Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Climate Change: A warning shot

Lawyers for Climate Action has fired a warning shot at the Climate Change Commission, alleging that its carbon budget advice is unlawful:

In its submission to the commission’s draft advice on meeting the country’s role in curbing global warming, the lawyers said its methods make future carbon “budgets” look more ambitious than they are.

“Aotearoa’s international reputation and brand will be at risk if we fail to adopt budgets and policies consistent with doing our fair share to keep global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Jenny Cooper QC, LCANZI’s president.

The lawyers group said it believed the country's emissions over the decade should be set at 400 million tonnes, far lower than the 628 million tonne level recommended by the commission in its draft advice released in late January.

“This is a fundamental error that must be fixed before the advice is finalised – failing this, the advice will be unlawful, in our opinion,” said Cooper.

There are two core problems: firstly, the Commission is using ETS accounting (which uses "averaging" to hide commercial forestry emissions) rather than the GHGI accounting used in our ETS inventory and by which our performance will be judged internationally. The problem here is that the law requires they use "net accounting emissions" which are defined as those reported in the inventory. That's not just illegal - it also hides that their (cooked books) budgets will in fact see our emissions continue to increase in 2030, rather than decreasing as required.

Secondly, when calculating what our new Paris target should be, the Commission makes a straight-out mathematical error, using a gross emissions figure as its baseline, when the IPCC expresses the required reductions as a proportion of net emissions. The Commission attempts to justify this because of the Kyoto gross-net accounting scam, but the IPCC was very clear that that's not what they were talking about (and they would have demanded higher reductions from a gross baseline).

Overall, it looks like the Commission, whether deliberately or because it is taking its numbers from MfE, is simply perpetuating Aotearoa's long-term uber-policy of trying to "solve" climate change by accounting scams, rather than actually reducing emissions. But that's not what the public was promised, and (more importantly) its not what the law requires. Sadly, this view that its all just a matter of finding a "better" way of measuring, which hides our true emissions, is well-entrenched in the government. So, we can expect the budgets that eventually emerge from this process to go to court, and given the stakes, all the way to the Supreme Court - just as it did in the UK.