(includes global news relevant to NZ and retrospective additions)
25 February, 2024
Analysis: Climate change is fanning the flames of NZ's wildfire future - 1News
Analysis: New Zealand regions previously unaffected by “very extreme” wildfire conditions are now facing unprecedented threats, writes Nathanael Melia.
"Last week, wildfire burnt through 650 hectares of forest and scrub in Christchurch’s Port Hills. This is not the first time the area has faced a terrifying wildfire event. The 2017 Port Hills fires burnt through almost 2,000 hectares of land, claiming one life and 11 homes. It took 66 days before the fires were fully extinguished. It is clear New Zealand stands at a pivotal juncture. The country faces an increasingly severe wildfire climate. And our once relatively “safe” regions are now under threat. At all levels of government, New Zealand needs to consider whether our current investment to combat fires will be enough in the coming decades.
Our research integrating detailed climate simulations with daily observations reveals a stark forecast: an uptick in both the frequency and intensity of wildfires, particularly in the inland areas of the South Island. It is time to consider what this will mean for Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), and how a strategic calibration of resources, tactics and technologies will help New Zealand confront this emerging threat."
12 February, 2024
Lobbyists are back at Parliament - with a new privacy measure hiding their identities - RNZ
"Gerry Brownlee [Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives] says the privacy of people with 'lobbying roles' should be protected, while officials have drawn up a new code of conduct. The identities of people allowed to freely come and go from Parliament have been made secret by the new Speaker.
Gerry Brownlee told RNZ he did not agree with the blanket ban on lobbyists having swipe card access and some discretion was needed. He had approved swipe card access for about four new people, who he said could be described as having lobbying roles. But they were not employed by professional lobbying firms and largely had jobs assisting parties in Parliament. He would not be "facilitating commercial activities" for lobbying firms. But in a departure from previous Speakers, Brownlee said he wouldn't publish the 'approved visitor list' of people with swipe card access to Parliament, in order to protect their privacy.
After RNZ's investigation into the lobbying industry (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/ lobbying) last year then-Prime Minister Chris Hipkins asked Brownlee's predecessor, Adrian Rurawhe, to remove the swipe cards that gave about 80 lobbyists easy access to Parliament.
At the time, National's deputy leader Nicola Willis backed the swipe card ban
and said there should be a "transparent, publicly accountable register of who's doing the lobbying and who they're lobbying for". She also called for a 12 month stand-down period for ministers going into lobbying after leaving Parliament."
05 February, 2024
Isolated Indigenous people as happy as wealthy western peers - study - The Guardian
Interviews with people in remote communities challenge widely held perception that money buys happiness
"People living in remote Indigenous communities are as happy as those in wealthy developed countries despite having “very little money”, according to new scientific research that could challenge the widely held perception that “money buys happiness”.
Researchers who interviewed 2,966 people in 19 Indigenous and local communities across the world found that on average they were as happy – if not happier – as the average person in high-income western countries.
“Surprisingly, many populations with very low monetary incomes report very high average levels of life satisfaction, with scores similar to those in wealthy countries,” said Eric Galbraith, the lead author of the study which was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “I would hope that, by learning more about what makes life satisfying in these diverse communities, it might help many others to lead more satisfying lives while addressing the sustainability crisis.”
The study by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA..UAB), found that people in the 19 isolated communities reported an average “life satisfaction score” of 6.8 out of 10 “even though most of the sites have estimated annual monetary incomes of less than US$1,000 (£800) per person”. This is roughly the same as the 6.7 average life satisfaction score for all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Galbraith, a researcher at ICTA..UAB and McGill University in Montreal, said four of the small communities reported average happiness scores of more than 8, which is higher than that found in Finland, the highest-rated country in OECD research, with an average of 7.9."
30 January, 2024
James Shaw to resign as Greens co-leader - 1News
Former Climate Change Minister James Shaw will step down as the Greens' co-leader in March, but will stay in Parliament for the time being to support a members bill drawn from the ballot last year.
"The new co-leader is expected to be announced on March 10. Shaw, who the Green Party called the "architect" of the Zero Carbon Act, said it had been a privilege to serve as the Climate Change Minister for six years and the Greens' co-leader for nine. He also acknowledged current co-leader Marama Davidson, and Metiria Turei who preceded her.
