Posts Tagged Climate politics

TDB Today: Reasons not to be cheerful, Part #272b Gareth Renowden Oct 22

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In my post at The Daily Blog this week I take inspiration from the great Ian Dury, and reflect on the disconnect between political ambition and the state of the climate system as it continues to warm. It will be my last post at TDB for a while – for definitions of “a while” that include the time to write a book, refocus on Hot Topic, prepare the farm for the drought I fear we’re heading towards, and (with luck) harvest lots of truffles and make some damn fine wine…

Carbon News 20/10/14: Chile’s carbon tax, soil SOS and more pressure on dirty investments Gareth Renowden Oct 20

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Chile’s new tax could open carbon doors for NZ

Chile’s new carbon tax potentially offers New Zealand an opportunity to offset some of its own agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, says economist Dr Suzi Kerr. The $US5-a-tonne carbon tax slipped into Chilean law last month as part of a package of tax reforms.

Soils SOS as cities gobble up our best growing land

New Zealand is allowing its elite soils to be eaten up by cities — despite signing up to a new global campaign to protect valuable agricultural land. New Zealand launched its membership of the 17-country Pacific Soil Partnership on Wednesday – the same day that the Government announced it would push ahead with plans to ease planning rules to allow our cities to spread.

Rod Oram: Why i’m getting out of fossil fuels

Business commentator Rod Oram is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to sustainable investment. Like the Rockefellers in the United States, Oram has ditched his fossil fuel investments.

Kiwi savers want investments to do clean work

A survey of New Zealanders has revealed that Kiwis care deeply about how their KiwiSaver funds are being invested and that they want more sustainable KiwiSaver options.

Fracking boom could mean up to 12% more carbon emissions

The consistent message from those who would seek to exploit shale gas is that it has three distinct advantages over existing forms of fossil fuel energy: it is cheap, it has a lower influence on global warming, and it reduces the reliance in foreign imports.

Angry city draws a line in the (fracking) sand

A college town in southern Minnesota is taking action against the frac-sand industry that’s booming amid America’s drilling revolution.

Greenpeace v Shell via Lego: the building blocks of a successful campaign

October 9, 2014 was a big day in eco-activism: Lego announced that it would not renew a product-placement deal with Shell, following concerted pressure from Greenpeace as part of a campaign to ban Arctic oil exploration by attacking firms associated with such activities.

A new agricultural economy is knocking on the door

Europe should be pushing for the rapid expansion of its network of biorefineries, to produce European food, fuel and feed, as well as a range of other high-value products that replace fossil fuels, writes Robert Wright, Secretary-General of the European Renewable Ethanol Association:

Fish-catching technique nets innovation award

A technique allowing wild fish to be landed live — and released if necessary — has won the supreme title in the New Zealand Innovators’ Awards.

Problem seaweed could provide biofuel solution

It has often been used as a farmland fertiliser, and in some communities it is eaten as a vegetable, but now researchers believe that seaweed could power our cars and heat our homes.

Solar chief: there’s no cost to solar energy, only savings

SolarCity Corp, the United States’ largest residential solar service provider, has a history of pushing the envelope.

Outlook palls for fossil fuel investment

Warnings within the world of high finance are coming thick and fast that the increasingly urgent need to combat climate change means investors could lose heavily by sinking funds into coal, oil and gas.

On the web: global shipping emissions set to soar unchecked

  • Pacific Islanders blockade Australian coal port to protest rising sea levels
  • Sweden calls on EU to agree 50% carbon cuts for 2030
  • Impacts of climate change to now be included in UK’s military planning
  • South Africa’s Eskom powers up wind farm
  • China to phase out financial support for solar power sector by 2020

Don’t get too excited, no one has cracked nuclear fusion yet

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s excitement in the media announcement last week that it could make small-scale nuclear fusion power a reality in the next decade has understandably generated

Market remains quiet

The carbon market slipped a little late last week to $4.32 on light volume, OMFinancial reports.

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NZ hikes terrorism threat to “low”, ignores Pentagon warning of “immediate” threat from climate change cindy Oct 20

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A low threat of a terrorist attack?  Never mind the climate. So, the threat of a terrorist attack on New Zealand is upon us has risen from “very low” to “low” — second to lowest in a ranking that has six levels. Cabinet is now urgently reviewing our security laws to make sure we’re equipped to deal with this horrific new threat. The media has dedicated hours of discussion, gigabytes of online content, and metres of newspaper articles to this important issue. I’m now quaking in my boots.

The day after John Key’s announcement of this new “low” threat, a major report on a global security threat went entirely unnoticed here in New Zealand. The Pentagon’s “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” released on October 14, warns that climate change is an “immediate threat” to national and global security, describing it as a “threat multiplier” that can worsen national security problems such as terrorism and the spread of infectious diseases.

