Environmental

The creator of an inexpensive floating water monitor suspects the Government is unwilling to fund a device that would show how bad our water is Lynn Grieveson reports.  Lynn  writes on environment and education, is sub-editor at Newsroom Pro and a contributing photographer to Newsroom.


Regional councils are eyeing up an experimental floating water monitor that would enable them to "stake out" rivers and pinpoint polluters - but only if the developers can raise enough through donations for beta testing and commercial release.

Wairarapa farmer Grant Muir yesterday launched a PledgeMe campaign to raise cash for beta testing of the award-winning 'RiverWatch' device he and biologist son James developed in conjunction with Victoria University.

Muir said he suspected the Government was not keen on having the true state of New Zealand's rivers, lakes and harbours revealed because it knows there is a huge spend needed on infrastructure as well as potential limits on agricultural intensification.

"They know what's happening and all we can think is that up to now there hasn't been a willingness by government to get this data out there. I can tell you right now the data is bad, and is probably the worst in our cities, it really is," Muir said.

"I used to think it was mainly the farmers, but it's not. Some of the worst pollution is happening right under our noses … there are major problems in Manukau Harbour with heavy metals, E. coli, sewerage - and Porirua harbour is a cesspool, an absolute cesspool," he said.

"I think that is one of the reasons why we haven't received government input because government is thinking, firstly, 'It's going to cost us too much because we know the infrastructure in our cities isn't up to standard' – and, 'Gosh, what are we going to do if dairy production goes down?'"

"So the Government is looking at it that they are going to get hit at both ends."

Muir's solar powered device wirelessly uploads GPS-tagged data from five probes measuring water temperature, turbidity (murkiness), dissolved oxygen, conductivity and PH levels. It was awarded the 2016 World Wildlife Fund Conservation Innovation Award.

 

Grant Muir submerges a prototype RiverWatch monitor into water. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Muir said they were now collaborating with ESR on E. coli testing capability, and he was still hopeful of funding through MBIE, but, for now, "this has all been funding through volunteers and people who care about water, basically".

The developers hope to raise $50,000 through the PledgeMe campaign to pay for 10 devices to be tested at locations across the country.

"If we can build this with a group of third year students at Victoria University imagine what we can make if they give us a couple of decent electronics and software people and a bit of funding," Muir said.

"We are going to continue to run our own boat at the moment until someone comes along and says 'look, we'll give you a hand'".

The answer councils are looking for?

Each floating monitor would cost around $2500. It doesn’t yet include probes for nitrates as those currently available are too expensive and unsuited to New Zealand rivers, Muir said. He said he expected some good nitrate probes to come out of China in the next 18 months (which might add around $1000 to the cost of each monitor) but in the meantime the data provided by the probe provided a useful picture of a waterway's health.

"Between those five parameters we can tell a lot about what is actually going on in the water. Particularly if you are looking at high concentrations of nitrate or phosphates one of the first things to disappear when you have those concentrates is dissolved oxygen. Also conductivity changes and so does PH. By running algorithms across those five parameters we can actually determine a lot of other things that are going on in the water," he said. The invention has caught the interest of regional councils, which are adding up the likely cost of increased responsibilities over water quality. Some councils have already bought imported monitors for $25,000 each but Muir said they had proved unreliable in New Zealand rivers.

So now we've got regional councils saying: 'we want to stake out our river system'

"The regional councils know that they are going to be mandated with the job of testing for water quality no matter what government gets in [after the election]," Muir said.

"When you look at the economics of sending staff out with just a tester wand, a meter, you plug it in the water and get a one-off reading, that's really expensive. So, when we came in with this idea all of a sudden everyone was saying 'Hallelujah, this is the answer we'd been looking for' - something that can be deployed and stay in the water for a long period of time, it doesn't have to have someone going out to get the data from it, that data can be sent automatically to the website or they can retrieve it very easily.

