International global warming report lays out the critical challenge

A special report on global warming, released today, has laid out a strong case for countries to make every effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, says the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw.

The special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that a host of climate-related risks – from sea level rise, to food and water supplies, security and health issues – will be worse if global temperatures rise to 2 degrees rather than 1.5 degrees.

The report also warns that the next two decades are crucial in limiting global warming to 1.5deg as opposed to 2deg.

The IPCC says it is likely that global warming will reach 1.5deg between 2030 and 2052, if warming continues at the current rate.

“The good news is that the IPCC’s report is broadly in line with this Government’s direction on climate change and it’s highly relevant to the work we are doing with the Zero Carbon Bill,” Mr Shaw said.

“The report shows the clear global benefits of maintaining efforts to limit global warming to 1.5oC.

“It says the goal is challenging but achievable but it also says that the pace of transition to low-emissions needs to step-up and be far reaching.”

Bronwyn Hayward, Associate Professor in Political Science at Canterbury University, was a Lead Author for the report.

Andy Reisinger, Deputy Director of the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is a member of the IPCC Bureau.

New Zealand Government departments have reviewed drafts of the report.

A New Zealand delegation was present at IPCC talks on the report in South Korea last week.

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LGNZ symposium to explore the challenges of climate change

Hard on the heels of the Productivity Commission publishing its report on the transitioning of New Zealand to a low-emissions economy,  Local Government New Zealand’s Climate Change Symposium in Wellington on Friday will discuss the challenges and opportunities of climate change facing New Zealand communities.

Supported by Deep South National Science Challenge, over 130 local government delegates, industry experts and central government officials will hear speakers discuss community engagement, options for adapting, adaptation funding, legal developments, and the importance of taking a linked approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation action.

“Local government has a critical role to play in ensuring that its communities are resilient to the impacts of climate change,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“This symposium is an opportunity to explore the challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation, solutions to those challenges and the work that councils across the country are doing to address climate change.”

The Climate Change Symposium’s 24 speakers go beyond science to include people such as Dr Huhana Smith, Head of School of Art, Massey University.

A full agenda can be found  here.

Mr Cull says:

“Discussions will feed into LGNZ’s Climate Change Project, which seeks to provides councils with an evidence base to support a comprehensive framework for risk reduction and/or retreat; a comprehensive adaptation plan for New Zealand; and a local government view on emission reduction targets and how to achieve these.”

The Productivity Commission report, released yesterday, recommended a suite of policy reforms to help drive the transition, including a ‘feebate’ scheme to increase the uptake of electric vehicles and introducing emissions standards for newly-registered vehicles.

The New Zealand Herald’s report highlighted the commission’s call for New Zealand to quickly stop burning fossil fuels, plant vast amounts of forest – and switch to greener agriculture.

The Productivity Commission’s final report on how the country can shift to a low-emissions economy also called for emissions standards for newly registered vehicles, a “feebate” scheme to boost the uptake of EVs, and putting a price on gases from farms.

The commission’s findings were largely in line with those laid out in its draft report in April – but with some stronger calls in areas such as emissions, energy, land use and transport.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw was quoted as saying the report highlighted many areas the Government was already working on, such as establishing an independent Climate Commission.

The Government would respond to the report’s 173 findings and 78 recommendations “over the coming months”, he said.

The Science Media Centre gathered expert commentary when the draft report was released.

Minister says the momentum is building for action on climate change

The Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, has welcomed an open letter from WWF-New Zealand which offers its congratulations on the Government’s goal of getting the country to net zero emissions by 2050.

Their support comes the day before public consultation on the proposed Zero Carbon Bill begins.

The letter has been signed by more than 200 people including business leaders from Z Energy, Les Mills gyms, DB Breweries, the Body Shop and Meridian Energy, as well as the mayors of Wellington, Whanganui, Christchurch, Gisborne and Auckland.

“Momentum is building for the Zero Carbon Bill and tomorrow the Government will begin a nationwide series of public meetings to hear peoples’ views, backed up with an interactive online engagement tool and some hefty policy analysis in a discussion document,” said James Shaw.

“The support we’re seeing for action on climate change shows that Kiwis don’t shy away from tackling the hard problems.

“We all know that making a plan for climate action now will pay off in the long term.

“Communities, businesses, farmers, iwi and ordinary New Zealanders up and down the country are already doing what they can to reduce emissions or are ready to get on board and help draw up our plan to reduce New Zealand’s impact on the climate.

