Climate debate is starting to hot up

Through the good offices of member Dr David Wratt we were privileged to have Dr Judy Lawrence from the seven-persons NZ Climate Change Commission to address us on their recent draft report to Government. Over 35 members attended the lively and stimulating session on 7 April.

New Zealand and the rest of the countries of the world are drinking at the last chance saloon over effective response to climate change. World treaties have been entered into but not fully honoured worldwide. The next round will be in Glasgow in November as the issue becomes ever more pressing.  

The Commission is charged by law with advising on how best to reduce emissions in a way that will do least damage to the NZ economy. Their draft is at www.climatecommission.govt.nz/get-involved/our-advice-and-evidence which contains a separate executive summary that complements the giant draft report.

Last year Dr Wratt covered (in two sessions) the science of climate change thus addressing the “why” of the issue. The Commission draft looks at the “how”. It will likely encounter spirited debate both in Parliament and in the wider community once the Government has tendered a formal reply to it. The Commission has concluded that there still exists an opportunity (over time) to keep emissions of damaging gases to a level whereby local temperature rise will not exceed 2 degrees Celsius. That will entail

  • A massive shift to electric vehicles (”EVs”)
  • Turning our backs on remaining oil and gas resources within the next 10-15 years
  • Better disposal of organic wastes
  • Judicious (and limited) use of forests
  • Changes in many wasteful social habits especially in the transport field
  • Revisiting the, now out of date, Emissions Trading Scheme (with the agricultural sector still ‘working on’ an as yet undisclosed scheme of its own)
  • All of us “being in it together” and not just relying on others

Question flowed thick and fast. Members were much concerned that the coming debate is not pitched over their heads; the way it has been for so many years while overall progress has been palpably slow. Dr Lawrence agreed that his was a major issue and hoped it will be addressed by policymakers making the subject more accessible and indicating in the clearest terms what EVERY person can do to help.

Asked how EVs will become affordable and realistic (given that electricity generation often, itself, involves burning fossil fuels) the response was that NZ will need to secure bulk deals on EVs while pumping up all current alternative and emerging energy sources.

If farmers have their own ETS based on different approaches to the general ETS scheme then is possible that modern satellite technology will be up to verifying compliance down to the level of individual farms.

The Trump years were mentioned. The fact that some countries have scorned climate change measures is no reason for NZ to ease off efforts to do its part. Leadership is paramount and NZ has a world presence that few other small nations have. It also has very high emissions levels and therefore is under a heavy moral onus to much better.

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