"So now we've got regional councils saying: 'We want to stake out our river system',"
(by putting water quality monitors at the source of the river and then at points downstream).

In urban areas they would be able to use the system to pinpoint 'single point emitters" such as factories or individuals discharging pollutants into waterways, and use the data to take them to court.

Muir said farmers were interested in the device as well, as it would enable them to measure whether mitigation measures such as riparian planting were having an effect, as well as helping them prove they were not causing pollution.

"A lot of the farmers say, 'The thing that gets my goat is, hang on, I just spent $50,000 on my farm, I fenced it, riparian planted it but old Joe upstream hasn't spent a cent and all that dirty water is flowing through my place and if the regional council tested down here they are going to blame me'," he said.

Muir said farmers would also benefit from regional councils using it as a lower-cost solution.

"If the regional councils have to go out and do the testing they will charge the farmer for that testing, the end-user is ultimately going to receive a bill for the water tests. Farmers are going to actually be billed by the regional councils for water testing. It is far better that the farmer would have their own device and be able to do that testing, and because that device can link to the internet that data can be sent directly to a portal that the regional council monitors."

Recreational users and tourists would also benefit, with real-time water quality information publicly available on the RiverWatch website, and searchable by waterway.

"We are happy to share our toys with anyone to get our data out there. I just wish few other parties would share toys with us as well," Muir said.

| A Newsroom release by Lynn Grieveson.  Lynn  writes on environment and education, is sub-editor at Newsroom Pro and a contributing photographer to Newsroom.  ||  August 15,  2017   |||

 

Published in ENVIRONMENT
Monday, 30 November -0001 11:30

New national standard for plantation forestry

A new nationwide set of environmental rules for managing New Zealand’s 1.7 million hectares of plantation forestry will better protect the environment and deliver significant savings in compliance costs, Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith and Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston say.

“Forestry is New Zealand’s third largest primary industry but its efficiency is hampered by the confusing mix of planning rules across New Zealand’s 86 councils. The strength of this national approach is that it will better protect the environment while also improving the productivity of the forestry sector by applying consistent environmental standards to reduce operational costs,” Dr Smith says.

“A major change with these new regulations is the development of three new tools for managing the environmental impacts from forestry, covering the issues of erosion, wilding pines and fish spawning.

“The benefit of these tools is that the restrictions on forestry activities are related to the environmental risk rather than which council area a forestry operation is in. This change is particularly important as 80 per cent of forest owners manage forests in multiple council areas.

“This new national forestry standard is part of the Government’s broader Resource Management Act reforms, facilitated by amendments passed in May this year. It follows other national regulations covering telecommunications, electricity transmission, waste tyre management, water metering and drinking water, contaminated soils and aquaculture.”

Ms Upston says the forestry industry will benefit from having a set of consistent regulations to operate under.

“Planning rules at local government level are subject to regular reviews and there could be as many as three sets of regional or district plan rules. Some large forests also cross local government boundaries, resulting in different rules for the same forest.”

“Removing this uncertainty will encourage greater investment in a significant contributor to our economy, especially at regional level. Forestry employs more than 26,000 people and exports total more than $5 billion a year,” Ms Upston says.

“The National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry covers eight core plantation forestry activities: afforestation, pruning and thinning to waste, earthworks, river crossings, forestry quarrying, harvesting, mechanical land preparation and replanting. Councils may apply stricter rules in special circumstances where local conditions require a more restrictive approach.”

The standard, which comes into force on 1 May, 2018, was developed jointly by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry for the Environment. Support and guidance will be provided to councils, foresters and key stakeholders to ensure an effective rollout.

Related Documents
Plantation Forestry NES - Overview of Regulations.pdf (pdf 1.89 MB)

| A Beehive release  ||  August 8,  2017   |||

Published in FORESTRY

As Tesla races to deliver its grid and wind farm-connected 129MWh lithium-ion battery in time for South Australia’s coming summer, a much smaller-scale version of some of the same technology is set to be switched on at a salt manufacturing facility across the Tasman, on New Zealand’s South Island.