“This is about doing our bit to ensure a stable climate for future generations and acting together with other countries to get climate change under control.”

The official process of consultation will begin tomorrow for everyone to have their say on the key components of the Government’s net zero emissions plan.

It would be cheering to know someone brings the attention of policy-makers to the nature of the research highlighted on the AgScience blog earlier today.

Source: Minister for Climate Change

Technical working group calls for urgent action on climate change

A report from the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group urges better planning and resourcing and strong leadership to prepare New Zealand for a warmer, wetter and wilder future.

The report, released today, makes 21 major recommendations as a starting point.

It says the Government should urgently set about first identifying what needs to be done and who does what along with undertaking a countrywide risk assessment to inform it.

It also suggests the Local Government Act 2002 be changed to specify climate change adaptation as a function of local government and arm local authorities with a clearer mandate.

Strong leadership is called for, too – the Government should make it clear to the public that climate change is a priority, from a review of policy and legislation to factoring climate impacts into government and council procurement processes.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw issued a press statement (HERE) to accompany the release of the recommendations.

The group’s Co-Chair, Dr Judy Lawrence, says in the statement that even if the world stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, our climate would still change for centuries.

“Previous emissions take time to show their impact and are long lasting. We are already seeing the effects of climate change with sea level rise, more floods and hotter temperatures and we can expect further losses and damage,” says Dr Lawrence.

“We need robust data to assess our risks and see where and who is most vulnerable and exposed. This will enable us to put a national plan into action which is independently monitored and reported on.

“Adaptation needs to be funded so that there are incentives for people and organisations to take adaptive action. All of this work needs to be supported by strong leadership.

“The group has conveyed its expectation that the government will put in place a coordinated set of measures. These will enable New Zealand to reduce its exposure and vulnerability to the changing climate.”

Mr Shaw said becoming climate-resilient was a significant challenge.

“But it’s clear from CCATWG’s report that with the right plans and tools in place, we have a greater chance of managing the transition,” says Mr Shaw.

“There is new money in Budget 2018 for resourcing the Government’s climate change priorities.

“I see risk assessment as a priority and I intend to bring options to Cabinet soon for a decision on how and when to do a risk assessment.

“In the coming weeks we will be asking New Zealanders how they see New Zealand adapting to the effects of climate change as part of the Zero Carbon Bill consultation.

“We are all in this together and we have a responsibility to future generations to make changes now and build on what has been started. This will provide a framework for the future. I urge everyone to be part of the conversation.

“Taking early action in the right areas is likely to avoid the need for more abrupt action later,” says Mr Shaw.

The report can be read HERE.

People can register to have their say on how New Zealand becomes climate resilient as part of the Zero Carbon Bill HERE.

Budget provides $15m extra for the Sustainable Farming Fund

Budget 2018 includes $15 million of new operating funding over the next four years for the Sustainable Farming Fund to support more inspiring ideas in applied research and extension projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits for New Zealand.

In a joint press statement to announce this, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw say the Government is investing in projects to build sustainability, productivity and resilience across the primary sector as the Government works alongside farmers and rural communities to provide leadership on some of New Zealand’s most pressing issues.

The Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) encourages unique collaborations among farmers and growers, scientists and researchers, iwi, local government and others who are making a real difference for our rural communities and the wider primary industries, Mr O’Connor says.

“There has been a massive oversubscription to the fund in recent years, meaning good projects aren’t getting a look-in because the previous Government did not provide enough investment for the fund,” he says.

“In the last SFF round, 86 eligible applications were received but only 28 of these could be accepted.”

Mr Shaw says these projects are led by those on the front line and help find ways to optimise the use of the country’s natural resources and protect the environment for future generations.

“We have set an ambitious target for New Zealand to become a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050,” Mr Shaw says.

“A range of forward-looking measures are required to achieve this. Cleaner, smarter farming is central to our plan for sustainable growth.”

Mr O’Connor says the SFF funding boost builds on work the Government has already prioritised.

Last year, he announced the pilot for SFF Tere, which translates to “be quick, swift or fast”.

“Smaller producers are often key innovators, and four SFF Tere projects are already progressing,” Mr O/Connor says.

“I’m looking forward to doing more to help our primary sector increase value and resilience, with a head start on ever-changing consumer tastes.”

The move announced today was included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Labour and the Green Party.

Mr Shaw says the Government is committed to partnering with the agricultural sector to achieve shared goals for sustainability, modernisation and profitability.

