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Posts Tagged emissions

China and US reach emissions deal, NZ govt warned its policies are failing Gareth Renowden Nov 13

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Today’s news that the US and China have agreed a long term policy to reduce carbon emissions is being hailed as a “game-changer” in international climate negotiations. China has agreed to cap its emissions in 2030 — the first time it has committed to anything more than a reduction in the carbon intensity of its emissions, while the US will aim to cut emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2025, up from its current target of 17% by 2020. [BBC, Guardian, Climate Progress.] Meanwhile, NZ’s third term National government is being warned by its own civil servants that its current emissions policy settings commit the country to substantial emissions increases over the same time frame.

With the world’s two largest emitters — between them they account for 45% of total emissions — agreeing to work together for the first time, prospects for a global deal in Paris next year look brighter than before. However, the cuts on the table do not look like enough to keep the planet on a trajectory to 2 degrees of warming or less. Associate professor Peter Christoff of the University of Melbourne explains (via The Conversation):

These commitments will frame the levels of ambition required of other states at Paris next year. Climate modellers will no doubt now be rushing to determine what these new commitments, if delivered successfully, will mean for combating global warming.

The US and Chinese cuts, significant though they are, will not be enough to limit the total increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide unless other states engage in truly radical reductions.

In other words, global emissions are likely to continue to grow, probably until 2030, which will make it impossible to hold global warming below the world’s agreed limit of 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.

In New Zealand the briefings for incoming ministers in the new government — same as the old lot, in climate relevant ministries — have been remarkably blunt in their assessment of the task the country faces.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Briefing to Incoming Ministers (BIM)1 is blunt about the importance of dealing with climate change (pdf here):

Climate change and resource scarcity are challenging core elements of the global ecosystem. Climate change is the most urgent and far-reaching threat we face, and the current negotiations on climate change are the most important multilateral negotiation now under way. Positions taken by countries on climate change and their readiness to contribute to global solutions will increasingly define the way that others perceive them politically and economically.

The Ministry for the Environment BIM2 points out the huge gulf between fine words and inadequate policy settings:

…We have an established price on emissions and market infrastructure in place through the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS), although current settings are not driving meaningful emissions reductions. In 2015 the NZ ETS is scheduled to be reviewed to assess whether the settings remain suitable for delivering on government objectives.

That ETS review will have to consider the reality shown in this graph from p22 of the MfE BIM.

NZemissionsMFEbriefing

The only way the government can reach its unconditional target of a 5% cut on 1990 levels by 2020 is by using carried forward emissions reductions from the first Kyoto commitment period (even though it subsequently withdrew from CP2) and by buying emissions units from overseas. Real cuts in emissions in the following decade will require a real carbon price — not an ETS that rewards polluters for their pollution.

If NZ is to table emissions cuts that parallel those from the USA, then emissions policy settings are going to need an urgent and dramatic revamp. The good news is that the China and US initiative on emissions means that NZ’s government can no longer point to international failure to cooperate as a reason why NZ should do little or nothing.

PM John Key has said in the past that he wants NZ to be a “fast follower” of the world leaders on emissions reductions. Now is the time to show just how fast a follower he intends to be. We can only hope it’s pretty damn speedy.

  1. The incoming ministers are Murray McCulley (Foreign Affairs), and Tim Groser (Trade and Climate Change Issues), full ministerial list here.
  2. Incoming minister is Nick Smith, same as the outgoing one.

IPCC AR5 completed: science has spoken – cut deep, cut soon Gareth Renowden Nov 03

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The IPCC’s Fifth Report process reached its climax in Copenhagen yesterday with the release of the final “synthesis” report (download here), which pulls together all the strands from the three working group reports on the physical science (Working Group 1), climate impacts (WG2) and how to go about dealing with the problem (WG3). Launching the report, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon was blunt:

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

Given that it’s based entirely on the work done for the underlying reports, there are no surprises the synthesis report for anyone who has been following climate news over the last year, but what is striking is the emphasis on the need for rapid and deep cuts in fossil fuel emissions – and a corresponding steep increase in investment in renewable energy sources. Ban Ki-Moon emphasised the point in a comment aimed at investors:

“Please reduce your investments in the coal- and fossil fuel-based economy and [move] to renewable energy.”

Writing in the Guardian, Bill McKibben notes an increase in the urgency of the language being used:

This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, [scientists] are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they will up the language in time for the next big global confab in Paris.

The Guardian’s coverage is – as always – exemplary. In addition to Damian Carrington’s news report, they also give good graph. See also the BBC, and Stuff – who take the AP coverage.

New Zealand’s climate change minister Tim Groser issued a press release to welcome the report:

It is the best scientific assessment of climate issues available. I’m delighted that New Zealand scientists have contributed to this body of knowledge.

