Turn up the pressure

The New Zealand Government has set an emissions reduction target of 10-20% below 1990 levels (dependent on global agreement and other conditions).  This is well below the reductions called for by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states that a reductions target of 25-40% less than 1990 levels (by 2020) is needed for all developed countries. Regardless of what the international scientific voices have to say, however, there is still wide ranging opinion as to whether this target is sufficient or is unreachable. The Ministry for the Environment has a list of tables comparing New Zealand targets to other countries worldwide, and while we are ahead of most developed countries, the EU has made far more promising progress so far, and have committed to a 30% reduction depending on a global consensus, and a 20% reduction target unilaterally. The UK is also ahead of us, setting an unconditional target of 34% or 42% dependent upon international consensus.


Interestingly, The Business Council for Sustainable Development, while being in agreement with the initial target, also notes that the target will have to increase in the December talks in Copenhagen. They cite two major reasons for a need to increase the target: first, leading other nations into a more ambitious reductions target will do more to combat climate change, and second, New Zealanders are willing to aim higher as well. An online survey of over 2000 kiwis showed that 49% wanted a target of more than 20%, with only 16% wanting a target below 10%.

Currently the governments’ plan to achieve this target is “a mix of domestic emission reductions, storage of carbon in forests with new plantings and the purchase of carbon credits” (AP). Is it just me, or is everyone else wondering what “domestic emission reductions” is going to entail? Environment Minister Nick Smith (is anyone else cringing at the fact that our Environment Minister is from, of all parties, the National Party?!) has stated, probably to quell outrage at the target, that it is unachievable and unaffordable to aim higher. I am willing to bet that he doesn’t distinguish between “unachievable” and “unaffordable.” The Green Party has released their own study that shows a different picture.  Usage of carbon credit figures by the New Zealand Government has not only been variable, but the high reliance on purchasing carbon credits in the first place is shown to be overstated. The study concludes that making key, economically viable and conservative adjustments to the following sectors would mean less purchasing of carbon credits to allow us to strive for a more ambitious target: Electricity, Industrial Fuels, Transport, Agriculture, Forestry Planting, and Forestry Management. What I found most surprising about this report is that we weren’t all expected to start riding our bikes tomorrow, or anything particularly drastic, in fact, the biggest savings to be had were in better forestry planting and management.

If you feel that the emissions target of 10-20% falls short of what should be done, demand more! There are two petitions currently running that I know about:

Oxfam’s Feel the Heat petition
Sign On

Both call for a 40% target, which is in line with the target called for by the IPCC. Let me know by commenting if there are other similar petitions going and I’ll add them to the list.


It gets worse (Greens)


1 Comment

Filed under Climate Change, Current Affairs

One response to “Turn up the pressure

  1. MadScience

    I’m listening to National Radio’s coverage at the moment. Our government says they’ll commit to a 10-20% reduction, depending on how much effort is put in by leading developing nations (read: China, India, Russia). Pacific island nations are calling for a commitment to a 45% reduction, saying that anything less ignores the needs of islanders. I would add, the rest of humanity, too.

    Politics and economics will cripple our ability to cope with global warming. Although there are many opportunities to both reduce our carbon emissions and grow our economy, seriously addressing global warming is going to cost some serious $$$. Electoral cycles are 3-4 years long, while business reports every quarter. The accounting for our long-term impact on the planet is simply beyond the scope of most planners.

    Asking developing nations to make the next step on reducing emissions is hypocritical and counterproductive. There has always been the danger, now manifesting, that facing global warming would be perceived as an excuse for the developed world to depress the economies of developing nations, maintaining the competitive advantage gained during the colonial era. The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have made this such a pressing issue, are there because of the industrialisation that has already occurred. It may make environmental sense to deny developing nations the same opportunity that we had, but it adds another huge inequality to an already massive imbalance.

    New Zealand needs a 3-pronged response to global warming: first, a proactive reduction in our emissions. We can’t expect others to lead the way; it’s just hypocrisy. Secondly, create new industries focussed on monitoring, mitigating, and adapting to global warming. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that all this talk of emissions reduction is just hot air. The world will continue to burn. As an agricultural island nation we need to deal with it, even if we can’t prevent it. Thirdly, we need to engage in international sharing of green technology, especially green replacements for existing industries. The industrialised world in general needs to provide developing countries like China with the technology and capital to pursue and alternate path of industrialisation. Most of humanity still lives in poverty, and the economic development they will continue to demand has to come in a form radically different from the petrochemical-hungry history of the West.

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