The report says:

 “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

The US Department of Defense has set out several goals around climate change in its defence strategy, as it seeks to integrate climate change considerations across the department.

“In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.”

One of the major issues for The Pentagon in dealing with climate change was the increasing need for the military’s involvement in dealing with the aftermath of extreme weather events, both at home and across the world.

This sounds familiar. A quick google search shows our defence forces being called in to help with the aftermath of cyclones both in New Zealand: Ita, Westland, 2014) and across the Pacific (Cyclones Ian, Tonga, January 2014; Evan, Samoa and Fiji, December 2012; Pat, Cook Islands, 2010, to name but a few.

In March this year the IPCC reported that New Zealand was “unprepared” for the kind of sea level rise we will get with continued global warming. In recent years we’ve seen a number of weather events — and even just king tides — that have battered our coastlines, such as the disintegrating sea wall in Island Bay, the damage suffered by St Clair esplanade and seawall in Dunedin, and coastal erosion in Hokitika.  Wellington City Council this week released its analysis of what rising seas would do to the city, putting the bill at $400 million.

The people who live in these areas may take a different view to our Prime Minister on which threat is closer to home.

Our climate change minister Tim Groser “welcomed” the IPCC report, but went on to say that it was down to local government to deal with the problem, ruling out any guidance from central government, which was more focused on getting an international agreement.

What does that big focus on an international agreement look like? Last week New Zealand proposed to the UNFCCC its idea of an international agreement that Governments should agree in Paris next year.

Such an agreement, says our Government, should not include legally binding targets for cutting emissions. Everyone should do what they feel up to, not what is necessary to keep global warming to their agreed 2degC. Make ‘em voluntary. Of course this has won praise from the US, not least because there’s no way Obama would ever agree to anything but voluntary action.

What we failed to say in our proposal was that legally binding emissions reduction targets would put New Zealand in a terrible position, because we’d actually have to cut our emissions, emissions that and are projected to rise exponentially in the coming years.

We are setting a shining example to the internationally community that we say we so keenly want to take action.  Our attempts to deal with climate change at home have resulted in our backing out of the Kyoto Protocol, and a failed emissions trading scheme:  in the last two years the taxpayer has paid out $5.85 million in free carbon credits to one company alone – NZ Aluminim Smelters Ltd (Rio Tinto) – which can then surrender those credits for cheap international ones, making enormous profits at the expense of the taxpayer. No emissions cuts in sight as a result of this, then.

Meanwhile our country is getting drier, with international scientists confirming last year’s drought was caused by climate change, and knocking  $1.3 billion out of the New Zealand economy.

We’re terribly concerned about security here in New Zealand – we’ve even just scored a seat a the UN Security Council.  But hey, let’s all focus on the imminent “low” threat of terrorism, and IS. Let’s not look at a threat that’s staring us all in the face because, heaven help us, we might actually have to start doing something about it.

Salinger: New Zealand is drying out, and here’s why Gareth Renowden Oct 14

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In this guest post Jim Salinger (currently working in Italy, but soon to return to these shores), takes a look at the climate influences on last year’s severe New Zealand drought. It first appeared on The Conversation.

Over 2012 and 2013, parts of New Zealand experienced their worst drought in nearly 70 years. Drought is the costliest climate extreme in New Zealand; the 2012-2013 event depressed the country’s GDP by 0.7-0.9%. The drought of 1988-1989 affected 5,500 farms, pushing some farmers to the wall. But what does a climate-changed future hold?

Recent evidence confirms that New Zealand on the whole is getting dryer. And we’re beginning to understand why — increasing greenhouse and ozone-depleting gases are driving changes in the atmosphere, with impacts far beyond New Zealand.

A history of drought

Agricultural drought is occurs when there is not enough moisture in the soil available to support crop and pasture growth. It is usually fairly extensive over significant parts of the country.

In March this year we reported that there is distinct trend towards increased agricultural drought since 1941, in four (80%) out of the five agricultural drought regions. There is a trend toward a summer drying in all of these regions except the west of the North Island. The overall trend for New Zealand agricultural drought is shown in the diagram below.


New Zealand agricultural drought index 1941-2013 averaged over the country. The bars represent individual years, and the straight line shows the 72-year trend. Positive values mean a droughtier year, and negative values mean a wetter year for agriculture.

What’s causing the big dry?

Two recent reports shed light on why drought is increasing in New Zealand.

On 9 September the Geneva based World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations body, announced that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013, propelled by a surge in levels of carbon dioxide during between 2012 and 2013.

Last year the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 142% of the pre-industrial era (1750). Methane levels reached 253% and nitrous oxide 121%. Between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing — the warming effect on our climate — because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.

These have warmed the climate. Over the last 72 years mean annual global and New Zealand temperatures have increased by 0.6 and 0.7C respectively.

And on September 11 a new report, with Dr Olaf Morgenstern of the NZ National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research as a reviewer recognised the role of ozone depletion in drying parts of southern Australia.

