By Robert McLachlan 25/03/2021


Yes, it’s time to submit to the Climate Change Commission on their draft advice to the government, if you haven’t done so already. Submissions close on 28 March 2021.

 


Actually, Tolstoy can teach us a thing or two about climate change. See Michaelson 2011, Morally Differentiating Responsibility for Climate Change Mitigation: An Analogy with Tolstoy’s” Master and Man”Business & Professional Ethics Journal, pp. 113-136, and “How Tolstoy’s War and Peace can help us understand history’s complexity“, History News Network, December 2019.

 

 

 

Paul Callister and I have submitted in two key areas, transport and the level of emissions.

On emissions, as I argued in an article in Stuff, the suggested carbon budgets actually allow our emissions to increase in the coming decade. I think most people who voted for the Zero Carbon Act were expecting them to decrease. Our emissions as reported to the UN for the decade 2009–2018 were 548 Mt CO2e; the draft advice puts them at 602 Mt CO2 for the decade 2021–2030.

Paul and I are suggesting a budget of 514 Mt. Even that doesn’t sound like much of a decrease. However, it would still require major cuts to fossil fuel burning, and it would still require us to reverse our past fifteen-year standstill on forestry.

Lawyers for Climate Action NZ have suggested a budget of 400 Mt, the same as what we emitted in the 1990s.

On transport, the Commission is targeting emission cuts of 47% by 2035. However, it’s hard to see the suggested actions achieving that, since we are still going full steam ahead in the wrong direction. Private car travel is heavily and increasingly subsidised and bedded into society, which makes it difficult to visualise the complete transport revolution that is needed. Paul Callister and Heidi O’Callahan have looked at the whole issue in this March 2021 working paper; Heidi also covers it at Greater Auckland.

Our Commission is based on the one in the UK, which has now been running fairly successfully for a decade. The UK has surface transport emissions of 1.9 tonnes CO2/person, New Zealand 3.3 tonnes. The difference (UK is 43% lower) is made up of 21% less car travel per person and 27% lower emissions per kilometre. In some ways I’m surprised the difference is not even more. The UK has comprehensive bus and train networks and denser cities, and also fuel efficiency standards.

The UK CCC “Balanced Net Zero” model involves transport emissions falling 62% over 2020-2035. This is made up from EVs 55%; better petrol cars 4%; electrifying rail 1.5%; lower demand 14%, with these reductions countered by an increase of 13% due to population and economic growth. This isn’t the transport revolution that some are calling for, but it’s a good start. Could we match that here?

And did I say, it’s time to submit?