Global efforts to tackle climate change have stalled in Madrid. The 197 parties to the UN talks agreed to the need for new emission cuts, but they stopped short of concrete commitments and left the outstanding issues of the Paris Agreement undecided.
Never mind, NZ is showing the world what “meaningful, ambitious and lasting climate action looks like”.
That’s how Climate Change Minister James Shaw sees it.
As the head of the NZ delegation at the global climate talks, Shaw shared with delegates to COP25 the progress the Ardern government is making
“ … to build a cleaner, safer planet for future generations”.
Critics may say that whatever NZ does to cut its emissions (which represent just 0.17% of the total global emissions) it is hardly likely to have much impact on global warming while China and the US (contributing together 40% of global emissions) do nothing to curb their emissions.
Shaw insists the government will continue to show global leadership on
“… what needs to be done to leave a safer planet for future generations”.
The Shaw rhetoric plays well with those in the Green camp—but do the rest of New Zealanders share this ambition to be out in front of the rest of the world?
Shaw claims a world-first partnership with farmers to reduce emissions.
But dairy farmers may be questioning why they have to be in the forefront in cutting methane emissions while their international competitors face no penalty.
The failure of the Madrid conference to resolve the issue of carbon markets and carbon trading underlines that global emissions will keep rising — particularly in countries like China, still building power stations fuelled by coal. .
Not hard to guess which country was top of the list when Shaw confessed he was “frustrated” there are some countries slowing overall global progress.
It is especially frustrating, he says, at a time when everything happening around the world points to an urgent need to move further and faster.
“We are not going to get there unless countries are working more closely together. Carbon markets must have fair rules and ensure genuine emissions reductions”
On his return to NZ Shaw continued his crusade to put this country out in front on climate change.
Announcing the members of the Climate Change Commission, he said expert, trusted and independent advice will be essential to ensuring NZ plays its part solving the challenge of climate change.
“Some issues are too big for politics, and the biggest of all is the climate crisis we face. Our decision to create the Climate Change Commission was about protecting climate policy from political mood swings, meaning every future government can stay focused on the job at hand: to help solve climate change and make our communities are cleaner and healthier,”
The creation of an independent, non-political body to monitor and advise on how governments can meet NZ’s climate change targets was one of the most important parts of the Zero Carbon Act.
“We provided a bold legislative framework for what we need to do build a climate-friendly future for New Zealand; it is the Commission who will now advise us on how best to do that,” Shaw said.
The six commissioners are experts in the fields of climate science, adaptation, agriculture, economics, and the Māori-Crown relationship.
“Whilst it is an advisory body, I fully expect that the impartial and scientifically rigorous analysis it will provide will help keep future governments’ climate policy in check,”.
In addition to Dr Rod Carr, who was appointed as the chair-designate for the Climate Change Commission in October, Lisa Tumahai will continue in her role as deputy chairperson.
The newly named commissioners are:
- Harry Clark, a NZ expert on agricultural greenhouse gas research
- Judith Lawrence, a thought leader with international expertise in climate change adaptation
- Catherine Leining, a leading NZ economist on climate policy and emissions pricing systems
- Professor James Renwick, a leading climate scientist and a recipient of the PM’s Science Prize for Communication
- Professor Nicola Shadbolt, a farmer, company director and academic, with expertise in land use and land use change.
One of the key roles of the commission will be to prepare a carbon “budget” by 2021, providing a track to reach the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
In effect the commission will be devising a plan to reorganise the economy so it becomes a low-emissions economy.
As Dr Carr puts it:
“We are all going to have to change”.
And since this involves significant reductions in methane emissions, it means changes to the dairy industry regime, particularly in regard to the kind of pastures ruminant animals feed on.
Clearly NZers will be paying a price to achieve a climate-friendly future for NZ.
The question is whether they really want to be out in front of the rest of the world.
After all, when NZ declared itself to be nuclear- free ( in what was a world first), did any other country follow our leadership?