Monday, January 10, 2022

Climate Change: A decision with no integrity

Back in November, the government introduced a new, "more ambitious" 2030 climate change target, which turned out to not be very ambitious at all. Quite apart from the funny accounting, the target will be met primarily through "international mitigation" (rather than, say, cuts to agricultural emissions). back in November, the Herald gave the commonly accepted version of this: "New Zealand paying money to other countries to reduce their emissions and counting those reductions as our own". But as we may recall from Kyoto, that meant fraud. So what does the government think it means now? Unfortunately, the actual details are hidden in another, unreleased Cabinet paper (so transparent!). But what Shaw says in the NDC paper is not good:

My proposed approach to accessing offshore mitigation is outlined in the accompanying paper Progressing international cooperation to reduce emissions and complement domestic action. This sets out a proposal for investment in offshore mitigation that prioritises sustainable development outcomes and resilience in the Asia-Pacific region.


This will require work to identify and develop options and partners for this cooperation. We can leverage New Zealand’s experience and networks for example, New Zealand’s support for the Global Research Alliance to identify options for reducing developing countries’ agricultural emissions and carbon accounting assistance provided to developing countries to meet the REDD+ qualifying criteria, to help identify viable options for high integrity forestry projects.

[Emphasis added]

What is "REDD+"? The paper helpfully defines it in a footnote: "REDD+ refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest degradation in developing countries, also known as avoided deforestation". Its the sort of "credit" businesses buy the greenwash their reputations. As for their environmental integrity, a (heavily redacted - again, much transparency, so open) briefing on feasibility considerations of a more ambitious NDC has this to say:

Our understanding is that no country is using REDD+ as a source of mitigation under Article 6 [of the Paris agreement]. REDD+ use for Article 6 is a contentious issue due to challenges around environmental integrity including avoiding double counting and ensuring additionality.
...which is basicly policy-speak for "this is bullshit, and other countries won't accept it". How bullshit? Avoided deforestation credits used in Australia are considered "hot air", with 20% of them "junk". The avoided deforestation schemes used by airlines are "flawed" and "not fit for purpose". California's scheme lets people claim "credits" for land that was never going to be logged. And so on. Discouraging deforestation is great, but making it a centrepiece of our climate strategy is a mistake on a similar level to allowing international credits into the ETS in the first place: a decision with no integrity, and an invitation to fraud.