Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Monday 06 July, 02009

2020 emissions target consultation meeting

by Matthew Bartlett @ 10:26 pm

First impressions report: Great meeting. Enthusiastic participation from heaps of speakers. There was a disconnect between the audience who appeared to overwhelmingly support a 40% emissions cut by 2020 (a la signon), and Nick Smith, who in response to a useful question from D (why can’t we have some shorter-term goals, say 2% per year?), said it will be hard enough to stop NZ emissions from further rising, let alone achieving the required substantial cuts. Smith wanted us to truthfully present to people what 40% would mean for our society. It’s not a tweak; it’s a shake-up. What’s needed now, I think, is some visioning (ick — for want of a better word): some sketching out of pathways to a low-carbon future. What do agriculture, transport and electricity generation look like in a 40%-reduced-CO2e NZ? Also needed is of course leadership at all levels, from John Key down. On the way home Eliza talked about Key’s needing to give some World War II-esq speeches — this is a massive challenge, we will need to pull together, sacrifice our comforts for a noble cause, etc. I admit that is hard to imagine. Here is what was on John Key’s mind this past week (the weather, sporting events, a feel-good trip around the Pacific):

More on this from Tim Jones.

3 responses to “2020 emissions target consultation meeting”

  1. danyill says:

    I thought Dr Smith was fairly well behaved, but he didn’t really sketch a vision for any of the realistic target options (1990 levels, -10%, -20%, -30%, -40%) which was a serious failure. You’re quite right. We need some sketches of what the future might look like, various possible futures.

    He only made some easy but unhelpful remarks against steel mills and Tiwai – both of which I doubt have a massive carbon footprint (i.e. you put carbon in to make steel at Glenbrook and “lock it away” and we melt aluminium with Manapouris renewable energy… don’t we?).

    Anyway, he presently has a mandate to meet the Kyoto targets – we did after all sign up to it. It would have been interesting to ask whether he is on track (and where is the game plan) to drop our emissions to 1990 levels (which we agreed for 2012) to in the next 11 years (by 2020) which would require ~2%/year (non-cumulative) or 2.2% (cumulative).

    And if the answer is that he hasn’t done much about it, then all this consultation is just pissing in the wind. 40% is massive. I suspect if we get 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 I’ll be shocked. Anyone ready to take a bet?

    To meet the 40% levels requires cumulative drops of 2.35% per annum from present levels (the actual value would be higher since we’re presumably still doing “stuff”).

    By comparison if this was growth, then that would be a doubling every 30 years. In the electricity industry, its “hard” to build new infrastructure at growth rates exceeding 2% in New Zealand.

    And on infrastructure, I fear we’ve missed the boat, a lot needs to be in place now to do *anything* by 2020. Serious projects with big lead times need to have started well before now.

    So it’s not gonna happen. Sorry. And that must be sad for Dr Smith because he has young children and NZ (and himself it appears?) signed up to believing this is important. Ah well. Too bad.

    And please no WWII style speeches from John Key, he’s incapable of it. He is not a man of vision I’m afraid.

  2. Robert Ashe says:

    My only (slightly rhetorical) question: Why are we the ones that have to work out how to save 40%? What do we pay the Climate Change Minister to do exactly? Why is he, of all people, the one we need to convince about all this?

    Anyway, I’ll take on Danyill’s bet any day. Anyone that has ever lived through a war or a civil defence emergency will know what we can collectively achieve if we have to…we’re just going to have to do a few things differently from now on. Climate change is actually a giant opportunity to start living better than we’ve ever had the courage to. It’s going to force us to finally address what “quality of life” actually means to us–because it has now become the stuff to live or die for.

    Bring on the war speeches…

  3. Matthew Bartlett says:

    This site ( would facilitate your bet, Rob & Dan.

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