If that’s really the case, why is Groser enacting policies which are currently pointing NZ towards a 50% increase in emissions instead of deep cuts? Perhaps he should be listening to Ban Ki-moon when he says “”There is a myth that climate action will cost heavily, but inaction will cost much more.”

NZ government climate policy: look, a squirrel! Gareth Renowden Dec 16

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Two major new government reports on New Zealand’s emissions projections and the expected impacts of four degrees of warming on NZ agriculture were released without fanfare last Friday — the timing clearly designed to minimise media fallout from reports that highlight the paucity and ineffectiveness of current climate policy settings.

Climate change minister Tim Groser dutifully issued a press release welcoming the release of New Zealand’s Sixth National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol, the first such report since 2009. Groser praised government policies, but failed to draw attention to the fact that his own report shows NZ emissions failing to meet the government’s targeted cuts, or that current policy settings will do little to reduce them — let alone achieve reductions by comparison with 1990 levels. This graph1 of actual and projected net emissions out to 2030 tells the story of the Key government’s abject policy failure:

The blue line is actual emissions up to 2008, “with measures” — that is, as affected by policies to reduce emissions. The red line is emissions projected out to 2030 assuming no action to reduce emissions, the green line the emissions that will result after current policy settings are taken into account. Both green and red lines rise substantially up to 2030, and end up at the virtually the same point2 — more than double NZ’s net emissions in 1990.

In other words, Tim Groser and his cabinet colleagues have created a suite of policies designed to increase New Zealand’s emissions at a time when they are supposed to be being reduced, and which will miserably fail to meet the government’s own target of a 5% reduction in emissions (using the 1990 baseline) by 2020.

The second report released last week is much the more interesting of the two, and makes grim reading for anyone trying to play down the seriousness of the likely changes that confront NZ and its farmers and growers. Four Degrees of Global Warming: Effects on the New Zealand Primary Sector (full report and summary available here) was placed on the Ministry of Primary Industries web site last Friday, but was spotted by TV3 News today.

The report is the first study to consider the likely impacts of warming at the upper end of global expectations, and projects climate impacts across the country and on pasture and forest productivity based on two different climate model projections. The pattern of changes is much as described in previous studies — warming spreading down from the north, wetter in the west and drier in the east, greater rainfall intensities, bigger floods and longer droughts — but with much sharper increases in these parameters.

Under the four degrees of warming scenario:

  • frosts are expected to disappear from all but the highest parts of the North Island and much of the coastal South Island
  • the amount of rain falling in extreme events is expected to increase by 32%
  • river flows will experience seasonal changes as snowfall declines
  • periods of maximum irrigation demand are likely to coincide with extended periods of low flows in major catchments
  • a massive increase in the growing degree days experienced in all regions, with Canterbury almost as warm as Northland
  • fruit crops requiring winter chilling (apricots, kiwi) will have to move south
  • wine growing regions will move and different grape varietals will be required
  • significant increase in heat stress on dairy cattle

The report finds that the most positive impact will be on forestry, where a combination of warming and CO2 fertilisation is expected to increase yields in both Pinus radiata and eucalyptus plantations.

This is more than a little ironic, given that the Emissions Trading Scheme policy settings and low carbon price have reduced the attractiveness of forestry planting as a carbon sink. The one thing that might do well in a warmer NZ is the one thing the government seems unable to incentivise with a handout. Perhaps James Cameron could make a film about it?

  1. From p126 of the report
  2. 88 Gg CO2e without measures, 84 Gg with.

While they sleepwalk in Warsaw: icebergs calve, emissions climb, “pause” disappears Gareth Renowden Nov 20

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PIG B31

Warsaw has seen a deluge of important climate-related information released — so much that it’s been difficult to keep up — but still not enough to steel negotiators to reach an equitable arrangement that gives us all a chance at a reasonable future climate. And at the same time, the planet has been sending signals that it’s not happy. The Pine Island glacier has finally calved the giant iceberg that first started to shown signs of cracking away from the ice stream a couple of years ago. Iceberg B-31 has been described as being the size of Singapore (about 700 km2), but isn’t likely to move far from Pine Island Bay in the near future. NASA Earth Observatory coverage here and here; see also Telegraph (UK) and Antarctic Sun.

The Global Carbon Project announced earlier this week that greenhouse gas emissions are projected to reach the highest level in human history this year — 36 billion tonnes. There are some encouraging signs that the rate of growth may be slowing, but nowhere near enough to enable the planet to avoid hitting a two degree rise in the first half of this century. There’s an excellent visualisation of national emissions at the Global Carbon Atlas (and at the Guardian). See also The Age, Think Progress.