The same link has been established in New Zealand. Ozone depletion affects an atmospheric pattern known as the Southern Annular Mode, or SAM. These changes are particularly pertinent as the spring time stratospheric Antarctic ozone hole peaked this year at 24 million square kilometres on September 11.

SAM describes the movement of the westerly wind belt that circles the Southern Oceans between the South Island of New Zealand and Antarctica.

In its positive phase, SAM causes the belt of strong westerly winds to contract towards Antarctica. There are weaker westerly winds than normal over the South Island with higher pressures, and less cold fronts crossing New Zealand. The opposite occurs in the negative phase of SAM with the westerly wind belt expanded north towards New Zealand and the passage of more westerly cold fronts.

The positive SAM has also been linked to decreasing rainfall in south western Australian, and the recent record-breaking expansion of Antarctic sea ice.


Index of the Southern Annular Mode, 1957 – 2013. Source: British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK.

The graph of SAM over the last 56 years shows a trend towards a more positive index, averaging around -3 at the beginning of the record to +1 in recent years. Several researchers have now shown that this increase in SAM is strongly associated with stratospheric ozone depletion.

Less rain, more evaporation

Recent work has revealed that changes in SAM in New Zealand have resulted in a weakening of moisture laden westerly winds during the summer, and increased high pressures over the North Island with less rain.

The warming trend caused by increasing greenhouse gases has led to more moisture loss to the atmosphere from plants because of increased evapotranspiration. This is where plants “breathe out” into the air moisture that is stored in the soil.

The hotter it is, the more moisture plants pump out into the atmosphere. These two effects — less rainfall and more water loss from the soil have resulted in our climate becoming droughtier for agricultural activities.

Bringing back the rains

The stratospheric ozone layer is now protected by the Montreal Protocol — an international treaty to protect the ozone layer by phasing out production of ozone-depleting substances signed in 1989. Unfortunately it has not prevented some impacts on New Zealand climate — but at least these impacts will be slowed then reversed in coming decades. The Antarctic stratospheric ozone hole peaked in 2006 at around 30 million square kilometres.

However there is no such robust agreement to curb the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The World Meteorological Organisation has called for even greater urgency for concerted international action against accelerating and potentially devastating climate change.

Any future New Zealand government must front up to New Zealand taking full leadership in any international agreements to rapidly halt and reverse the growth of greenhouse gases, as the country did with the Montreal Protection to protect the stratospheric ozone layer twenty five years ago. After all, these trends are now affecting the country’s land-based industries vital for its wealth.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Carbon News 13/10/14: foresters in firing line Gareth Renowden Oct 14

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Anxious foresters await review of foreign credits ban

A controversial decision to make foresters the only emitters banned from using cheap foreign carbon credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions is under review. The provision was slipped through without warning as part of the Government’s Budget in May, and came into effect immediately.

Business poser: are you creating value, or destroying it?

New Zealand is leading the world on integrated reporting but our business leaders are still not taking it seriously enough, latest data shows.

Beehive stays silent on emissions target

The Government remains mum on New Zealand’s 2030 emissions reduction target. New Zealand did not make any mention of its 2030 target at last month’s Climate Summit in New York, at which United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked world leaders to give an indication of the commitments they would make at international climate change negotiations in Paris in December.

New Zealand is drying out … and here’s why

Over 2012 and 2013, parts of New Zealand experienced their worst drought in nearly 70 years.

Australia’s big emitters might yet be billed

Australian companies could yet face a financial penalty for excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Business as usual’ no way to run our rivers

If, as delegates to the 17th International Rivers Symposium agreed, that river restoration is “the hottest topic on the planet” then the insistence by governments world-wide to ignore it is the issue.

Landcorp bio-generation scheme runs out of gas

Landcorp’s pulling of the plug on its BioGenCool manure-powered electricity generation ends the first, large-scale experiment in using milking shed cow dung to drive the milking shed itself.

Voila! a simple new way to put a price on global carbon

A team of French academics has proposed an international carbon trading system, whereby countries with the highest average CO2 emissions pay the most.

Fish heading south big worry for tropic zone

Fish stocks could migrate up to 26 kilometres a decade as the world’s ocean warm.

Wanted: $44 trillion to switch to clean energy

In a world wrestling with climate change and the need to phase out fossil fuels, nothing is more critical than making sure there are reliable and cost-effective clean energy technologies ready to fill the void.

On the web: why is antarctic sea ice at record levels despite global warming?

  • Australian Labor Party leader rules out carbon tax return
  • European businesses split over urgency of EU carbon market fix
  • Canadian watchdog castigates government climate strategy
  • Walmart owners backing campaigns to limit rooftop solar power
  • 25 Devastating Effects Of Climate Change
  • Climate consensus: scientists and sceptics suspend hostilities

Sick seas could cost us billions, UN warns

The global economy could be losing as much as $1 trillion annually by the end of the century if countries do not take urgent steps to stop ocean acidification, says a new report.

