Govt increases contribution to global climate target

New Zealand will significantly increase its contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change by reducing net greenhouse emissions by 50 percent by 2030, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced today on the eve of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

Under the Paris Agreement each country adopts an international target known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). This sets out the contribution the country will make towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. The updated NDC announced today is expressed as a target to reduce net emissions by 50 per cent below gross 2005 levels by 2030. This equates to a 41 per cent reduction on 2005 levels using what is known as an ‘emissions budget’ approach.

New Zealand’s new NDC is consistent with the recommendations of the independent Climate Change Commission and will make a significant contribution towards international efforts to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

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Most agricultural funding distorts prices and harms environment – UN report

Our readers will already know that agriculture is a polluting industry which raises a raft of challenges in the world-wide effort to tackle climate change.

The role played  by agricultural subsidies is addressed in a new UN report, which calls for repurposing government subsidies and incentives to achieve more of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and realise the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

The main finding of the report is that around 87% of the $540 billion in total annual government support given worldwide to agricultural producers includes measures that are price distorting and that can be harmful to nature and health.

The report, A multi-billion-dollar opportunity: Repurposing agricultural support to transform food systems, was published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Global support to producers in the form of subsidies and other incentives, makes up 15 per cent of total agricultural production value.

By 2030, this is projected to more than triple, to $1.759 trillion. Continue reading

US to rejoin Paris climate accord under President Biden – expert reaction

Newly inaugurated President Joseph R. Biden has recommitted the United States to the Paris climate agreement, the international accord designed to avert catastrophic global warming, and ordered federal agencies to start reviewing and reinstating more than 100 environmental regulations that were weakened or rolled back by former President Donald J. Trump.

These moves represent a first step in healing one of the deepest rifts between the United States and the rest of the world after Mr Trump defiantly rejected the Paris pact.

He seemed to relish his administration’s push to weaken or undo major domestic climate policies, the New York Times reports.

Tackling the climate crisis is among President Biden’s highest priorities.

“We’re going to combat climate change in a way we have not before,” Mr Biden said in the Oval Office on Wednesday evening, just before signing the executive orders.

Even so, he cautioned: “They are just executive actions. They are important but we’re going to need legislation for a lot of the things we’re going to do.” Continue reading

How countries in the world have met or bettered their Paris Agreement targets (and don’t look for NZ among the medal winners)

Climate Explained, a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre, has tackled a question about the performance of different countries in meeting their Paris Agreement targets. 

New Zealand does not come out of it too well – but we have done much better than Australia.

This article by Robert McLachlan, professor of applied mathematics at Massey University, was originally published in The Conversation and has been posted on the Science Media Centre website:

The 2015 Paris Agreement is much more than a one-off climate change deal. Its main aim to limit global warming to well below 2℃, ideally 1.5℃, was a breakthrough.

A follow-up report shows that keeping warming below 1.5℃ will require reducing fossil fuel burning by half by 2032. The 1.5℃ target has been written into New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act.

But the ongoing process is also notable. Each country has registered a pledge (Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC) to indicate how it plans to meet the agreement’s terms.

Without climate action, we are heading for 4.5℃ of warming by 2100. Current pledges, if fully realised, take us to 2.8℃.

Countries have complete freedom regarding their target and how to achieve it. The NDCs will be revised every five years, first in 2020, and are required to be increasingly ambitious over time. The idea is that the international community can check the targets against performance and global goals. Best practice can be shared, and poor performance exposed.

This flexibility made it possible to get the agreement through, but it can be confusing. Targets have been set for different dates, from different baselines and for different types of emissions.

Countries may have good reasons for setting weaker targets – they may be starting from a low base, like India. Or they may have unusual emissions, like New Zealand’s large proportion of agricultural methane.

So for each country, we can ask:

  1. Does the target really reflect its highest level of ambition, as agreed in Paris?
  2. Is it consistent with 2℃ or 1.5℃ of global warming?
  3. Is it on track to meet its target?
  4. Will it ratchet up its ambition in 2020?

Let’s look at two large emitters, the EU and US, together responsible for 47% of historic, and 24% of current, emissions.

EU 2030 target: 40% reduction from 1990 levels

The European Union is on track for a 48% reduction, partly due to a collapse of heavy industry in Eastern Europe in the 1990s and more recently from a phase-out of coal. Despite this, because of lack of action on transport and buildings, and an increasing reliance on natural gas, the EU has been rated insufficient by Climate Action Tracker, an independent research unit founded in 2009 and partly funded by the German Ministry for Environment.