“This boost to the Sustainable Farming Fund injects fresh energy into projects that explore how to farm less intensively and more in tune with the environment, while retaining profitability.”

Find out more about the Sustainable Farming Fund at mpi.govt.nz/SFF.

 

NZ funding boost for budding agriculture scientists

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw have announced the first successful candidates of a New Zealand-funded international doctorate scholarship programme for budding agriculture scientists.

The PhD scholarship is a joint initiative of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) – on which New Zealand has a leading role – and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s (CGIAR) programme on climate change, agriculture and food security (CCAFS).

The scholarships will help up-and-coming agriculture scientists in developing countries working on agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation research.

“New Zealand’s farmers are world-renowned for their efficient food production but all agribusinesses face the challenge of being economically and environmentally sustainable,” says Damien O’Connor.

“It’s important we support the next generation of science leaders if we are to develop techniques to reduce agricultural emissions without compromising world food security.

“We export excellent primary sector products and can do the same with our expertise.”

Some 65 applicants from 23 countries applied for the scholarship following its launch at the United Nations climate conference in November last year.

The nine successful first-round candidates come from a range of countries including Argentina, Ethiopia, Mexico, Nigeria and Tunisia.

Scholarship recipients will work in a range of research fields including nutrient management, pasture management, soil and rumen microbiology, tropical agriculture, and greenhouse gas measurement.

New Zealand provides $400,000 in funding to support the scholarship programme, which will allow more than 30 early career scientists to undertake 3-4 month research exchanges at CGIAR centres and other affiliated research institutions of GRA members and partners. Several countries are providing in-kind sponsorship.

Source: Minister of Agriculture 

Wow – an Environment Minister who says meat is crucial to a balanced diet

New Zealand’s Minister for the Environment is Green Party co-leader James Shaw, a fellow who can be expected to exercise a strong influence on the direction of the Government’s agricultural policies.  He is unabashedly intent on reducing livestock farming for animal welfare reasons and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water contamination.

His British counterpart is Michael Gove, a Conservative Party bigwig and – it transpires – a champion of carnivores and meat farmers.

Meat is a crucial part of a balanced diet, he said while telling farmers about his “health and harmony” vision for food.

The Guardian reports (HERE):

Michael Gove’s new vision for British agriculture post-Brexit envisages farmers playing a critical role in improving public health.

“There is a growing public interest in the impact of our current diet on our health,” he said. Non-communicable diseases such as heart and lung disease, cancer and diabetes accounted for 89% of deaths in the UK in 2014, according to the World Health Organization, he pointed out, and a major driver of that has been our diet: “the wrong fats, sugar, salt and other additives form too large a part of our national diet”.

Improving our national diet is an important job for our farmers, he told the audience.

“A balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, pulses and cereals, fresh dairy produce and protein sources such as fresh fish, offal and properly sourced meat is critical to human health and flourishing.”

The Guardian asked Mr Gove if, given the known environmental impacts of livestock farming, the British Government might consider suggesting that people reduce their meat consumption.

He replied:

“For health reasons there’s an appropriate level of meat in anyone’s diet which doctors and nutritionists would advise us to consume.”

“It’s not my job to micro-manage what goes into a shopping basket,” he added, “but while I respect the rights of people who might be vegan or vegetarian to make that choice, nevertheless I don’t think anyone should be shy or abashed in drawing attention to the fact that livestock farming contributes to the mixed farming methods that provide a specific set of farming benefits and that mixed farming and meat is part of a balanced diet.”

The Guardian proceeds to note that the discussion over whether humans need meat as a protein source is profoundly polarised. There is also much discussion over the health impacts of our current levels of meat consumption compared to predominantly plant-based diets.

In this country 30 vegan advocates and animal rights activists gathered in Wellington in March last year for  ‘A Vegan Future’ Hui.  Their aim was to discuss strategy and tactics for establishing a vegan New Zealand.

Group leader Carl Scotta said eating animal-based foods had been scientifically linked to serious human health issues, whereas a well balanced plant-based diet had been proven to have significant health benefits,

Richard Young, from Britain’s Sustainable Food Trust, told The Guardian his organisation would argue that people should reduce their consumption of grain-fed meats.

This thinking resonates with Greens.

South Auckland barrister and solicitor Raj Pardeep Singh joined the New Zealand Green Party three years ago for several reasons, among them because “there are lots of vegans and vegetarian candidates in the Party…” 

Germany’s Green Party a few years ago  added a mandatory “Veggie Day” one day a week in all cafeterias across the nation to her party’s election platform.