Shaw's members' bill, drawn from the ballot in the last draw of the year last year, would change the Bill of Rights to include the "right to a sustainable environment". The Bill of Rights (Right to a Sustainable Environment) Amendment Bill was introduced to the House on December 19 and will face its first reading. As an opposition member's bill, it is not guaranteed to pass into law. If the bill progresses past its first reading to select committee and beyond it's possible Shaw will remain in Parliament for some months yet."
30 January, 2024
‘Smoking gun proof’: fossil fuel industry knew of climate danger as early as 1954, documents show - The Guardian
Documents show industry-backed Air Pollution Foundation uncovered the severe harm climate change would wreak
" "The fossil fuel industry funded some of the world’s most foundational climate science as early as 1954, newly unearthed documents have shown, including the early research of Charles Keeling, famous for the so-called “Keeling curve” that has charted the upward march of the Earth’s carbon dioxide levels.
A coalition of oil and car manufacturing interests provided $13,814 (about $158,000 in today’s money) in December 1954 to fund Keeling’s earliest work in measuring CO2 levels across the western US, the documents reveal.
Keeling would go on to establish the continuous measurement of global CO2 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This “Keeling curve” has tracked the steady increase of the atmospheric carbon that drives the climate crisis and has been hailed as one of the most important scientific works of modern times.
The fossil fuel interests backed a group, known as the Air Pollution Foundation, that issued funding to Keeling to measure CO2 alongside a related effort to research the smog that regularly blighted Los Angeles at the time. This is earlier than any previously known climate research funded by oil companies." "
02 January, 2024
2023 in review: A year dominated by devastating weather - 1News
2023 left a trail of destruction in its wake, with many happy to say goodbye to the year while facing the "long road ahead".
"Off the back of an already soaked 2022 Kiwis were looking skyward for the sun, only to be pummelled by rain that broke records. NIWA declared January 2023 the "wettest month ever" for central Auckland with 539mm, smashing the previous record set in February 1869 by over 100mm. Then just as the water began to recede, before residents had even a month to catch their breath, Cyclone Gabrielle struck.
For only the third time in New Zealand’s history, a national state of emergency was declared , cementing Cyclone Gabrielle into history alongside the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and first Covid-19 lockdown. Four people died in the Auckland Anniversary floods and 11 others lost their lives to the force of Cyclone Gabrielle."
"... Smothered in silt and surrounded by slash, the unforgiving force of these weather events is still evident across the country today. Politicians have walked around the hardest-hit communities, pledging they won't be forgotten as the multi-generational clean-up effort began.
In May, Treasury estimated the damage from both Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Floods could range from $9 billion to $14.5b, second behind only the Canterbury earthquakes in terms of damage from natural disasters New Zealand has faced. Of this, $5b to $7.5b of damage is expected to relate to infrastructure owned by central and local government. The Government ploughed three-quarters of a billion dollars into fixing roads and railways across the country hit by January floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
In July, the Government pledged a further $567 million for immediate repair works on state highways in Tairāwhiti, Wairoa, Hawke's Bay, Coromandel and Northland."
18 December, 2023
Scientists' letter calls for freshwater protections to remain - RNZ
"Fifty freshwater experts and leaders from around New Zealand have sent an open letter to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon urging him not to touch the country's national freshwater policy.
The government announced on 14 December that "Cabinet has agreed to replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020". The letter calls on the government to retain the policy and its central decision-making framework, known as Te Mana o te Wai. It reads:
"New Zealand's rivers, lakes and aquifers are in a dire state. If you proceed with your proposals to undo the country's freshwater policy, they will only get worse."
"We call on you to listen to the wider community - not only the minority of voices who have asked you to undo the progress the country has made towards cleaner drinking water and healthier waterways.
"To remove, replace or rewrite our country's national freshwater policy at this time, so soon after it has been brought in, would be a terrible mistake."
The letter, addressed to Luxon, Minister for the Environment Penny Simmonds, Minister of Agriculture Todd McClay, and Chris Bishop the minister responsible for Resource Management Act reform, was signed by 50 prominent experts in freshwater from public health, ecology, business, planning and other disciplines together with iwi, hapū and Māori leaders, as well as regional community leaders engaged in freshwater issues."