Last week, the new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced plans for the EU to increase the target up to a 55% reduction, along with sweeping implementation plans. Some European countries are moving faster: Denmark, already down 32% on 1990 levels, has this month legislated a 70% reduction by 2030.

US 2025 target: 26% reduction from 2005 levels

So far the US is down 11%. The Obama-era climate plan would have achieved the 2025 target, but is now being rolled back, and the US will leave the Paris Agreement on November 4 next year, the day after the elections.

On the other hand, city and state-level actions and the continued decline of coal mean some further reductions in emissions are likely.

Now let’s consider two rapidly growing emitters, China and India, responsible for 16% of historic and 33% of current emissions.

China target: peak emissions by 2030

China is well on track to achieve this. Emissions actually levelled off for five years before rising again in 2018. China is the world’s largest installer of renewable energy, but also the world’s largest consumer of coal. It also funds a lot of coal power stations in other countries. China has announced it will greatly strengthen its target next year.

India’s 2030 target: reduce emissions intensity relative to GDP to 33% below 2005 levels

India is well on track to meet this, having rapidly moved into solar energy. Its target involves an increase in total emissions, but should be seen in light of India’s very low emissions of only two tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita. This is compatible with the 2℃ target.

Australia 2030 target: 26% below 2005 levels

Australia is presently only on track for a 7% reduction. But a decrease in forest clearance has masked the fact that emissions from fossil fuel burning have increased and are projected to increase further, to 8% above 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia has become the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil fuels, behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, many state governments have set ambitious targets and made either aspirational or legal commitments toward zero emissions.

New Zealand 2030 target: 30% below 2005 levels

New Zealand is projected to reduce by 15% under current policies, with the difference to be made up by purchasing carbon units from overseas. This may set up a clash with the Zero Carbon Act, which requires that “emissions budgets must be met, as far as possible, through domestic emissions reductions and domestic removals.” However, these figures mask the fact New Zealand is, most unusually, using “gross-net” accounting. The 2030 target is for net emissions (that is, including the carbon sink of forests), but is measured against their 2005 gross emissions. The target allows net emissions to grow by up to 24% and is woefully unambitious.

Using a different methodology, taking into account each country’s situation, performance, and plans, the Climate Change Performance Index found that the top three countries are Sweden, Denmark and Morocco, and the bottom three are Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the US. New Zealand is ranked 34th and Australia 53rd of the 58 countries assessed.The Conversation

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Greenhouse gas data show dairy expansion has contributed to increased emissions

The latest inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions shows that, as at 2016, there had been a 19.6 per cent increase in emissions on 1990 levels.

Methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transport were the biggest contributors to the increase. The agriculture and energy sectors contribute 49.2 per cent and 39.8 per cent respectively to New Zealand’s gross emissions.

The inventory gives a picture of how much human-generated greenhouse gas is being emitted into and removed from the atmosphere.

It shows there’s still much to be done to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, said Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

Gross emissions in 2016 were 78.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – 2.4 per cent lower than 2015.

“Urgent action is needed, at a level not previously contemplated,” says Mr Shaw.

“We all need to be focused on the transition to a net zero emissions economy.

“That is why the Government is introducing the Zero Carbon Bill, which will set in law a bold, new 2050 emissions reduction target for New Zealand and establish an independent Climate Change Commission.

“The Commission will recommend interim emissions reduction targets and provide advice. It will look at how we transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2035.”

Expansion in the dairy industry has largely led to the fertiliser and methane increases in the agricultural sector.  More petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads are generating more emissions in the transport sector.

“One of the things the Commission will look at is whether and how agriculture comes into the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. We’ll continue to invest in research and technology that can reduce agricultural emissions while increasing productivity and profitability for farmers,” says Mr Shaw.

“Other ways we are reducing emissions include the establishment of a Green Investment Fund which will direct investment towards low-emissions industries. We’ll move to electric vehicles – the Government’s own car fleet will be electric by 2025.”

The inventory shows the long-term emission rise is partly due to the increasing number of trees being cut down.

“The Government’s committed to planting one billion trees over the next 10 years,” says Mr Shaw.

“If we want to help lead the world towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must create a moral mandate underpinned by decisive action at home to reduce our own emissions.”

Key findings of the inventory:

  • New Zealand’s gross emissions have increased 19.6 per cent since 1990.
  • Methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transportation have contributed the most to this increase.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, gross emissions decreased by 2.4 per cent mainly from a decrease in the use of thermal fuels (coal and gas) and a decline in the number of sheep.
  • In 2016 the agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand’s gross emissions, at 49.2 per cent and 39.8 per cent respectively.
  • The Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector offsets nearly one third of New Zealand’s gross emissions.    The LULUCF sector is where greenhouse gases from using the land (for forests, crops and pasture, for example) are monitored.  This is separate from the livestock emissions reported in the agriculture sector. It covers our use of soil, trees, plants, biomass and timber and is the only sector where carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere.
  • Net emissions have increased by 54.2 per cent since 1990 because of more trees being cut down and an increase in gross emissions.
  • In 2016, approximately 5099 hectares of new forest was planted and 4945 hectares deforested.