World of clean energy ‘feasible’ by mid-century

A global low-carbon energy economy is not only feasible, it could double electricity supply by 2050 while actually reducing air and water pollution, according to new research.

Shift to low-carbon economy could free up $1.8 trillion

Decarbonising the electricity system worldwide would save $1.8 trillion over the coming two decades by avoiding the high operating costs of using fossil fuels, a new study finds.

Europe throws nuclear power a state-aid lifeline

The European Commission has now agreed that Britain can subsidise the building of the world’s most expensive nuclear power station – despite previously believing that the deal breaks the European Union’s rules on state aid.

China’s mythical coal habit is no excuse for climate inaction

By Marek Kubic: I’ve heard it many a time, and you probably have, too. It’s supposedly the trump card to any argument on addressing climate change globally: “Yeah, but what’s the point? Isn’t China building a new coal plant every week?”

Wanganui firm has place among bio pioneers

Calls for New Zealand firms to get into bio-manufacturing omit to mention the fact that we have already been there.

VUW researchers work on better solar systems

Victoria University of Wellington researchers are part of a worldwide effort to design cheaper and more efficient solar energy materials.

Week ends quietly at $4.40

It was a quiet end to the week, with the market for spot NZUs on CommTrade closing unchanged at $4.40, OMFinancial reports.

Smart grids in the spotlight

Using Smart Grid technology to empower electricity consumers was the subject of a talk at Auckland University yesterday.

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This Changes Everything Bryan Walker Oct 06

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Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate places the battle against climate change firmly in the context of the struggle for social justice. Fighting climate change means reordering the ways our economies are structured. The pillars of the reigning economic paradigm – privatisation, deregulation and lower taxation paid for by cuts to public spending cannot serve us for this purpose. Public spending, on the scale of a Marshall Plan for the earth, and robust public institutions are required.

Klein is no friend to neo-liberal capitalism quite apart from the climate issue, but she considers climate change adds existential urgency to her political and economic concerns. The Heartland Institute, whose sixth international conference she attended, is right, she suggests, to see climate change as a threat to the ideology they exist to defend. Her report of that conference, incidentally, is a fascinating account of the twisted logic which is common discourse in such gatherings.Klein points to the cognitive dissonance in which we are trapped:

“… a crisis we have been studiously ignoring is hitting us in the face— and yet we are doubling down on the stuff that is causing the crisis in the first place.”

What keeps us stuck in this position is that the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe and benefit most of us “present an extreme threat to the elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process and most of our major media outlets”.

In her patient and exhaustive fashion Klein explores the corporate logic that drives major and powerful companies to continue to build reserves of fossil fuels way past the point at which their burning spells disaster for humanity. She writes of the fiduciary responsibility to shareholders which “virtually guarantees that the planet will cook”, a metaphor justified by her book’s careful anchorage to climate science.

Free trade agreements, often triumphs of corporate globalisation, can prove inimical to efforts to curb climate change, whether through the increases in carbon dioxide emissions they result in or through the legal avenues they provide to prevent national action on climate change. Klein provides an example from her own province of Ontario where buy-local provisions supporting a solar company were judged illegal by the WTO making it likely that the company will close.

Reasonable in tone but devastating in effect Klein deals with a range of seemingly laudable efforts to tackle climate change which founder on their closeness to neo-liberal capitalism. Several of America’s large environmental organisations are faulted in this respect. The billionaire supporters of climate action typified by Richard Branson fall sadly short of what they appear to promise.

Politicians seem unable to extricate themselves from entanglement with the prevailing economic ideology. Klein reports on the 2009 UN climate summit conference as evidence of this, sharing Sally Wentrobe’s painful realisation that our “leaders are not looking after us…we are not cared for at the level of our very survival.”   While I was writing this review local evidence of political dereliction was yet again apparent as our Energy Minister assured a petroleum conference that continuing exploration for oil and gas in New Zealand waters would be strongly supported by the newly re-elected government and he offered anodyne assurances for the future of fossil fuels.

Can anything rescue us? Certainly not geo-engineering of the type Klein hears canvassed at a conference on the topic she attended. She sees a cure worse than the disease and the risk of genocidal “sacrifice zones” as a by-product of sun-dimming proposals.

Our best hope rests with the resistance of people’s movements to the carbon extraction frenzy of the corporate elites. Klein dwells on many such efforts in the realm she calls Blockadia, talking with people in places where energetic attempts are being made to prevent planned extractive operations. It’s the world of activism, “alive and unpredictable and very much in the streets (and mountains and farmers’ fields and forests)”. The precautionary principle holds sway here, not the cool risk assessment approach which purports to balance the dangers of climate change against the claimed negative effects of action on economic growth.

