Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Climate Change: Taking the challenge seriously

Back in 2017, then-opposition leader Jacinda Ardern declared climate change to be "my generation's nuclear-free moment". Since then the government she leads has passed the Zero Carbon Act, legislating a net-zero (except for methane) 2050 target and strengthening our interim 2030 target. But that target has been rated as "insufficient" compared to our fair share of emissions. We're simply a foot-dragger, whining and pleading to keep on polluting.

Meanwhile, Finland is showing us what we need to do:

Finland has passed arguably the world’s most ambitious climate target into law. It aims to be the first developed country to reach net zero, in 2035, and net negative – absorbing more CO2 than it emits – by 2040.

According to Net Zero Tracker, only South Sudan has a more ambitious net zero date than 2035 and, as a developing country, its 2030 target is highly dependent on international finance.

The target was set based on analysis by a group of independent economists from the Finnish climate change panel. They worked out what Finland’s fair share was of the 420 GT of carbon dioxide that the world can emit and still have a two-thirds chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C.

The panel based this fair share on Finland’s share of the global population, its ability to pay to reduce emissions and its historic responsiblity for causing climate change. It is believed to be the first target to have been set in this way.

(The target had been previously announced when the governing coalition formed in 2019, but now it has finally been legislated).

This is what taking climate change seriously looks like. This is what we would be doing if Ardern actually thought it was a "nuclear-free moment". It would mean the end of "business as usual" and massive changes to Aotearoa's economy - not just the decarbonisation of electricity supply we already seem to be on track for, but a massive drop in the dairy herd (the dirtiest, least-productive part of our economy), the end of the polluting tourism industry, the reforestation of much of the country, and a massive change in how we live in cities. Which sounds hugely disruptive, and it will be. But so is flooding Petone, South Dunedin, and central Wellington, while letting the whole east coast dry up and blow away - which is what we're already on track for. This sort of target is what we actually need to do to survive, and anything less is actively endangering us. And if the current government thinks survival is "too disruptive" (which they also seem to do with Covid), then we need a better one.