17 December, 2023
Government quietly defunds transport climate work - Newroom
Simeon Brown won’t say whether the Government will completely scrap the targets for reducing private car usage
"The Transport Minister has told officials to stop work on policies that would provide transport alternatives to private cars. On Tuesday, Simeon Brown wrote to regional councils to advise them of changes he was making to speed limit regulations. He also put out a press release about the move and touted it in Parliament. But at the end of that letter, he also revealed he had ordered officials at the New Zealand Transport Agency, Waka Kotahi, to end work on programmes that would reduce the number of kilometres travelled by passenger cars through providing alternatives like public and active transport.
... As part of the previous government’s Emissions Reduction Plan, a national target was set to reduce total kilometres travelled by the light fleet in 2035 to 20 percent below baseline projections. This meant roughly flatlining the total distance travelled by passenger cars over the next 12 years, even while the population was expected to grow significantly. This would be done through setting specific targets for a reduction of vehicle kilometres travelled in major urban and provincial centres, which would be enabled through increasing the accessibility of walking, cycling and public transport as opposed to travelling by car.
... “The VKT programmes I [Simeon Brown] have asked NZTA to end work on were previous government policy and simply amounted to millions of dollars being spent writing endless reports with no funding allocated to any delivery. This was typical of the last government’s approach to transport,” he told Newsroom. “My focus will be on building and maintaining the roading network which is critical to having a safe, efficient and productive transport network.”
Brown didn’t answer when asked whether the Government was scrapping the kilometre reduction targets for the five big cities or the national 20 percent target. In January, officials estimated the collective impact on carbon pollution of achieving the targets would be 13.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. That’s 42 percent of the emissions reductions the entire transport sector needs to achieve by 2035 in order to meet New Zealand’s climate targets.
Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said Brown was “out of his depth”. “He doesn’t seem to understand that what he’s cancelling are projects that give people more choice. The ability to walk and cycle and take public transport,” she said. “Usually those options are lower cost and better for the environment and better for health and they’re what people want. People have consistently voted in cities for better public transport, so he’s actually taking away people’s choices with his zealous pro-car ideology.” "
14 December, 2023
Failure of Cop28 on fossil fuel phase-out is ‘devastating’, say scientists - The Guardian
Climate experts say lack of unambiguous statement is ‘tragedy for the planet and our future’
"The failure of Cop28 to call for a phase-out of fossil fuels is “devastating” and “dangerous” given the urgent need for action to tackle the climate crisis, scientists have said. One called it a “tragedy for the planet and our future” while another said it was the “dream outcome” for the fossil fuel industry.
The UN climate summit ended on Wednesday with a compromise deal that called for a “transition away” from fossil fuels. The stronger term “phase-out” had been backed by 130 of the 198 countries negotiating in Dubai but was blocked by petrostates including Saudi Arabia. The deal was hailed as historic as it was the first citing of fossil fuels, the root cause of the climate crisis, in 30 years of climate negotiations. But scientists said the agreement contained many loopholes and did not match the severity of the climate emergency.
“The lack of an agreement to phase out fossil fuels was devastating,” said Prof Michael Mann, a climatologist and geophysicist at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. “To ‘transition away from fossil fuels’ was weak tea at best. It’s like promising your doctor that you will ‘transition away from doughnuts’ after being diagnosed with diabetes.”
Dr Magdalena Skipper, the editor in chief of the science journal Nature, said: “The science is clear – fossil fuels must go. World leaders will fail their people and the planet unless they accept this reality.”
An editorial in Nature said the failure over the phase-out was “more than a missed opportunity”, it was “dangerous” and ran “counter to the core goals laid down in the 2015 Paris climate agreement” of limiting global heating to 1.5C (2.7F) above preindustrial levels. “The climate doesn’t care who emits greenhouse gases,” the editorial continued. “There is only one viable path forward, and that is for everybody to phase out almost all fossil fuels as quickly as possible.”
Sir David King, the chair of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group and a former UK chief scientific adviser, said: “The wording of the deal is feeble. Ensuring 1.5C remains viable will require total commitment to a range of far-reaching measures, including full fossil fuel phase-out.” There was a chasm between the stark statement of the emissions cuts needed and the action proposed to deliver those reductions, he said: “The Cop28 text recognises there is a need for ‘deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions’ to stay in line with 1.5C. But then it lists a whole bunch of efforts that don’t have a chance of achieving that.” The scientists said the loopholes included the call to “accelerate” carbon capture and storage to trap emissions from burning fossil fuels, an option that can play a minor role at best."
