Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Climate Change: Not keeping their promises

One of the big steps forward in climate change policy was when cabinet started demanding climate change assessments of policy, so when they built that road or changed energy or farm policy, they'd know what they were doing and be able to make an informed decision (and if not, one that could be legally challenged). So are they keeping to this promise? Of course not:

Cabinet granted $390 million to support more than 8,800 international flights, without getting an assessment of how much the policy would heat the climate.


A Cabinet circular says a CIPA disclosure is required for proposals likely to create at least 0.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) within the first ten years – a threshold one expert on aviation’s climate impact said was likely to have been crossed in this case.

Asked why a CIPA wasn’t done, Woods responded with an emailed statement saying Covid-19 had pushed the number of weekly flights down by three-quarters from pre-pandemic levels, that air freight was being carried more efficiently now than it was pre-Covid (because with few passengers, airlines can carry the same amount of products on fewer flights), and that over the last 18 months, airlines had largely retired their older, less efficient aircraft.

When Stuff suggested to a spokesperson for Wood that the intention of a CIPA was to compare the climate impact of a policy with the real-world situation if the policy isn’t adopted (not to compare the impact of a policy with the pre-pandemic situation), the spokesperson re-iterated that a CIPA was not needed because aviation emissions were down on pre-pandemic conditions.

The decision to keep planes flying to Aotearoa during the pandemic is probably a good one. Those planes carry kiwis home and help deliver vaccines and other vital supplies after all. But the excuse for not carrying out a climate change assessment is particularly weak, and smacks of either an agency which just doesn't get it, or a Minister wanting to avoid the inevitable bad headline over how many millions of tons of pollution he has enabled. And the delivery of that excuse is just the usual dishonest spin. This falls well below the standard of governance we should expect on this issue.