About the Greenhouse Gas inventory

Inventory data is NZ’s official GHG estimate, used for domestic and international reporting and for helping track progress towards targets. Data from the inventory will be used when the Government consults with New Zealanders about the upcoming Zero Carbon Bill.

Further information

Source: Minister for Climate Change

 

Role of agriculture is important in economic impacts of climate change measures

Another day – another report on climate change.

New research commissioned by Westpac and carried out by EY and Vivid Economics, shows New Zealand’s economy could be tens of billions of dollars better off if early action is taken to meet our Paris commitment to help keep global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

The timing of the inclusion of agriculture within the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme would make a big difference to the economic consequences of whatever policies are adopted.

Moreover, agriculture particularly would take a financial hit if the transition to a low-carbon economy was delayed and everyday household costs would likely go up.

The report modelled two different paths to meeting New Zealand’s obligations under the Paris agreement: the central scenario modelled an early and smooth transition by NZ businesses to meet climate obligations. The shock scenario anticipated more than a decade of inaction on emissions reduction, followed by more aggressive action from 2030.

The modelling shows that NZ can decarbonise towards a two-degree target while achieving economic growth.

The timing of the inclusion of agriculture within the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was one key difference between the scenarios. Other factors included improvements in technology, the purchasing of carbon credits, and the rate of afforestation.

Among other highlights:

  • The modelling indicated the central scenario would create $30 billion more GDP through to 2050 than the shock scenario.
  • Agriculture faces challenges in a two-degree aligned economy, but the industry is projected to be better off from an early, phased, introduction to the NZ ETS, rather than a more rapid entry later on.
  • Growth is not projected to be evenly distributed. Renewable electricity sources such as wind, hydro and solar will be among those industries to prosper, alongside fishing and non-ferrous metals, while fossil fuel industries will contract.
  • A sector’s capacity to decarbonise is positively correlated with projected growth.

The report also looked at the physical threat posed by climate change to key industry sectors.

  • Electricity generation and transport will likely experience physical disruption from climate change but will become a focus for decarbonisation and may see increases in demand.
  • Forestry will likely face significant fire risk but be an important sector in the transition to a two-degree economy.
  • Drought, wildfires and glacial retreat will likely increase in frequency and cause economic loss and operational disruption for agriculture and tourism, as evidenced by past climate events.

In its coverage of the report, the Science Media Centre (HERE) notes that the report has been covered by several media, including:

Stuff.co.nz: Early action on climate change would save New Zealand $30b, report finds
NZ Herald: To act now or later: The $30 billion climate change question
Newshub: Early climate action could save NZ billions – study
TVNZ: Billions could be saved with early climate change action, report finds
Radio NZ: NZ to save $30bn by 2050 if it speeds up action on climate change – study

The Science Media Centre sought expert reaction to the report.

Professor Ralph Sims, Director, Centre for Energy Research, Massey University, comments:

“Comparing the two scenarios in Westpac’s NZ report on ‘Climate Change Impacts’ serves to confirm what global scientific and economic analysis has stated for some time – that the sooner we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the greater the benefits will be, and the lower the overall costs in the long term.

“This was a similar key message at the global level from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in its 5th Assessment Report (2014). It was also covered specifically for New Zealand in the Royal Society’s 2016 reportTransition to a low carbon economy for New Zealand which also showed that not only will delaying emission reductions cost more, but result in more total emissions being produced over the same period of time.”

The report can be viewed HERE.

The Paris Agreement: Royal Society theme issue papers address the issue of where we go from here

Papers presented in a theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A provide new insights that limiting climate warming to 1.5°C, in the context of sustainable and equitable development, is still possible.

The research explores new predictions of what might happen if the Paris Agreement target of restricting warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is not met.

It also explores the perils of geoengineering, and the additional benefits we might gain from restricting warming to 1.5C.

The theme issue consists of review papers, opinion pieces and original research from some of the presentations held at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute 25th anniversary conference. It was organised and edited by Dann Mitchell, Myles R Allen, Jim W Hall, Benito Mueller, Lavanya Rajamani and Corinne Le Quéré.