04 December, 2023
'Embarrassment': NZ wins 'Fossil of the Day' at climate talks - 1News
New Zealand has been afforded the dubious honour of "Fossil of the Day" at a major climate change summit - a result of the new coalition government's plans to reverse the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration.
"The Government says it is "committed to climate change" and plans to double renewable energy in New Zealand by 2050, the first steps of which are outlined in its 100 day plan.
The award was given by the Climate Action Network International, at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
Leader of the Opposition Chris Hipkins said the new government seemed to "want to reverse progress" on climate change which was "terrible news for the planet". Asked if it was hypocritical to criticise since the former Labour-led government also won the award, he said the National-led coalition "well and truly deserve the award".
Greenpeace Aotearoa head of campaigns Amanda Larsson said the new government had an "extremist" position on oil exploration and it risked New Zealand becoming a "Pacific pariah". She said the President of Palau had "slammed" New Zealand over it, and Vanuatu's Climate Change Minister had called on it to rethink the plan.
Germany's top climate diplomat spoke out to say reopening New Zealand to offshore oil and gas exploration would go against science and economics.
... World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) New Zealand chief executieve Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb said the new government was getting international recognition "for all the wrong reasons". "The science is unequivocal that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Reopening the door to offshore oil and gas exploration in the middle of a climate crisis is not only irresponsible, but makes us an embarrassment on the world stage." She said there were already concerns from Pacific nations about the move and predicted New Zealand's trading partners wouldn't "react kindly" if New Zealand didn't "play its part in the global response to climate change".
25 September, 2023
Shaw lauds climate change plan - Otago Daily Times Link
A PARTY leader has praised the Dunedin City Council for its longterm plan to adapt for climate change in South Dunedin.
"Green Party coleader James Shaw attended a street meeting for the South Dunedin Future work programme on Saturday. The joint initiative by the Dunedin City and Otago Regional Councils would help South Dunedin address flooding problems and adapt to climate change, Mr Shaw said. The programme had done a great job at consulting the community and listening to their concerns, he said. “This is probably one of the best case studies in the country of how a council is getting to grips with the process of engaging a community in a longterm plan for how to adapt,” Mr Shaw said. “I’m actually thrilled to see this because people have been talking about this for a really long time, for years, and I think the kind of plan they’ve got and the way they’ve engaged with the local community is superb.” "
25 September, 2023
DCC adopts zero-carbon plan, mayor's preference rejected – Otago Daily Times
“The Dunedin City Council has both adopted its zero-carbon plan and signalled a highinvestment scenario is favoured. Both the high and medium investment trajectories will go into the council's draft 2024-34 long-term plan for public consultation, and high investment will be listed as the preferred option.
The council voted 11-4 to adopt the plan. Against were Crs Bill Acklin, Kevin Gilbert, Lee Vandervis and Andrew Whiley. Adopting the plan but signalling a preference for a low-investment scenario, suggested by Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich, was rejected. That vote was 9-5
Discussion was then held about whether further work should be done on developing the high-investment option as the preference and looking at a medium-investment scenario as the alternative. The vote was carried 9-5. Cr Whiley abstained
… Mr Radich was in favour of improving public transport in the city to help curb carbon emissions. He was less sure better cycling infrastructure would get the desired results and said the most cost-effective methods would need to be pursued”
22 September, 2023
New Zealand not alone in failing to meet climate challenge - UN - 1News
A progress report from the United Nations shows many countries, including New Zealand, are falling behind on tackling climate change.
"It has been almost eight years since 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement and promised to cut their emissions. The United Nations measured their progress in its latest report, part of an overall 'global stocktake' that will form the basis of the COP28 summit later this year. University of Canterbury political science professor Bronwyn Hayward said the results were mixed. "This is telling us how the world is progressing, which is not well," she said. "Not as absolutely terrible as it could be, but we're still heading for a 2.5C warmer world." She said New Zealand was no exception. "Overall, New Zealand isn't tracking well. Making it happen takes government stepping up and constantly raising their aspirations and actually changing their actions." New Zealand had aspirations, she said, but not enough action. Ralph Sims, professor emeritus of sustainable energy and climate mitigation at Massey University, agreed. "New Zealand has a target to reduce emissions by 50% in the next seven years, which is going to be a huge challenge because we've only just really bent the curve," he said.