The fossil fuel divestment movement emerged from Blockadia-style attempts to stop carbon extraction at its source. On its wider scale it puts the whole industry on trial as “rogue actors whose continued economic viability rests on radical climate destabilisation”.

Indigenous groups battling against the assaults of extractive industries receive respectful and sympathetic attention from Klein, who dwells on their ready recognition of the natural world as a nurturer of life rather than an object of exploitation. She also draws attention to the ways in which Indigenous rights, if aggressively pursued through the courts and through direct action, may help protect us all from climate chaos.

Klein’s vision is ultimately  a moral one. She seeks

“an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis— embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.”

We need this not only to create a political context to drastically lower emissions but also to help us through the disasters now unavoidable, where respect for human rights and deep compassion will be all that stands between civilisation and barbarism.

But does all the principled opposition, and the moral aspiration of more cooperative communities amount to a real force in the face of the rampaging destruction which unfettered capitalism wreaks?  Klein points to mass movements which have prevailed against powerful economic interests in the past.  The abolition of slavery presents one such case. She points out that slavery only became a problem for British and American elites when the abolition movement turned it into one, and that abolition succeeded in spite of the strong economic interests dependent on the profits from slavery. She quotes journalist Chris Hayes: “the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth”, a situation for which he sees slavery abolition as the only precedent.

Klein’s book is ambitious in scope and rigorous in discussion. Its narratives are based on much travel and careful research. Its conclusions are thoughtful and often striking in their cogent expression. Her acknowledgments to her research staff and other helpers confirm the concerted effort that has been expended in producing the book.

It’s certainly a book worth writing. Corporate bodies whose activities threaten the very foundation of ordinary people’s lives need to be exposed. So do politicians who are hypnotised by the short term benefits of extractive economies and blind to the catastrophic longer term consequences. People who do battle with the corporate and political juggernaut of climate disaster need to be celebrated and encouraged. Klein does these things well. Her book is a notable contribution to the tough struggle for a sane political response to the climate crisis.

Carbon News 29/9/14: Key challenged over climate impacts on Pacific islands Gareth Renowden Sep 29

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Memo John Key: look Pacific Island leaders in the eye

The Government is being challenged to invite the leaders of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati to come and tell Parliament what they think of New Zealand’s climate change policies. Support to help Small Island Developing States move to renewable energy is one of five measures New Zealand outlined to last week’s United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York. New Zealand said that it will support the Small Island Developing States Lighthouses Initiative in addition to the $100 million it is already investing in clean energy in the Pacific.

Renewables make mark on emissions figures

Increasing generation from renewables is continuing to drive a massive drop in greenhouse gas emissions from electricity in New Zealand. For the second quarter in a row, emissions from electricity in the three months to August were down on the same period last year, latest government figures show.

New York talked the talk, but we’ll have to wait and see who heard

At the end of his summit meeting on the climate crisis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put out a list of accomplishments festooned with 46 bullet points, some of them marking concrete new pledges, others diaphanous phrases.

MIA … but it doesn’t mean China’s not interested

There were a few notable absentees among the more than 120 world leaders gathered in New York for last week’s United Nations Climate Summit — and perhaps most notable of all was the head of the world’s highest-emitting nation, China’s President Xi Jinping.

Do something, big business warns political leaders

Many of the biggest hitters in the global financial community, together managing an eye-watering $24 trillion of investment funds, have issued a powerful warning to political leaders about the risks of failing to establish clear policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities in the spotlight at climate week summit

Even as nations gathered in New York to discuss global-level action on climate change, there was strong recognition that cities, not countries, have so far played the pivotal role in the world’s fight against climate change — and will continue to do so.

Unhappy power consumers eye solar generation

Nearly two-thirds of New Zealanders would like to say goodbye to their power companies and generate their own electricity.

Have a say in energy development

New Zealanders can have a say on the type of energy development they want, thanks to a Victoria University summer project.

Kiwisavers might get to have say in green investment

Research showing how many New Zealanders want their retirement funds invested in sustainable businesses will be unveiled next month.

ON THE WEB … Obama’s drive for carbon pricing fails to win at home

  • Chile becomes the first South American country to tax carbon
  • UK to introduce fracking drilling law despite 99% opposition
  • US Homeland Security moves to tackle climate change risks
  • Hawaii’s solar industry in precarious situation
  • The top 10 greenest cities in America
  • Avatar director James Cameron talks climate change

New market pact keeps Australians on the ball

Australian businesses wanting to keep up to date with the international carbon market during their country’s retreat from carbon pricing have formed a new regional agreement.

How to save the planet … bike, walk or take a bus

Here’s a way to save $100 trillion and stop 1700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from getting into the atmosphere every year by 2050: cycle, walk or take public transport.

Use your phone to report water pollution

Water pollution may soon be reported by the public over a phone app and investigated by an aerial robot.

