1 million tons by 2030 (agriculture will meanwhile be statutorily required to cut its methane emissions by 10% from 2017 levels). That's a pretty significant decrease - almost 9 million tons. But if you don't like that number, you can blame Helen Clark and John Key for pissing around for twenty years and making it that much harder on us now.