"... Hayward said political developments over the past eight years had pulled leaders' attention away from climate change. "The US pulled out of the Paris Agreement, then they came back," she said. "The UK was really leading the charge, now they've pulled back and they're dealing with their own internal economic issues." Shaw said the agriculture industry, the biggest contributor to New Zealand's emissions footprint, was a major roadblock. "We have these very powerful industries that have the ability to swing the political system in their favour and slow down progress." Sims said some farmers were making an effort to reduce emissions, but they were a minority. "There are some leading farmers who have changed their methods and are getting similar productivity with fewer animals, and they're moving in the right direction. The trouble of course is that 95 percent are yet to follow."
"... The UN's global stocktake would come to a head later this year when world leaders met in Dubai for COP28. Hayward was worried it would not go well. "I think COP28 is going to be really ugly, to be honest," she said. "There's already questions over the leadership of COP, there's worries that the fossil fuel industry has far too much influence. It's going to be very difficult to broker a diplomatic solution." Shaw agreed, expecting this year's summit would be a challenge. "There is a real battle being fought in conference rooms and zoom calls around the world. "Battle lines are being drawn, because we are moving towards the end of the fossil fuel era but those fossil fuel companies and fossil fuel countries are putting up a hell of a fight." "
29 August, 2023
Govt cuts further $236m from climate policies - Newsroom
Climate Change Minister James Shaw says he had no idea more than $200m in cuts to climate policies would be announced on Monday and hasn't received advice on the emissions impacts of the move.
"As part of a $4 billion savings initiative announced on Monday, the Government will cut $236 million from climate policies on agriculture, transport and forestry. One unusual aspect of the move is that climate funding is supposed to be ring-fenced solely for climate policies, but the savings will instead be returned to the general coffers.
Another unusual aspect is Minister for Climate Change James Shaw wasn't aware it would be happening. He told Newsroom he knew the Government was doing a savings exercise and evaluated a couple of policies he was responsible for, which didn't get cut. He was also briefed on a $10m cut to a waste policy. But he found out about the remaining $226m in climate cuts at the same time the public did."
19 August, 2023
Crown vs Cow part three: Why farming reneged on its deal to cut emissions - RNZ
Agriculture contributes more to global warming than any other industry in Aotearoa. Yet attempts to rein in the sector’s emissions have repeatedly fallen short. Kirsty Johnston investigates how a “world-leading plan” was born, and how it fell apart. This is part three: Backtrack. Why farming reneged on its deal to cut emissions.
"When it came time to launch the New Zealand farming sector’s scheme to combat global warming in June 2022, the industry’s plan was to present a strong, united front at a celebratory event in Wellington. A group of leaders from industry groups, the farming lobby, and Māori agriculture would sit in a row of stools on stage, facing the audience, and proudly announce that after nearly three years’ work they had created a “robust and credible” system to price farming’s greenhouse gas emissions. It was a big deal, a “world first”, they would say, and most importantly, everyone - even the staunch farmers’ lobby group, Federated Farmers - had signed in agreement on the report’s recommendations.
But on the day of the launch, things didn’t go to plan. The Federated Farmers logo was on the big screen, but its president, Andrew Hoggard, was not on stage. Hoggard, a dairy farmer from Manawatū, instead sat in the crowd as the launch played out, arms folded, only reluctantly leaving his seat to answer questions from media about whether Federated Farmers fully supported the proposal. “We’ve signed up to it,” Hoggard said. “I don’t think it’s quite perfect just yet. I think the bones are there. There’s more work that’s needed.” “Obviously, we would love that there wasn’t a price at all, but here we are.” Later, it turned out that Hoggard hadn’t wanted to sign the final report at all. At the time, the Federated Farmers board overruled him, confident the industry plan would be better than the alternative, which was for farmers to be put in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) alongside other polluting industries, and be subject to the market price for greenhouse gas credits."