All that carbon has to go somewhere, and the global oceans are doing us a big favour by absorbing a lot of it. Unfortunately, there’s a big downside: the oceans are becoming more acidic, and at a rate faster than at any time in the last 55 million years. The prospects for marine ecosystems look bleak if we can’t kick the fossil fuel habit, according to a Summary For Policymakers [pdf] released by the Intergovernmental Oceangraphic Commission last week.

Regular Hot Topic readers will know that I’ve never been much persuaded by talk of a “pause” in global warming’s progress. If global warming stopped in the 1990s, why has the last ten years been the warmest in the long term record, and why has the ice kept on melting? To put the final nail in the pause’s coffin, Kevin Cowtan from the University of York and Robert Way from the University of Ottawa (both stalwarts at Skeptical Science), looked at global temperature records and found ways of compensating for the temperature data missing from the Arctic and Africa. Here’s Cowtan, explaining what they did.

Net result: existing temperature data series underestimate recent warming by half. If that’s all straightforward enough, take a moment to consider what will happen to warming when the factors that have been acting to restrict warming swing to the opposite phase. We’ll be heading into the unknown, and at high speed. See Real Climate, Dana Nucitelli at the Guardian, and Science Daily.

And finally: this is the time of year when the World Meteorological Association releases its preliminary look at the weather and climate events of the current year. It’s not a pretty sight. 2013 is tracking along to be the 7th warmest year in the long term record. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud noted: “the coldest years now are warmer than the hottest years before 1998.” Another reason to kiss the pause meme goodbye. See Climate Central, Guardian.

Polish Government and Big Coal kick own goal in Warsaw cindy Nov 19

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Greenpeace banner on Polish Ministry of Economy.  Photo: 350.org

Greenpeace banner on Polish Ministry of Economy. Photo: 350.org

I’m not sure if the Polish Government really meant this to happen.

In the run-up to the climate talks, they had scurried round and found a bunch of largely fossil fuel and car sponsors to help them out.  Thanks to these sponsors, we’ve all been given coal-coloured bags with a big oil service company logo on it. Such a contrast from Durban where we had lovely cloth bags made from recycled fabric, made by people from villages across South Africa.

But in Warsaw today, he Polish Government and the coal industry must have been so pleased with their idea of setting up the World Coal Association “Coal Summit” at the same time as the climate talks. They even managed to persuade the UN Climate Convention’s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres to speak at it, much to the fury of the youth, whose invitation she turned down.

But that’s when it all started to unravel.

First up was a press conference early this morning, organised by the European Climate Foundation where top scientists spelt out the  message that if we carry on using coal the way we’re going, we’ve got no hope of staying below 2degC of warming. Unabated coal use cannot continue and its financing and rise needed to be stopped now. They released a paper setting out their detailed scientific arguments for this, signed by a number of the world’s most qualified scientists on the subject.

The "Cough for Coal" lungs in the streets of Warsaw.  Photo" 350.org

The “Cough for Coal” lungs in the streets of Warsaw. Photo” 350.org

Next, out on the Warsaw streets, was the “Cough4Coal” rally outside the coal conference.  They had a rather gruesome-looking, but pretty effective, set of lungs, highlighting the problems that coal presents for the people living around the mines and breathing in the air from the burning of it.

At the same time, Greenpeace activists climbed on top of the Polish Ministry of Economic Affairs and hung a big fat banner down the front of it with the message: “Who Rules Poland? The Coal Industry or the People?”

Things were really not going too well for the coal industry at this stage.  But still, they’d got the UNFCCC’s top honcho.    While some weren’t happy with bits of her messaging, she basically told the coal industry it had to leave most of the world’s coal reserves in the ground. I’d love to have seen their faces as she delivered her speech.

To top it all off, the activists then came into the Polish National Stadium, with a smaller protest (unfortunately the lungs were too big to deploy in the building), where they  proceeded to “kick coal out of the climate talks.”

So thanks to the Polish Government’s plan to highlight its favourite industry in the middle of the climate talks, pretty much the only thing the media focused on today was how bad coal is for the climate, how it wasn’t welcome in the talks, and how it needed to stay in the ground.

Activists had a field day. Everyone had been trying to find a way to really hook the coal message into this meeting, and they were handed it on a platter.

Kicking coal out of the COP.  Photo: 350.org

Kicking coal out of the COP. Photo: 350.org

From scientists, to environmental groups, activists and the head of the UNFCCC, the coal industry got it in the neck from all sides.

Now’s the time to run one of the puns around the fact we’re in the stadium: the Polish Government kicked an absolute cracker of own [coal] goal on this one.