NZ utility business Vector Energy Solutions said on Monday that a 250kW/570kWh Tesla Powerpack would soon be switched on at Dominion Salt’s Lake Grassmere works, to store and smooth energy from the already installed 660kW wind turbine.

Integration of the wind turbine and Tesla battery storage system – believed to be an Australasian first – is expected to meet around 75 per cent of the site’s energy needs, minimising its use of the grid, and maximising security of supply in a region susceptible to earthquakes.

“We contacted Vector because we decided that battery storage was critical to our energy needs,” said Dominion Salt CEO Shane Dufaur.

“It’s incredibly important to have security of supply for the overall sustainability of the business. Given out location and the recent seismic events, we need to make sure that we’re not reliant 100 per cent on the grid.

“Vector produced a design that incorporates our renewable energy sources, the lake system and the plants, to optimise our uses of energy. Very importantly, it includes our 660kW wind turbine,” Dufaur said.

Vector Energy Solutions connects Tesla Powerpack to wind turbine from Vector Ltd on Vimeo.

“The solution Vector has created for Dominion Salt provides sustainability and resilience benefits to the salt producer,” said Vector’s group general manager for development, Brian Ryan.

“The Tesla Powerpack will help with peak shaving and load management while ‘firming or smoothing’ the often-intermittent energy generated by wind turbines.

“The addition of a 250kW battery storage system, storing up to 570kW-hours of energy, will allow Dominion Salt to maximise the use of its wind turbine and store any excess generation for use at other times,” he said.

“The control system, built specifically for Dominion Salt, will be remotely monitored, 24/7, to ensure it’s running optimally.”

Ryan said the new wind and battery system – at the intersection of technology and sustainability – offered viable alternatives to businesses with both green and commercial benefits.

He said Vector was pursuing other opportunities in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands to deploy both on-grid and off-grid battery storage systems.

|  A OneStepofTheGrid release  || August 7,  2017   |||

Published in ENERGY

National Party Paralysed by non-productive but media-friendly anti water exports pressure groups


 From MSCNewsWire's European Correspondent August 7 2017 -  Fresh water is New Zealand’s most promising new primary export yet the more extravagant become the prospects for development, the more intense the pressure to vapourise the business from powerfully placed ideological pressure groups.

In recent months attempts to staunch the packaged water business has U-turned away from a generalised argument against the plastic (i.e petroleum-derived) containers to a much broader-gauge argument to the effect that pumping out drinking water is undermining the very geological base on which the nation itself rests.

This notion is quite literally allowed to float un-contradicted.

A reason is that the relevant lobby New Zealand Water association is reluctant to buy into the issue.

Privately, officials will talk about the scaremongering centred on the emptying out of the subterranean aquifers.

They point out simply enough that the supply of water remains constant and that water merely changes its form on its way to finding its own level again .

Steam, rain, snow, ice being just some of them.

However, the New Zealand Water association is mainly comprised of municipal water treatment officials and their suppliers.

So there is an understandable reluctance to buy into the ideological and thus frenzied fresh water exports debate.

This is correctly viewed by New Zealand Water industry group, which is a top-tier lobby, as a lose-lose proposition from its point of view.

There are now strong indications internationally that fresh water exports offer the same economic opportunities to New Zealand now as did the wine sector a generation or so ago.

Sales of bottled water in Europe have now substantially overtaken sales of bottled flavoured sodas, of the type now so actively despised by New Zealand educationalists, among others.

The other trend is the way in which the bottled water sector has imitated the wine sector in that provincial and family-owned bottled water marques have begun to bite deeply into the established brands.

This means that Nestle and Danone, the two dominant bottlers, have had to reconfigure their marketing around the threat of these niche, and personalised premium brands.

All this is much more than abstract state of affairs for New Zealand.

It means that all the French multinationals involved in packaged potable water are intent on diving headlong into Asia.