The papers include:

  • Researchers present and compare a range of projected changes for a world at 1.5°C and 2°C. Oman, Bangladesh, Mauritania and Yemen at 2°C are projected to reach unprecedented levels of vulnerability to food insecurity;
  • Scientists predict that the median GDP per capita will be 13% lower at the end of the century if climate change raises temperatures worldwide by 2°C, compared to if temperatures remained the same. The projected economic losses are greatest in low income countries suggesting increased inequality under future climate change;
  • Researchers find that an additional 5.5% and 14% of the globe could act as a climatic refuge for plants and animals if we limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C.

The full issue can be found after publication at http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/376/2119

The articles within the theme issue include:

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Submissions are called for on international climate change guidelines

The Government is inviting input as it sets the priorities for New Zealand at international climate change negotiations.

Agriculture is among the areas on which New Zealand has focused.

In Paris in 2015, 174 countries plus the European Union committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

At the end of this year (2-14 December), international negotiators will meet in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The purpose of COP24 is to work out the guidelines for how countries work together to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

From today, New Zealanders are invited to have their say on what they think New Zealand’s stance on those guidelines should be.

“Tackling climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our time,” says the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw.

 

“I’ve been clear that New Zealand will show leadership on climate change on the world stage, which is why we want to refresh our approach to international climate negotiations, and to hear from you about what you think is important in those negotiations.

 

“We need to lead by example at home and we also need to be clear about what we’re working towards at the international negotiating table.”

Having signed up to the Paris Agreement, the next step is to agree on guidance for countries as they go about implementing their national contributions to reducing greenhouse gases and limiting temperature rise, and that is what will happen in Katowice in December, Mr Shaw says.

“There are a number of areas New Zealand has focused on already, including transparency, effective mitigation, integrity of carbon markets, agriculture, as well as gender and indigenous people’s issues,” he says.

Public submissions can be made by clicking here for more details.

Submissions are due by 3 April.

Source: Minister for Climate Change

Time to take a historic step for climate change, says Jan Wright

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has challenged MPs of all parties to come together to tackle climate change.

 “Climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue,” said Dr Wright.

“It’s a huge challenge. And not just for the current Government, but also for the Governments that succeed them into the future, be they blue, red, green, or any other colour,”

In a new report, the Commissioner acknowledges that the Government has made progress since the Paris agreement. And the cross-party working group on climate change has been a welcome development.

But she says it’s now time to take the next step.

 “There is an opportunity here for the next Parliament to build on recent developments and take a historic step forward that will be credited for generations to come,” said Dr Wright.

Dr Wright has recommended a new Act, similar to the UK Climate Change Act. This is a law that was passed with overwhelming cross-party support in the House of Commons in 2008.

Several other countries have since passed similar legislation, including Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

A similar law in New Zealand would put emissions targets into law, and require the setting of carbon budgets that would act as stepping stones towards the targets. It would also establish a high-powered independent expert group that would crunch the numbers and provide objective advice.

 “There has been a lot of debate around what our targets should be,” said Dr Wright. “But I’m much more interested in how we are actually going to achieve them.”

The Commissioner says underlining her recommendations is the need for a long-term approach to climate change.

“When it comes to climate change, we need to get used to looking decades ahead,” said Dr Wright. “The world is going to be a very different place in the future.”

The report is subtitled Climate change, progress, and predictability. Dr Wright says businesses and investors are crying out for some predictability in New Zealand’s response to climate change.

 “Many businesses are keen to take advantage of the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy, but they need more predictability before they invest.”

The Commissioner’s report, Stepping stones to Paris and beyond: Climate change, progress, and predictability, is available HERE.

A set of frequently asked questions is available HERE. 

 

NZ farm sector and the Paris Agreement

A paper titled The Paris Agreement and its impact on cattle and food sectors of New Zealand is among the latest articles posted online by the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research.

The authors are M.A.Fernandex and A.Daigneult, from the Governance and Policy Team at Landcare Research in Auckland.

The absract says:

The Paris Agreement asserts that greenhouse gas emission pathways should be consistent with holding the increase in global temperature below 1.5 °C, or 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

The purpose of this paper is to assess the economic impact of this agreement on the cattle and food product sectors of New Zealand. We used a general equilibrium approach to evaluate the economic impacts, and the Global Timber Model to estimate forestry carbon sequestration.

We simulated eight scenarios where we allow accounting/not accounting for sequestration, pricing/not pricing agricultural emissions, and linking/not linking the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) with the European Union ETS.

We found that significant negative impacts occur if sequestration is not accounted, the ETS remains unlinked and agriculture is priced. Competitiveness, in turn, is not significantly affected if sequestration is accounted, regardless of the linking scheme of the ETS.