TDB today: no clue, no plan, no future Gareth Renowden Oct 30

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There’s a huge gap between the emissions reductions the New Zealand government says it wants to achieve, and what its current emissions trading scheme settings will deliver, according to modelling by the Ministry for the Environment. In this week’s post at The Daily BlogNo Clue, No Plan, No Future — I examine the disconnect between words and actions — and the lack of common sense on display on the government benches. Comments over there, please…

100% useless: NZ government announces pathetic 5% emissions target Gareth Renowden Aug 16

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Climate change minister Tim Groser has finally got around to announcing that New Zealand’s emissions reduction target for 2020 will be a 5 percent reduction on 1990 levels — a significant step back from NZ’s previous conditional commitment to make cuts in the 10 to 20 percent range. Since the Key government refused to join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol last year, this target is being adopted under the wider UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and therefore has no penalties (or incentives) attached. Groser’s announcement claims:

The target is affordable and demonstrates that New Zealand is doing its fair share to address global climate change. In deciding this target, the Government has carefully balanced the cost to New Zealand households and businesses against taking ambitious action to tackle climate change.

This is an unconditional target to take responsibility for our emissions, and gives certainty to domestic stakeholders.

Groser also claims that the new target “compares favourably with our traditional partners’ actions” — but fails to note that it’s way out of line with UK and EU commitments to cuts of 30% and 20% over the same period.

The announcement will come as little surprise in the context of recent government actions — in particular Groser’s reckless mismanagement of the emissions trading scheme, which is now leading to huge and expensive dislocation in the forestry sector.

Further context for Groser’s approach to climate policy came in a reply to a series of questions from Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham at Question Time on August 8th. Asked to reconcile sanctioning a new West Coast coal mine with climate action, Groser made himself completely clear:

We will not sacrifice everything to the altar of climate change.

Failing to take climate change seriously — by failing to cut emissions and doing nothing to encourage prudent adaptation — will sacrifice the entire country to the effects of climate change. By refusing to bite the bullet, Groser and his cabinet colleagues put easy money now ahead of our future wellbeing. Or, perhaps, any future worth having.

Generation Zero’s NZ speaking tour asks: What’s the holdup? Gareth Renowden Jul 19

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Youth-led climate campaigners Generation Zero have just finished the first week of their nationwide What’s The Holdup? speaking tour1 — an attempt to start a national conversation about action to reduce emissions. Here’s what the group has to say about the tour:

In between extreme weather and rising oil prices, countries around the world are making a shift towards renewable energy – but New Zealand is lagging behind. Tackling climate change for many Kiwis feels like an impossible task. But together, we can create the movement to change this and bring forth a thriving New Zealand we are proud to hand on to future generations.

The facts say that it’s 100% Possible to move beyond fossil fuels – but we need leadership at every level, from entrepreneurs and business leaders, from communities, and from the politicians we elect.

Generation Zero will initiate a conversation with the country. New Zealanders young and old are invited to hear young people and experts talk about the solutions to climate change, and what each one of us can do to make a difference.

It’s 100% possible to create a thriving New Zealand beyond fossil fuels. So what’s the holdup?

Here’s the schedule for the remainder of the tour:

  • Wellington – Monday 22nd July, Ilot Theatre, Town Hall 111 Wakefield Street
  • Palmerston North – Tuesday 23rd July, Massey Uni, Ag Hort 1 Lecture Theatre
  • Wanganui – Wednesday 24th July, Wanganui Museum, Davis Theatre
  • Havelock North – Thursday 25th July, Havelock North High School Auditorium
  • Tauranga – Tuesday 30th July, Bongard Centre, lecture theatre 104, the Bongard Centre, 200 Cameron Rd
  • Hamilton – Tuesday 30th July, Waikato University Lecture Theatre S1.04
  • Thames – Wednesday 31st July, Life Equip Church, 507 MacKay St
  • Whangarei – Thursday 1st August, Whangarei Girls High School theatre
  • Auckland – Monday August 5th, Auckland Uni Engineering building, room 401
  • Waiheke – Tuesday August 6th, venue Onetangi Community Hall

All events start at 7pm. For more information, sign up here.

  1. Apologies for not posting in time to promote this week’s South Island events.

TDB Today: Tim Groser’s utter nonsense Gareth Renowden Jun 26

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At the National Agricultural Fieldays earlier this month, climate change minister Tim Groser claimed that including agriculture in the emissions trading scheme would be “utter environmental and economic madness”. At The Daily Blog today, I explain why Groser is talking utter nonsense, and agriculture needs to be included in the ETS as soon as possible. Comments at TDB, please…

NZCCC 2013: Andy Reisinger on mitigating emissions in New Zealand Gareth Renowden Jun 10

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Day two of last week’s climate change conference kicked off with a keynote from Andy Reisinger, the deputy director of the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre on New Zealand’s wedges – a balanced meal? I grabbed ten minutes with him to explore some of the issues he raised.

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