As these companies seek scale and market share in Asia they are much assisted by France’s merchant marine which is customising its freight capacity to take advantage of this new highly absorbent market.

This will be a big export setback in the region.for New Zealand.

Much greater than is widely understood.

The reason is that the European potable water will be bundled into much wider primary offerings just because firms such as Danone and Nestle are also the world leaders in, for example, dairy products.

Dairy products move in and out of various categories of surplus.

Fresh water in clear contrast enjoys a much more constant level of demand.

| From This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ||  Monday 7 August,  2017   |||

 

Published in EXCLUSIVE

A total of 92 percent of New Zealanders do not want their nation to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement set in 2015.

Moreover, six in ten Kiwi’s believe we should work harder with other countries to achieve the goals of the accord after the US withdrawal in June.

This is the outcome of a Climate Change survey released today by Pure Advantage, a national organisation comprised of business leaders who believe the private sector has an important role to play in creating a greener, economically stronger New Zealand.

New Zealanders are even more united in their commitment to the Paris Accord than Australians at 87 percent support, Pure Advantage chief executive Simon Millar says.

“Our survey showed seven in ten Kiwis are comfortable with the carbon reduction targets that have been set by New Zealand as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, yet 20 percent think they could be even higher.

“Millennials are significantly more likely to support carbon reduction. This next generation of Kiwi consumers, business owners and decision-makers want to see New Zealand leading the world, and working even harder to accelerate our efforts towards a zero-carbon future.

“Two-thirds of people believe we should be a world leader in solving climate change and also support measurement of economic growth in New Zealand (GDP) to include the impact of growth on the environment.

Despite our clean and green global brand, New Zealand is trailing many countries in our carbon reduction efforts to sustain this reputation and our performance on the international stage is well below world leading. Since 2011 the United Kingdom has had lower emissions per person than New Zealand,” Millar says.

These findings relate directly to those recently announced by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright who said that climate change is the environmental issue of our time and that New Zealand’s total emissions are climbing, while in many other countries they are falling.

The survey shows that large numbers of Kiwis are speaking out about climate change and wanting the country to do more about it, yet we are laggards on progress and the Government is yet to lay out a clear plan for how we will achieve the targets we have set, let alone increasing our ambitions. Steady as she goes is not the way forward, bold action is.

New Zealand is one of 196 countries to have signed the Paris Agreement and committed to voluntarily take steps to address climate change. The Accord set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution to zero in the second half of the century. New Zealand has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Pure Advantage is a not-for-profit that investigates and communicates opportunities for green growth. Its trustees include Sir Stephen Tindall, Katherine Corich, Phillip Mills and Rob Morrison.

| A Make Lemonade release  || August 3,  2107   |||

Published in ENVIRONMENT
Monday, 31 July 2017 09:10

Plastic bag ban plan gets a boost

The campaign to ban single-use plastic bags has been boosted by the big guns of environmental activism.

Greenpeace New Zealand is stepping up, having launched a video and petition calling on the Government to ban supermarket bags.

Getting plastic bags banned is a world-wide, 10-year strategic aim of the group and campaigns have been running internationally for 18 months. However Greenpeace NZ has decided it's only now that the time is right to push the issue.

"A lot of good work has taken place by local groups," says spokesperson Elena Di Palma. "It's time to add our weight to the argument."

Spiralling out of control

Greenpeace says New Zealanders use around 1.6 billion bags every year. "They're used for an average of only 12 minutes, yet each one can take a thousand years to degrade," says Di Palma. "New Zealand's plastic waste problem is quickly spiralling out of control."

Continue to read the full article here

| A  Newsroom release with Alexia Russell  ||  July 28,  2017   |||

Published in ENVIRONMENT

Climate scientists will be able to more accurately study Earth’s temperature changes, thanks to a global database compiled with the help of a Victoria University of Wellington and GNS Science researcher.

The database has been released today in the Nature Scientific Data journal by a large international team of scientists, including Associate Professor Nancy Bertler.

