Thursday, May 19, 2022

Govt beating around emissions bush

Over the last week, climate change and both the Government and the world’s reaction to it has reached absurd levels.

Alan Emerson believes the Government should address emissions at source-level, because planting pine trees to absorb carbon has led to a lot of good farmland being taken for forestry. 

Over the last week, climate change and both the Government and the world’s reaction to it has reached absurd levels.

In addition, the so-called reforms planned for the ETS are, in a phrase, crazy and counter-productive.

It started with Climate Change Minister James Shaw telling the High Court in Wellington that the New Zealand climate target of limiting global warming to 1.5degC was “aspirational”.

That was in response to a bunch of lawyers who took the Government to court claiming it needed greater action on climate change.

Perhaps those lawyers could tell me the numbers of their profession who biked or walked to work, those who wore woolen clothing, so as not to pollute the oceans, and those who had vegetable gardens to reduce their environmental impact. My view is they should get their own houses in order before interfering in mine.

That ‘aspirational’ 1.5degC will also be cold comfort to the people who have worked tirelessly on He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), to try and prevent the rural sector getting railroaded into the ETS. As I’ve also written, Shaw has made no commitment to any of the solutions we may offer.

The harsh reality that Shaw and others seem to be ignoring is that the world is increasing its global footprint and massively so, in part as a reaction to the Ukrainian war.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is increasing the UK’s oil and gas production, along with their emissions. 

America is to boycott Russian oil and will purchase supplies from both Venezuela and Iran. Again, increasing emissions.

Australia is also ignoring climate change and ramping up both coal and oil production.

The production of global electricity from coal increased a massive 9% last year.

Last year global CO2 emissions increased 4.95%.

NZ’s corresponding reaction is to try and tax the burps and farts of cows and sheep.

One of the mitigation systems available in NZ is planting pine trees to absorb carbon that has led to a lot of good farmland being taken for forestry.

Big polluters doing that sends totally the wrong messages to consumers. Basically they are saying ‘drive whatever you like, fly wherever you want, we’ve got you covered.’

Now in a typical politically inspired bureaucratic lurch, we have the Government proposing new rules for the carbon farming of exotic forests.

Ministers James Shaw and Stuart Nash have said they want to consult, but reading their media release the decisions have been made.

They want to exclude new permanent exotic plantations from the ETS.

That will be counter productive and I’d describe the brains trust that came up with that shambles as naïve.

Ollie Belton runs Carbon Forest Services. I rate him. His reading of the proposal is that it will mean more good productive land will go into forestry.

“If you can’t find rubbish country to plant in permanent forests ,your option is to plant pines on good country near to a port,” Belton said. 

“You can then plant your trees, claim carbon for a period and harvest.

“The current government flip-flopping is crazy and isn’t doing anyone any good. We have purchased poor land, ordered the trees and arranged for planting. We’re getting confused signals.”

‘Confused signals’ is right.

The simple answer is to require councils to give consent for forestry on anything but the roughest country. That has been Labour policy for the past three years. It was shepherded through the Caucus by our local MP Kieran McAnulty and I support it. There’s no need for further consultation, just do it.

Instead, we’ve got yet another consult fest followed by a knee-jerk reaction of reducing permanent forests on any class of country. The further irony of the Government position is that if they are trying to reduce the planting of forests on good farmland their current proposal will have the opposite effect. 

So my advice to government would be two-fold, with the first being to address emissions at source. We’re not doing that except for the puerile ute tax that affects the productive sector and will have no effect on central Aucklanders buying big gas guzzlers to use to take their kids to school. In addition, according to the University of London a third of NZ businesses will miss their 2050 carbon targets.

The second is to implement their policy and make the planting of forests on anything but class six and seven land a consented activity.

Instead, we’re getting a tortuous, convoluted policy suggestion of removing permanent forestry from the ETS. It is a policy that will increase the amount of good farmland going into forestry. It will also require the international purchase of carbon credits to meet our current obligations, which is crazy.

Another factor for government to consider is that if NZ did become carbon neutral tomorrow it would have absolutely no effect on the world’s climate.

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