Clear skies for aviation industry, says Boeing report

The business outlook for civil aviation is bright thanks mainly to rising Asian demand for aircraft. But airlines are expected to have a harder time, with tougher competition in Europe leading to a consolidation of the sector, according to the latest industry forecast.

Win some, lose some … that’s climate change

With climate change, you win some, you lose some. New research shows that suitable new cropland could become available in the high latitudes as the world warms, but tropical regions may become less productive.

Australia seems to be overlooking bioenergy

When we think of renewable energy, it’s easy to picture spinning wind turbines or rooftop solar panels. But what about bioenergy?

Would a climate change treaty be enough?

Do we need a climate treaty, or could a simple political deal based on national pledges work just as well?

Prices likely to drift a little

Spot NZUs remain relatively quiet. OMFinancial reports…

Worth seeing — Thin Ice

New Zealand scientist Peter Barrett’s award-winning film Thin Ice will have a public screening in Hamilton next week. Barrett, a geologist, produced the documentary himself, with a view to finding out whether his fellow scientists really were involved in some sort of climate change hoax as some were alleging.

Study will reveal our use of water

The nature of domestic water demand is being measured.

Off to the tip … 33,000 polystyrene cups

Waikato University every year sends 33,000 polystyrene cups to the landfill.

Special offer for Hot Topic readers: Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

Where do we go but nowhere? Gareth Renowden Sep 26

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New Zealand’s general election is over. The National Party has won itself another three years in government. With a probable overall majority and the support of three fringe MPs, prime minister John Key and his cabinet will be able to do more or less what they like. Given the government’s performance on climate matters over the last six years — turning the Emissions Trading Scheme into little more than a corporate welfare handout while senior cabinet ministers flirt with outright climate denial — and with signals that they intend to modify the Resource Management Act to make it easier to drill, mine and pollute, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the next three years are going to see New Zealand’s climate policies slip even further out of touch with what’s really necessary.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of why opposition parties were unable to persuade voters to unseat Key & Co: that’s being widely canvassed. I do want to consider what might be done to prevent the next three years being as bad as the last six from a climate policy perspective.

One thing is very clear: the climate issue is not going away. While carbon emissions hit new records, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has been trying to galvanise world leaders to take the issue seriously. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens have taken part in people’s climate marches around the world. And the climate news remains, as ever, gloomy. Ice melts, floods surge and sea levels continue to rise. “Business as usual” continues, but is being challenged on many levels.

Gareth Morgan, the motorbike adventurer, philanthropist and prolific author, is no stranger to the climate debate. He understands the issue in the way only someone who has written a book on the subject can ( ;-) ). In a recent blog post, Morgan looked at what it might take to get climate action in the current New Zealand political climate. His conclusion? That we need a new “bluegreen” political party.

But for me, the most frustrating aspect of the election result is the entrenched inability of the Green Party to grasp that the environmental message is something that appeals to middle-of-the-road New Zealanders, not just Lefties.

Sadly the Green Party’s policies for environmental sustainability have always come with a nasty fishhook – the out-dated edict that social justice can only be achieved by rehashed socialism. This has rendered the Green Party a real melon to mainstream New Zealand – a watermelon to be precise, far too red on the inside for middle New Zealand to stomach.

For me, the frustrating thing is that the other Gareth’s1 political analysis completely misreads what’s going on at the same time as his analysis of National government’s performance on climate over the last six years is absolutely spot on….

Morgan’s view of the Green Party is common enough, and his bluegreen blog post has certainly attracted a fair bit of social media support. The “watermelon” trope is an accusation that’s been levelled at green parties and environmental activists around the world since at least the 1970s, and has its roots in the further reaches of far right US ideology. It’s a cheap shot, and not helpful to getting climate action, mainly because the NZ Green Party is what the Green Party is — an environmentally conscious party with deep roots in social justice campaigns going back 40 years.

The Green Party is what it is because that’s what its members want it to be, and as it is arguably the party most accountable to its membership for policy development and candidate selection, that’s entirely appropriate2.

Morgan’s misrepresentation of the Greens buys into the very message extreme right wingers are trying to reinforce in order to prevent climate and environment action. By doing that he also completely misreads what needs to be done if we are to get serious climate policy enacted by a centre-right government in New Zealand.

The last thing we need is a new and poorly defined political party: right of centre on economics and social issues, but reality-based when it comes to climate and the environment. How long would such a party take to build? How long before it could hold the balance of power in post-election negotiations. Six years? Nine years? Too long, by far, even if it could be put together in the first place.

Climate and environment issues do not sit on a left-right political spectrum, however hard the right might want it to seem so. They are external to party politics — challenges that all parties, whatever their ideology, have to come to terms with.

In order to endure, climate policy needs to develop out of a broad policy consensus and a shared assessment of the risk NZ (and the world) faces as a result of continuing warming.

