Climate Change Contribution Consultation, Ministry for the Environment

Climate Change Contribution Consultation,  Ministry for the Environment

PO Box 10362,  Wellington  6143

Submitted by:

Richard Keller

Objectives for the contribution

The foreword of the discussion document mentions ‘most harmful effects’ of climate change but doesn’t describe them.  On page 6 the mention of ‘large scale changes’ and having ‘a decent chance’ hints at something serious, but doesn’t describe what the consequences and costs of climate change might be.  In fact, the bland tone of the document serves to hide the level of danger while pretending to address it.  It’s not the ‘economy’, ‘competitiveness’, or ‘technology’ that determines what is required, but rather the climate.  As many others I heard at a public consultation meeting in Wellington pointed out, the list of objectives on page 7 lacks a realistic sense of urgency (Q1).

That the level of ‘greenhouse’ emissions in NZ has continued to rise in recent years, and the lack of action or even a plan for action this far into the 40-50 year period since climate change began to be part of the political discussion in the western world (scientific interest in global warming was evident as early as the nineteenth century), is consistent with this lack of urgency.  It is important to note that climate change is not a new issue on a political time scale!  That the government’s continuing high level of popularity is primarily based on its head-in-sand approach to action on climate change is no excuse for the lack of leadership evident in these objectives.


What would be a fair contribution for New Zealand?

Agriculture is the major source of greenhouse emissions in New Zealand.  Action on that must be put into the larger global historical context.  Meat and dairy production are a very inefficient means of producing calories, protein and generally nutrition, so that needs to be the greatest focus for New Zealand.  Transforming away from meat and dairy toward a plant based agriculture is required yet there is not even a hint of this discussion in the document!  Accomplishing this would go a long way to reducing New Zealand’s emissions, and incidentally would allow for a very large ‘target’ to be set (Q2).

How will our contribution affect New Zealanders?

How will climate change, especially unchecked climate change, affect New Zealanders?  That is the first question that must be asked and the first estimates of costs generated.  What effects result from the ‘contribution’ must be compared to that.  Yet there is no such effort to do so on page 14 where potential costs are listed.  Politics continues to dominate these questions; the government knows their popularity is primarily based on its head-in-sand approach to action on climate change.


Another lack in this cost analysis is a comparison of the distribution of costs.  The document uses the term ‘households’ as if the recent history of a widening gap between rich and poor and the increasing imperial dominance of global corporations is of little consequence to this.  The document needs to specify which interests will be given priority in these changes.   This would raise the important target and implementation issue:  Until the trend to global corporate (and NZ corporate) dominance (evidence by the TPPA) is reversed, the measures taken under the label of climate change targets and action will surely be inadequate if not counterproductive.


Q3.  Wrong question, again.  What is required to stabilize the climate?  (Clearly I’m opting for the highest option you offer, 40% reduction.)

Q4.  Again, the question should be:  what opportunities will have most effect on climate change, and who will benefit from these opportunities?  Transport and agriculture currently have the most potential.

Q5. Again, a cringe question.  (Technology:   It’s not just technology which has uncertainty but also the speed and severity of emerging threats is uncertain.  It must be kept in mind the fundamental reality that it is the unchecked use of some technologies which has taken us so far into climate change.)


Domestic policies to meet our target.

The list of actions is good but mostly old ideas which should have been bedded down years (decades) ago.  That the discussion is still featuring them is just another sign of the lack of urgency behind this document.



Richard Keller

01 June, 2015


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