Tag: New Zealand

Chutney With Your Lamb?

New Zealand has landed in a pickle over its forest accounts.  The age structure of NZ’s plantations means that major harvesting is due to start late this decade and continue into the 2020s. Combine this with the new afforestation/reforestation debit-credit rule and the gains NZ wrangled in LULUCF look likely to evaporate – its carbon accounts skewed into the negative. ECO might even have a rare twinge of sympathy for NZ.

But ECO has no sympathy for New Zealand when it comes to gross emissions.  They’ve continued rising since 1990 and are projected to continue rising, even with its much-talked-about-but-rather-weak Emissions Trading Scheme.

Worse, having agreed in Cancun that developed countries should write a low carbon development plan, New Zealand is showing no sign of writing one.  It certainly has no plan to get gross emissions on a downward trajectory.

Instead New Zealand is planning just everything possible to increase emissions: dairy farming expansion, unprecedented levels of coal mining, a major road building programme, more oil and gas exploration, and, to cap it all (no pun intended) off, the state owned mining company wants to dig up 1.5 billion tonnes of lignite and turn it into fuel and fertiliser.

It’s no wonder New Zealand wants rules for setting QELROs that would enable it to meet its 20% by 2020 target and end the second commitment period with over 22 million spare AAUs – a tidy sum for a small country.

So, where does all this leave New Zealand’s decisions on CP2 of Kyoto, its 2020 target and its QELRO? NZ is quietly desperate to accommodate its planned increase in gross emissions and expected blow-out in net emissions.  With no intention of actually reducing gross emissions, NZ’s only course of action is to play with the accounting system. This means trying to ensure maximum carry-over of surplus AAUs from CP1 to CP2, securing access to the cheapest carbon credits possible (euphemistically “full recourse to carbon markets”) and a handout of AAUs from new accounting rules.

It looks like New Zealand’s decision on CP2 will depend on who New Zealand wants to be friends with and whether the accounting system is sufficiently favourable. Failing to meet a voluntary commitment under the Copenhagen Accord has political consequences, but failing to meet a binding commitment under CP2 has political and economic consequences. So no surprises then that New Zealand has not submitted its QELRO, is focused on the accounting and has also created an impossible hurdle (see the demand for a "balancing agreement" in its recent submission) in case an excuse is needed to bail from the Kyoto ship.

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Closing the Giga-silence Gap

In the Kyoto plenary yesterday, we got a taste of how things sound when there is no more time to defer decisions for another year. After all the talk of gaps, urgency and the need to set rules before targets, there’s nowhere else to move for Australia and New Zealand.

Those two were left alone in Durban as the only countries still unable to make up their minds on a second commitment period. They remained unwilling, still, to move ahead with the Durban ambition coalition, and be part of an agreement that can give us hope that we’ll close the emissions gap.

And not willing, either, to attract the ire of the world by formally withdrawing, like Canada, or refusing to participate, like Japan and Russia. It’s decision time for everyone, and the sooner Australia stops dithering about Kyoto, the sooner everyone can get on and talk about the dozens of other matters jostling for attention at the UNFCCC.

We know that Australia has a price on carbon legislated and will adhere to the Kyoto rules. We know they have a 2050 target in place to reduce their emissions by 80%. We know they want to participate in carbon markets, and for a new legal agreement to be forged that can keep greenhouse gas concentrations to 450ppm. There's really no reason for them to delay any more.

As for all the other Kyoto countries, the challenge was unequivocally put at yesterday’s plenary: the only circumstances where an eight year commitment period is acceptable is if ambition is sufficient to meet two degrees.

The only way to participate in carbon markets is to have a binding target to reduce emissions. And the only way to keep the talks for a new and comprehensive legally binding agreement on track and on schedule is to put your name down on the Kyoto willing list.

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Pledges v Loopholes

Just in time for the arrival of ministers, we have removed the fuzziness from our loopholes chart. Current loopholes could easily negate all Annex 1 pledges and in the worst case leave plenty of left-overs to nibble on during a third commitment period. A couple key examples will suffice.

According to UNEP, surplus AAUs from the first commitment period amouns to 9-13 Gt CO2e. Given that current Annex I pledges amount to about 18 Gt of emissions reductions, it almost goes without saying that this loophole needs to be closed if we want to stop tinkering at the margins and start getting serious about 2°C.

The two countries with most hot air are Russia and Ukraine. To entice them and other economies in transition to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, they were allowed to keep emissions to 1990 levels.

It seemed cheaper at the time to take out a huge loan on the atmosphere, and now like a subprime mortgage this is coming back to haunt us.

Both Ukraine and Russia have made 2020 pledges that are above business-as-usual projections. These weak targets could add another whopping 4 Gt of ‘hot air’ until 2020.

We agree that banking can provide an incentive for early action, but that only holds true if the pledges are deep enough to require countries to go substantially below their BAU.

And then there’s New Zealand. Climate Tracker rates their commitment for 2020 as ‘inadequate’, the lowest ranking a country can get. On Friday, New Zealand won a Fossil for its efforts to water down the integrity of market mechanisms. Sorry, this does not look like ‘over achievement’ to us.

But don’t cheer too quickly if you’re from somewhere else in Annex I. Only five countries did not share the dubious distinction of being rated  ‘inadequate’ by Climate Tracker. 