The big question for the next three years is not so much about building a policy consensus — we (arguably) have one in the continued existence of an emissions trading scheme3 — but in communicating a realistic assessment of the climate risks NZ faces.

The key to that lies in persuading the leadership of the National Party that they can’t just leave climate policy on the back burner, a plaything for diplomats and Tim Groser. John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce, and Gerry Brownlee need to be persuaded to accept that climate change represents a clear strategic and physical risk to the economic and social well-being of all New Zealanders — including all the people who voted for them, and all the financial backers who funded their re-election.

This will not be easy. Philip Mills, one of the founders of the Pure Advantage and 100% Plan lobby groups, gave up his efforts to lobby Key & Co earlier this year. The NZ Herald reported on his frustration:

Mr Mills, son of Les Mills and a former New Zealand athlete, said he had been personally lobbying Prime Minister John Key and his Government for five years to make a meaningful response to the threats posed by a warming atmosphere.

[...] “I’ve been trying impartially to deal with National. I’ve met with John Key around this a number of times, and really I held the hope that I and groups that I’ve been involved with would be able to get National to see sense.”

[...] Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said New Zealand was doing its fair share to reduce emissions and that the onus was on local councils to respond to the effects of climate change such as sea level rise.

Mr Mills said: “For me that was the end. I thought ‘I’ve got to stand up and be counted now’.

“I think that it is morally reprehensible for any country to shirk its responsibilities in this area.

“Furthermore I think it makes no economic sense as we know green industry will be one of the biggest growth opportunities of our time.”

So how do we succeed in motivating Key & Co to act, when years of effort by Mills and others has been rebuffed? There are three potential approaches.

The first is to recognise that there are genuine bluegreens already present in the National caucus and the wider party. The Bluegreen brand is a National brand, presented as the party’s “advisory group on environmental issues”. However, if you look at Bluegreen activities over the last few years you will find it hard to view them as anything other than a fig leaf, at best a rubber stamp for policy made elsewhere.

But there are National MPs and party members who really are green as well as blue, who do “get” the climate issue and understand the real risks the country faces. They need to be cultivated — encouraged to push the issue in the corridors of power, even if confronted by the same intransigence that Philip Mills encountered. Bluegreen MPs have to feel empowered within their caucus.

If they are to do that then they will need support. That will have to come in two forms.

The first is already under way, albeit in a rather low key manner. Alan Mark and the Wise Response initiative have shown the way. It’s time for the scientists and public intellectuals of New Zealand to knock on John Key’s door and refuse to take no for an answer. The Royal Society of NZ, the Prime Minister’s science adviser, the universities, and business leaders like Philip Mills now have to redouble their efforts. NZ’s intellectual leadership needs to stand up and make a powerful case for the cabinet to base climate policy on a realistic assessment of the risks. The lazy demonisation of all things green by senior National figures has to be countered by relentless rationality from those best equipped to deliver it.

Ultimately, it is voters who decide the future governments of NZ. Public opinion on the importance of climate policy will depend on both the leadership given by political parties — including National — and on the development of grass roots support for action. The Climate Voter initiative may not have had much impact on the final vote in this election, but it did provide a powerful demonstration of how the issue could be made to gain traction despite political and media indifference.

To make progress on climate issues there must be a concerted and non-partisan effort to put climate action high up on the political agenda. We have to move Key, English and Joyce from their pernicious “fast follower” stance into at least a middle of the (international) road position on emissions reductions, achieved through an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax which actually incentivises real reductions in NZ, the creation of carbon offsets through tree planting and land use change, and a serious effort to prepare the country to adapt to the warming, weather extremes and sea level rise that are now completely unavoidable.

[What, lugubrious? Nick Cave? Never. Well, perhaps not never. Sometimes, certainly.]

  1. No, not that other Gareth. This one.
  2. Disclosure: I am not a member of the Green Party, but have party voted for them in recent elections because I regard their climate and environment policies as the best on offer, and I have no problems with their stance on social justice issues. For the record, I have also voted for Labour and National on occasion over the last 18 years.
  3. When I discussed climate issues with a (largely sympathetic) National MP a couple of years ago, the response to my criticism of the gutting of the ETS was “well, we could have got rid of it…”

TDB Today: Three more years (up shit creek and paddling hard) Gareth Renowden Sep 24

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Take the time to listen to Emma Thompson’s stirring address to the climate marchers in London last weekend, and then head on over to The Daily Blog where in my post this week I examine the likely consequences of the re-election of a National-led government, and ruminate on the need to get ideology and politics out of the assessment of climate risk.

Carbon News headlines 22/9/14: If the PM doesn’t worry about climate change, why should we? Gareth Renowden Sep 22

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Welcome to a new regular feature on Hot Topic: the week’s Carbon News headlines, brought to you every Monday. Carbon News is an NZ-published web newsletter covering climate and carbon news from around the world, published and edited by experienced journalist Adelia Hallett. The full articles are behind the Carbon News paywall. Click on any headline to be taken to that story on the site.

Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

Scientists plead for cuts to ballooning fossil fuel emissions

Scientists are calling for rapid cuts in the use of fossil fuels in the wake of data out today showing we have almost used up our fossil-fuel credit. Greenhouse gas emissions this year will hit a new high of 40 billion tonnes in what the Global Carbon Project is calling a carbon budget blow-out.

Political parties fail to get the sustainability message through

New Zealanders’ support for a shift to a sustainable economy is growing, according to new research from Colmar Brunton. The fact they didn’t vote that way in Saturday’s general election is probably more to do with campaign messages failing to get enough airtime with all the other ‘dirty politics’ noise than it is to do with interest in environmental issues, says the research company’s chief executive Jaqueline Ireland.

If the PM doesn’t worry about climate change, why should we?

New Zealanders are taking their cue on climate change from the Prime Minister, says social trends researcher Jill Caldwell. “They think that John Key is successful and smart, and that if there was really anything to worry about he’d be worried,” she told Carbon News.

Big business signs up with sustainability driver

Some of New Zealand’s largest companies and organisations have signed up to a new international movement on sustainable business.

Why Kiwibank took its business to the kids

When Kiwibank wanted to know how to move beyond the first stage of being a sustainable business, it asked a bunch of 10-year-olds.

We’re spending millions, say green-wise farmers

Manawatu-Whanganui region farmers have spent an average $110,000 each over the past five years on measures to protect the environment, according to a Federated Farmers survey.

Growth and greening now go together, says Stern study

Governments and businesses can now improve economic growth and reduce their carbon emissions together, says a major new report by a commission of global leaders.

… but critic says report fails to back up core message

A new report called Better Growth, Better Climate draws the seductive conclusion that “we can create lasting economic growth while also tackling the immense risks of climate change”.

Let’s do for climate change what we did for apartheid, says Tutu

WEB: Largest-ever climate change march rolls through NYC
* China cautious on fresh commitments ahead of climate change summit
* Will the new EU Commission assure Europe’s leadership on sustainable development?
* It’s time to teach climate change in school
* After An Inconvenient Truth: the evolution of the climate change film

Move over, Queensland, here comes the Great Sydney Reef

Welcome to tropical Sydney, where colourful surgeonfishes and parrotfishes a=
re plentiful, corals have replaced kelp forests, and underwater life seems b=

Population explosion lowers chance of managing climate change

By Tim Radford: New projections say the population of the planet will not stabilise at 9 billion sometime this century. In fact, there is an 80 percent likelihood that, by 2100, it will reach at least 9.6 billion — and maybe rise as high as 12.3 billion.

China goes up a gear but still has a lot of work to do

In the lead-up to the UN leaders’ summit on climate change, China is shifting up a gear in its drive towards national emissions trading.

How renewables can lead to prosperity and jobs

A new handbook shows how forward-looking communities around the world are already moving away from reliance on fossil fuels and generating their own power with 100 per cent renewables — while also becoming more prosperous and creating jobs.

LED street lights could be 50% cheaper

Installing LED lights in streets could halve energy consumption from street lighting, the government’s energy efficiency agency says.

Drought now could be drought forever in California

Things could soon get worse for drought-hit California. New research predicts that, by the close of the century, global warming could have reduced the flow of water from the Sierra Nevada mountains by at least a quarter.

We can make a good life for most in the doughnut

Is it possible for humans to fulfil their needs without also destroying the environment? It’s a question we need to find an answer to soon, as the world’s poorer regions demand the same perks that come with development.

Twister terror coming earlier in tornado alley

The terrifying whirlwinds that punctuate the mid-Western summer in the United States so frequently as to earn the nickname Tornado Alley for the southern plains region states such as Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas, are forming up to two weeks earlier than they did 60 years ago.

And the winner is…

The winner of a copy of MiStory, Philip Temple‘s cli-fi story set in a futuristic New Zealand, is the out-going Labour MP and climate change spokesperson Moana Mackey.

Solid Energy needs extension of guarantee

Commercially troubled state coal miner Solid Energy requires an extension of a government guarantee to meet the $103 million future cost of returning mined land to its pre-mined condition in order to maintain positive equity in its balance sheet.

Pumped-up couple win energy award

The switch to a gravity-feed water system has resulted in huge cost-savings for Otago farmers David and Sarah Smith, winners of an energy excellence award in the 2014 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Focus on certainty

National’s grip on the government benches means certainty for the Emissions Trading Scheme, OMFinancial reports.

Want to recycle? just ask the garbage guru

Sydney has launched an app it hopes will drive recycling.

All material provided courtesy of Carbon News and Futura Media. Given the broad scope of the post, please treat this as an open thread.

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