Climate Change and the Paris Agreement NZ - TOP

Playing backyard cricket with my brothers we used to say that cheats never prosper. In other words if you lie or break the rules, you’ll only end up hurting yourself. That is certainly the case with the United States pulling out of the Paris Agreement, and something that our own Government is also familiar with.  

There has been a lot of outcry and condemnation since Donald Trump announced the United States is leaving the Paris Agreement. There is no doubt that this inevitable announcement was a blow to the global accord. However, thankfully this announcement seems to have redoubled efforts by the rest of the world. Ultimately, by walking away, the USA will be shooting themselves in the foot.

Climate change is not going away, no matter what Donald Trump may think. The science is increasingly certain, as are the implications; that we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by 2050. The USA may not want to act now, but as disasters mount they will have to.

As we pointed out in our Climate Action Policy, the longer we delay, the more expensive this will become. For example the World Bank estimates that delaying action until 2030 will increase the costs by 50%.

New Zealand has already experienced this with our own climate cheating. For many years the National Government took no action on climate change, instead preferring to live off cheap, fraudulent foreign credits to meet our obligations. The short-term gain has come back to bite us on the backside, pushing up the cost of meeting our reduction targets in the long term.

Any further delay in taking action means that we (and the United States) will miss out on opportunities. You’d be hard pressed to find people picking coal to be a long-term growth sector. By contrast clean technology is providing many new, fast growing industries.

Again, there are good examples of opportunities here in New Zealand. As we pointed out in our Climate Action policy, these include improving energy efficiency and planting erosion prone land.

New Zealand wastes a lot of money running inefficient machines, appliances and un-insulated homes. The Warm Up New Zealand grant scheme is one example where investment has shown positive returns. The same approach should be extended to other areas, saving us all money and cutting our emissions.

New Zealand has 1.1m hectares of erosion prone land, and it makes sense on many levels to plant this land in native trees. For starters the land currently has a very poor return, which could easily be replaced by carbon credits from growing trees. Meanwhile it would also be possible to farm manuka honey on the regenerating land. Finally, we need to take into account all the environmental benefits from reduced erosion (less silt in our rivers) and providing more habitat for our native species.

Acting on climate change isn’t a cost, it is an opportunity, and regardless of the United States stance, we need to take advantage of it.


Showing 5 reactions

  • Ian Orchard
    commented 2017-06-30 06:57:20 +1200
    We get our togas in a tangle over methane emissions from the pastoral industry, but I have to (mostly) agree with the observation that they are derived from grass, the real problem is fossil fuel emissions from the farmer’s truck and tractor, not the cows. Which swings us back to the similar emissions from the gazillions of vehicles cluttering NZ’s roads and still pouring off the docks even though that glittering new SUV that will deliver little Nigel & Fiona to and from school* will still be belching emissions in 2037.
    One thought re the pines v’s tussock…. I suspect the land has been tussock since the end of the ice ages. Areas like the Canterbury Plains were extensively forested but with the changing climate back then the forests had problems regenerating post Moa-hunter burn-offs. Quite willing to be contradicted.

    (*carefully ignoring the fact that the SUV itself is the biggest threat to the wee darlings!)
  • Philip Lissaman
    commented 2017-06-10 10:44:31 +1200
    I agree with you Alistair, we need to be very careful about defining erosion prone lands. Our tussock and shrublands are priceless and deliberately reafforesting them could markedly decrease biodiversity and interest. How could we live with ourselves if we replaced tussock/shrubland with very high biodiversity (A vege survey on one farm in the Awatere found over 240 plant species some rare or highly localised) with a genetically impoverished ‘monoculture’ purely for a few tons of carbon.
  • Alistair Newbould
    commented 2017-06-08 21:11:36 +1200
    Christopher. Some tussockland was formed following burning of vegetation around the 1300’s ( but much of the higher country tussock was widespread before that. Tussockland has an important ecological function, most significanly in modifying rainwater runoff to lower levels. See the begining of the Te Ara article. Wilding pines on the other hand transpire large quantities of water, withdrawing it from the downstream ecosystems (as much as 50% for a fully forested land (Chapter 3, Water Yield, in Environmental effects of planted forest in New Zealand JP McLaren) cf 2 – 3% for tussock). More cold tolerant wilding pine grow above the native tree line, again disrupting natural tussockland ( Whilst allowing full afforestation by wilding pine would sequester some carbon from the atmosphere, the knock on environmental effects would be significant compared to the beneficial effects of replacing low-productivity and erosion prone farmland with native forest which would sequester just as much carbon. On suitable, accessible land, planting high quality plantation pine will sequester the same amount of carbon and then contribute to a carbon neutral economy through ongoing harvest and replanting.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-06-08 17:06:44 +1200
  • Christopher Skinner
    commented 2017-06-06 22:36:38 +1200
    Wilding pines are doing the job for free. One way to save emissions : stop helicopter poisoning flights to attack individual trees.
    Pines change the look of tussock landscapes. Get used to it. They used to be forest before human fire.