May we remind all delegates: your country may get away with ruses and ploys in the world of politics. But nature does not go for accounting tricks: it is the future of your own children you are gambling away.

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Brazil Takes 1st, New Zealand Earns 2nd, Canada Comes in 3rd

Fossil of the Day Awards, Durban - 2 December (COP17)


Durban, South Africa – Brazil earned its first (and First Place) Fossil in Durban for suggesting that its potential forest law would actually help it reduce greenhouse gas pollution. New Zealand, similarly, took its first, and Second Place, Fossil for overly acrobatic flexible mechanisms to help them earn emissions reduction credits. Canada, no stranger to the stage in Durban, stood at Third Place, for celebrating its earlier fossils and suggesting that the massive body of climate science and policy they were based on were biased. The Fossils as presented read:

The 'informed' and 'survival-driven' award Canada with a 3rd place Fossil of the Day.
Canada’s Environment Minister, Peter Kent, stated yesterday that the fossils awarded to Canada this week came from the 'uninformed' and the 'ideologically driven'.

Yet, from the perspective of people on the frontlines of global climate change, it would seem that Kent is one of the most 'uninformed' Environment Ministers in the world. Rather than acknowledge its historical responsibility for climate change and work with other nations towards finding solutions, Canada seems to be ideologically driven to put polluters before people and profit before a healthy planet.

When Canada’s fossils were announced in the House of Commons, a round of applause broke out. Is the Canadian government laughing about death, starvation, and displacement?
If Peter Kent were in Durban right now, he would know that no one is laughing here. In fact, other countries are condemning Canada for negotiating in bad faith. Canada is leaving the world no choice but to leave them behind here in Durban.”

The 2nd place Fossil goes to New Zealand for proposing the most Flexible Mechanism imaginable with no oversight or review. Bring on the wild west. They want to be able to use any market mechanisms they wish with absolutely no oversight or international review! There would be no way to ensure that the units from one mechanism have not been sold two or three times to another such mechanism. This would likely unleash a wild west carbon market with double or triple counting of offsets and a likely increase of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.”

Brazil earns the 1st place Fossil. As the world watches stunned by the lack of urgency in the negotiations in Durban on the search for a global solution to a global threat, some countries are capable of a level of cynicism and disregard for the consequences of their actions which leave us bewildered.

This time it is Brazil. Yes, Brazil the same country that hosted the Earth Summit in 1992 that gave rise to the Climate Convention and later to the Kyoto Protocol.

The same country that will host the Rio+20 meeting next year. To what end we ask?

If the new Brazilian forest law, now going through congress, is approved as is, it will be a disaster for the Brazilian forests, for the climate, for the indigenous people in the amazon and elsewhere, for the preservation of biodiversity and priceless environmental services.

What is Brazil asking for here, if back home the new law creates the opportunities for an increase in greenhouse gas emissions many times Brazil´s total emissions today.

Actually, the negative the impact of the new law has already began and the law has not even gotten the final vote in the house and the senate.

When the Ministry of Environment announced this week that the new law will help Brazil meet the greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal, CAN sees no other alternative other than to present Brazil with our most notorious award – the Fossil of the Day.

Apparently the Minister of Environment has 'delayed' her trip to Durban because of the negotiations of the forest law in the congress. We heartily welcome the Minister to come to Durban, receive this award and to explain to the world how cutting down trees reduces emissions of greenhouse gases.”
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About CAN: The Climate Action Network is a worldwide network of roughly 500 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. www.climatenetwork.org
About the fossils: The Fossil of the Day awards were first presented at the climate talks in 1999  in Bonn, initiated by the German NGO Forum. During United Nations climate change negotiations (www.unfccc.int), members of the Climate Action Network (CAN), vote for countries judged to have done their 'best' to block progress in the negotiations in the last days of talks.

 

Don’t Give LULUCF the FLU

LULUCF has been suffering from a variety of ailments but now it looks in danger of getting FLU. The “Flexible Land Use” proposal, being heavily marketed by New Zealand, allows countries to cut down trees and replant them somewhere else, but instead of counting this as deforestation and reforestation and counting the emissions accordingly, it brings this under forest management rules – the ones that allow countries not to account for substantial increases in logging emissions compared to historical levels.

 Some might argue that New Zealand having FLU is unfortunate but not disastrous but this provision could be contagious - what if lots of other much larger countries have FLU too? What if this proposal goes viral and REDD countries catch it?  ECO suggests that a cure is achieved as soon as possible by eliminating FLU from the LULUCF discussions.

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Lies and NZ Statistics

Delegates will be fascinated to discover that New Zealand won’t release its forestry emission and removal projections to NZ NGOs so that it can “avoid prejudice to the substantial economic interests of NZ,” and “enable the Minister to carry on without prejudice, or disadvantage, negotiations.”

This raises the question of what forestry projections has New Zealand been providing to Parties in the UNFCCC negotiations these past couple of years? Perhaps New Zealand’s Minister of Climate Change Negotiations hides the real figures in his briefcase while his officials hand out merry works of fiction to fellow delegates.  ECO encourages readers to enquire for clear information from the NZ delegation on its LULUCF assumptions (and while you’re at it, you might want to ask about the substantive amounts of offsetting that is core to New Zealand’s positioning).

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