Associate Professor Bertler says the database—which expands on a version released in 2013—provides a rigorously assessed compilation of temperature reconstructions for the past 2,000 years.

“The database gathers information on past temperature based on evidence from a number of sources including tree rings, corals, glacier ice, and marine and lake sediments.

“It’s the most comprehensive collection of information on global temperature change ever, and has taken over three years to pull together.”

This database is important because it provides much-needed information on regional temperature patterns and trends, says Associate Professor Bertler.

“It enables us to critically assess and improve earth system models used to provide future projections. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s analysis of future change will include investigating the past 2,000 years, before looking into the future. How well they capture those past trends provides a tool to assess how realistic a model is, and helps to identify where improvements are necessary. This is the only tool to independently test and verify climate models beyond the past forty years.”

The database gathers close to 700 records from 648 locations, compiled by 98 regional experts from 22 countries. It was coordinated by the Past Global Changes (PAGES) network of international paleoclimate scientists.

Data for the Antarctic region was contributed by Associate Professor Bertler.

“We contributed three ice core records from the Ross Sea region, a particularly climate-sensitive area of the Antarctic. We collected those ice cores over the past decade,” says Associate Professor Bertler.

“Our reconstructions provided a detailed view of the region during the past 100 to 1,000 years, including ocean and air temperature, sea ice extent, atmospheric circulation pattern and ocean productivity. A particular focus of our work is to understand when and how quickly West Antarctica could collapse, leading to rapid increase in global sea level.”

Associate Professor Bertler is an ice core scientist jointly appointed by Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre and GNS Science. She manages the National Ice Core Research Facility at GNS Science—one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world—and leads Antarctic field deployments for ice core research.

PAGES has released the database as an open resource, allowing anyone to download and use the data.

| A Victoria University release  ||  July 12,  2017   |||

Published in ENVIRONMENT

Now the first six months of the year are done and dusted, NIWA forecasters have been analysing the country’s weather statistics to see where we stand compared to last year’s record breaker.

If you’ve been feeling a little cooler, it’s because temperatures are notably down on average. The first six months of last year set up 2016 to become the hottest year on record, with an average temperature of 15.2°C. For January to June this year that figure has dropped to 13.8°C. NIWA forecaster Ben Noll says while the first six months of 2017 were 0.02 degrees above the long-term (1981-2010) average, that was nothing compared to the same period last year were a whopping 1.43 degrees above average.

In spite of the cool-down, January-June 2017 still ranks as the 39th-warmest January-June period in the last 109 years, according to NIWA’s Seven Station Temperature Series. Mr Noll says the direction from which the air is coming plays an important role in temperatures across New Zealand. Sub-tropical northerlies tend to draw down warm, humid air while southerlies via the Southern Ocean can pack a chilly punch.

Unlike 2016, January-June of 2017 has not had an abundance of northerly winds. Out of the first six months of 2017, just February and April experienced predominantly northerly winds. Conversely, the first half of 2016 saw five out of the first six months (February through June) have a notable northerly wind bias.

Continue to read full article on NIWA site with images

Published in ENVIRONMENT

A buoy with the ability to “phone home” has been deployed in Wellington Harbour today to monitor currents, waves and water quality in the harbour.


The buoy is part of a joint project between NIWA and Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) around monitoring Wellington Harbour health. The buoy can deliver real time data of currents, waves, salinity, temperature, oxygen, chlorophyll, ocean acidification and wind. Named WRIBO (Wellington Region Integrated Buoy Observations), it was deployed from NIWA’s flagship research vessel Tangaroa this morning, south east of Matiu/Somes Island.

Real time data delivery

NIWA coastal physicist Dr Joanne O’Callaghan has been leading the project and says the buoy’s key advantage is the ability to deliver information immediately.

“The buoy makes a phone call to a computer and sends back data of up-to-date conditions in the Harbour. This means we don’t have to wait for good weather to collect the data which is never easy in Wellington.”

