If the world misses its climate change target, we won’t have to worry too much about checking the housing target in 436 years

Latest from the Beehive

Remember the Government’s former flagship housing policy for the 2017 general election and its initial target of 100,000 homes in 10 years?

In May last year, the Dom-Post published a progress report under the heading KiwiBuild will take more than 400 years to reach original target

The report said:

The number of KiwiBuild homes built to date stood at 393 at the end of March, equating to roughly 19 homes built each month since the scheme began in June 2018.

At that rate it would take 436 years to complete the remaining 99,607 houses that remain from the 100,000 target.

We were reminded of this while monitoring the latest Beehive announcements, which included  a bold climate change 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.

 The statement explained that 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 at the weekend

… 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.

The statement recalls that earlier this year the independent Climate Change Commission advised the Government that the NDC lodged by the previous Government in 2016 was not consistent with global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5˚C above pre industrial levels – a limit that is acknowledged the world over as the best chance we have of managing the climate crisis. 

“Two years ago we put the 1.5˚C global warming limit into our Zero Carbon Act. Today we’re upping our commitment to help keep the world on track to meeting it,” Minister of Climate Change James Shaw said.

“This decade is make or break for the planet. To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the science shows we now have about eight years left to almost halve global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s eight years for countries to make the necessary plans, put in place policies, implement them, and ultimately deliver the cuts. 

And if that doesn’t happen?

According to the scientists, we will all be fried to a crisp or some such, which means there will be nobody around 436 years hence to report on whether the KiwiBuild target belatedly was met – or whether the Dom-Post got their projections badly wrong.  

Under the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit temperature increases to no more than 1.5°C. 

Every country that signed up to the agreement committed to setting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, known as a nationally determined contribution (NDC). New Zealand’s first NDC, which has been increased today, covers the period 2021 – 2030.

In May this year, the Climate Change Commission provided its final advice to the Government, which said New Zealand’s previous NDC (which was lodged in 2016) was incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C. The Commission recommended a new NDC should be much more than 36 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.

The updated NDC announced today is expressed as a target to reduce net emissions 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 updated NDC has been expressed as a point-year target today to align with how most other countries report their NDC’s. This aids transparency and comparability. To date, only a small number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland, report their NDCs as an ‘emissions budget.’

Despite expressing the new NDC as a ‘point in time’ target, New Zealand’s NDC will still be managed as a multi-year emissions budget. This means New Zealand will be accountable for all emissions produced in the years of the target period (2021 – 2030).

The Government continues to believe this provides greater certainty in emissions pathways. The budget-based approach is better for the climate, as it is not only emissions in 2030 that impact climate outcomes. Managing the NDC through an emissions budget means progress towards our target will be measured by comparing emissions for all the years of the target period (2021-2030) and not by isolating emissions in a single year (2030).  

The provisional emissions budget for the new NDC is 571 Mt, a significant decrease on the 2016 NDC budget (623Mt).

This sounds impressive.

But we couldn’t help but notice the Stuff heading which read Climate change target nowhere near as ambitious as it sounds

The writer said thatOn the face of it – New Zealand’s new climate pledge is so ambitious as to seem impossible.

But then political writer Henry Cooke contends New Zealand is not promising to do anything like halving its actual emissions.

It’s promising to reduce its emissions by about one-fifth, then make up the difference by spending huge sums of money on projects overseas that reduce emissions – think huge forestry projects and the like.

A massive two-thirds of that 50 per cent reduction is expected to come from this kind of global offsetting.

Maybe there’s a way of global offsetting to reach the Government’s housing targets.  

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