Climate Change – New Zealand and International Responses

Despite the critical need to address climate change, caused primarily by increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, response has been slowed by pressure from vested interests, a focus by some governments on short-term political objectives and the difficulties of reaching effective international agreements. Some countries are already taking effective action though, and the urgent need for others to join them is becoming extremely clear.

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Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is energy derived directly or indirectly from sunlight, wind, rain, tidal flows and ranges, waves, and thermal energy stored in the oceans, which are naturally replenished over fairly brief periods of time. Geothermal energy is also regarded as renewable because of the extremely large amounts of heat available from the earth’s core. Major sources of renewable energy include hydro power, wind power, solar power, geothermal power and bioenergy. Moving rapidly to greater reliance on renewable energy in place of fossil fuels has become critically important because of the urgent need to control global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.

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New Zealand’s Paris Target

New Zealand’s commitment under the Paris Agreement, as stated in our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) promises that “Emissions will be reduced to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The 2005 reference has been chosen for ease of comparability with other countries. This responsibility target corresponds to a reduction of 11% from 1990 levels.” We are comparing our net target emissions with our gross emissions in the base year. Using net emissions for both indicates that our emissions are increasing and not decreasing.

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Wonky Carbon Accounting Hides NZ’s Feeble Paris Commitment

New Zealand’s commitment under the Paris Agreement, as stated in our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) (1), which became our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) after we ratified the agreement in October 2016 (2), reads as follows:
Emissions will be reduced to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The 2005 reference has been chosen for ease of comparability with other countries. This responsibility target corresponds to a reduction of 11% from 1990 levels.
At face value, the above statement appears clear and understandable, but it is actually quite unclear because there are two accepted measures for emissions: gross or total emissions; and net emissions which are total emissions less deductions allowed for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), which in our case relate mainly to carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere by trees. Neither the New Zealand INDC, nor the supplementary NDC documentation, state clearly whether we are using gross emissions, net emissions, a mix of these, or some other measure to define our Paris target.

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