The buoy is three metres high and powered by solar panels. It has been constructed by NIWA’s mooring technician Mike Brewer over several weeks at Greta Point and is the most complicated of its kind in New Zealand waters.

One of its key roles will be to monitor plumes from the Hutt River that wash into the harbour following heavy rain. These plumes carry sediments and nutrients from the Hutt catchment to the Harbour.

“We have not sampled the Harbour routinely before and this will help us learn how much the river influences the harbour waters,” Dr O’Callaghan says.

Analysing water quality in plumes

A number of instruments will be attached to the buoy to enable scientists to analyse Harbour response at various depths. River plumes are only one to two metres thick so there is an instrument just under the surface to capture it. Waves and currents move sediments during storms so there is an instrument near the seabed and two more through the water to know the size of the impact.

“The plumes last for three to five days but the material is in the system for much longer.”

A trial buoy was deployed last September and found that surface salinity in the Harbour gets very fresh after large amounts of rain from events such as cyclones. Water quality instruments observed an algal bloom after ex-tropical cyclones Debbie and Cook.

GWRC coastal scientist Dr Claire Conwell says this is the beginning of a dedicated water quality monitoring programme for Wellington Harbour and the region’s coastal marine area.

“This information will help us to make links between the freshwater and marine environments, and to assess the impacts on water quality of land-based activities,” Dr Conwell says.

“A key focus for us is to also make the data accessible, so we’ll be working with the NIWA team after the buoy is deployed to get the data streaming via our respective websites. In the long run, we’d like to see this sit alongside other data from buoys across New Zealand, forming part of a national network.”

Contact

Dr Joanne O’Callaghan, NIWA coastal physicist
Ph 04 386 0466

Dr Claire Conwell, Greater Wellington Coastal Scientist
Ph 04 830 4216

|A NIWA release  ||  July 10,  2017   |||

Published in ENVIRONMENT

Despite the US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, other countries, including New Zealand, remain committed to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

In our report, we explore how New Zealand, a trailblazer for emissions trading, might drive a low-emission transformation, both at home and overseas.
Turning off the tap

Emitting greenhouse gases is a lot like overflowing a bathtub. Even a slow trickle will eventually flood the room.

The Paris Agreement gives all countries a common destination: net zero emissions during the second half of the century. It is also an acknowledgement that the world has only a short time to turn the tide on emissions and limit global temperature rise to below two degrees. The sooner we turn down the tap, the more time we have for developing solutions.

Time is running out on meeting the goal of keeping global temperature rise below two degrees. from Unsplash, CC BY-ND

New Zealand’s 2030 commitment is to reduce emissions 30% below 2005 levels (11% below 1990). In 2015, our emissions (excluding forestry) were 24% above 1990 levels. The government projects a gap of 235 million tonnes between what has been pledged and what New Zealand will actually emit in the period from 2021 to 2030.

Reducing emissions rapidly enough within New Zealand to achieve our Paris commitment could be extremely expensive, and even at a cost of NZ$300 per tonne, the target could not be met through domestic action alone.

International emission reductions help bridge the gap. New Zealand could turn off its own greenhouse gas tap while supporting other countries to do the same.
Joining forces across borders

In the past, New Zealand relied heavily on the global Kyoto carbon market and purchased international emission reductions using the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Some ETS firms bought low-cost overseas Kyoto units of questionable integrity while domestic emissions continued to rise.

In 2015, New Zealand pulled out of the Kyoto carbon market and its ETS is now a domestic-only system.

Under the Paris Agreement, carbon markets have changed in three important ways:

Currently, international emission reductions can be traded only from government to government. It is no longer possible for NZ ETS participants to buy international units directly from the market.

International emission reductions sold as offsets to other countries will have to be additional to the seller’s own Paris target.

Countries have flexibility to trade international emission reductions through arrangements outside of the central UN mechanism which is at an early stage of development.

A new approach to reducing emissions

What does this mean for New Zealand? First, we cannot and must not rely on international markets to set our future domestic emission price.

Second, as both taxpayers and responsible global citizens, we need to decide where to fund emission reductions. Most mitigation opportunities are in developing countries. The benefits of investing in lower-cost reductions overseas need to be weighed against the costs of deferring strategic investment in New Zealand’s own low-emission transformation.

Third, we need an effective mechanism to direct New Zealand’s contribution to mitigation overseas.

In collaboration with others, Motu researchers are prototyping a new approach: a results-based agreement between buyer and seller governments within a climate team.

For example, New Zealand could partner with other buyers – such as Australia, South Korea or Norway – to pool funding at a scale that provides incentives for a country with a developing or emerging economy – such as Colombia or Chile – to invest in low-emission transformation beyond its Paris target. These countries could then create a more favourable environment for low-emission investment – including by New Zealand companies.

Despite the US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, other countries, including New Zealand, remain committed to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

In our report, we explore how New Zealand, a trailblazer for emissions trading, might drive a low-emission transformation, both at home and overseas.
Turning off the tap

Emitting greenhouse gases is a lot like overflowing a bathtub. Even a slow trickle will eventually flood the room.

The Paris Agreement gives all countries a common destination: net zero emissions during the second half of the century. It is also an acknowledgement that the world has only a short time to turn the tide on emissions and limit global temperature rise to below two degrees. The sooner we turn down the tap, the more time we have for developing solutions.
Time is running out on meeting the goal of keeping global temperature rise below two degrees. from Unsplash, CC BY-ND

New Zealand’s 2030 commitment is to reduce emissions 30% below 2005 levels (11% below 1990). In 2015, our emissions (excluding forestry) were 24% above 1990 levels. The government projects a gap of 235 million tonnes between what has been pledged and what New Zealand will actually emit in the period from 2021 to 2030.

Reducing emissions rapidly enough within New Zealand to achieve our Paris commitment could be extremely expensive, and even at a cost of NZ$300 per tonne, the target could not be met through domestic action alone.

International emission reductions help bridge the gap. New Zealand could turn off its own greenhouse gas tap while supporting other countries to do the same.
Joining forces across borders

In the past, New Zealand relied heavily on the global Kyoto carbon market and purchased international emission reductions using the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Some ETS firms bought low-cost overseas Kyoto units of questionable integrity while domestic emissions continued to rise.

In 2015, New Zealand pulled out of the Kyoto carbon market and its ETS is now a domestic-only system.

Under the Paris Agreement, carbon markets have changed in three important ways:

Currently, international emission reductions can be traded only from government to government. It is no longer possible for NZ ETS participants to buy international units directly from the market.

International emission reductions sold as offsets to other countries will have to be additional to the seller’s own Paris target.

Countries have flexibility to trade international emission reductions through arrangements outside of the central UN mechanism which is at an early stage of development.

A new approach to reducing emissions

What does this mean for New Zealand? First, we cannot and must not rely on international markets to set our future domestic emission price.

Second, as both taxpayers and responsible global citizens, we need to decide where to fund emission reductions. Most mitigation opportunities are in developing countries. The benefits of investing in lower-cost reductions overseas need to be weighed against the costs of deferring strategic investment in New Zealand’s own low-emission transformation.

Third, we need an effective mechanism to direct New Zealand’s contribution to mitigation overseas.

In collaboration with others, Motu researchers are prototyping a new approach: a results-based agreement between buyer and seller governments within a climate team.

For example, New Zealand could partner with other buyers – such as Australia, South Korea or Norway – to pool funding at a scale that provides incentives for a country with a developing or emerging economy – such as Colombia or Chile – to invest in low-emission transformation beyond its Paris target. These countries could then create a more favourable environment for low-emission investment – including by New Zealand companies.

|  A TheConversation release  ||  July 7,  2017

Published in ENVIRONMENT
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