"... A year on from that launch, the agricultural emissions pricing plan exists in name only, its future tenuous, at best. Environmentalists are despondent. Farmers are furious, both with regulators and the sector leaders who worked on the plan. Industry goodwill towards the government has largely been replaced with hostility and suspicion. And agricultural emissions are once again political grist for the electoral mill, with further delays likely, even as experts warn we don’t have time to waste. The plan’s failure marks the third time in 20 years that an attempt to regulate farming’s contribution to climate change has faltered. What went wrong? Were farmers ever on board at all? Was the Government simply naive to believe they would ever agree to regulation?
This RNZ investigation uses background interviews with industry insiders, officials, and experts, as well as documents obtained under the Official Information Act, such as cabinet papers, government reports and ministers’ diary entries to tell the inside story of how a once-promising idea fell apart. You are reading part three - you can go back to part one here and part two here."
18 August, 2023
Crown vs Cow part two: How agriculture and government fell out, and the climate lost - RNZ
Agriculture contributes more to global warming than any other industry in Aotearoa. Yet attempts to rein in the sector’s emissions have fallen short once more. In Depth reporter Kirsty Johnston investigates how a “world-leading plan” was born, and how it died. This is part two: Devil in the Detail. How agriculture and government fell out, and the climate lost.
"It took nearly three years before cracks in the shiny veneer of the Labour government’s partnership with the agriculture industry on climate change began to appear, and then just three months for the plan to crumble almost completely. The ‘He Waka Eke Noa’ deal had been launched as an “historic consensus” by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in late 2019, where the two parties would stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” on a programme to reduce emissions. “For too long politicians have passed the buck and caused uncertainty for everyone while the need for climate action was clear,” Ardern said. The “world leading” plan was that industry, with help from government agencies, would draw up a system to price and reduce agriculture’s climate pollution - the greenhouse gases created from farming cows, sheep and deer, which make up half of all New Zealand’s planet-warming emissions.
In those first years, it had seemed like the two parties were making progress, despite the huge task before them. Industry representatives spent hours on Zoom or in boardrooms with officials, trialing options and modelling impacts, trying to find the best solution. And by mid-2022, industry had launched its plan. But to the industry’s apparent surprise, ministers didn’t immediately accept their proposal. Soon, there were two competing plans, with industry distancing itself from the government version. By December, most of the farming industry had reneged on at least part of their commitment, and were urging everyday farmers to follow their lead and submit against the proposal they had helped create. In short: the love affair was over. But what killed the consensus? If the proposal came from a partnership, why were politicians so unhappy with the result? And more importantly - what about the climate?
This RNZ investigation uses background interviews with industry insiders, officials, and experts, as well as documents obtained under the Official Information Act, such as cabinet papers, government reports and ministers’ diary entries to tell the inside story of how a once-promising idea fell apart. You are reading part two - you can go back to part one here."
17 August, 2023
Crown vs Cow: The inside story of how we failed to regulate our worst climate polluter - RNZ
Agriculture contributes more to global warming than any other industry in Aotearoa. Yet attempts to rein in the sector’s emissions have fallen short once more. In a three-part series, Crown vs Cow, In Depth reporter Kirsty Johnston investigates how a “world-leading plan” was born, and how it fell apart. This is part one: Deny, deny, delay.
"... Ardern and 11 sector leaders from farming industry groups agreed they would work together to come up with a way to price climate change pollution from agriculture. It would be a world first, they said. But there was a kicker: instead of the agriculture industry paying for its emissions immediately, as Labour had proposed in its election campaign, farmers would get a five-year reprieve before pricing came in.
The plan’s announcement, when it came four months later, would prove a shock among farmers, environmental groups, and even government supporters. Farmers felt they were being sold down the road by their own leaders. Environmentalists were incredulous that agriculture had managed to delay regulation once again, and that a Labour government, of all people, had let them. And those who voted for Ardern were left wondering: What happened to the climate change action they were promised?
This RNZ investigation uses background interviews with industry insiders, officials, and experts, as well as documents obtained under the Official Information Act, such as cabinet papers, government reports and ministers’ diary entries to tell the full story of how the agriculture industry lobbied its way out of paying a climate tax, again."
12 June, 2023
'We can't avoid 1.5C' - Climate scientist warns we'll miss key target - 1News
A leading New Zealand climate scientist says limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the point at which extreme weather events will become more frequent, food and water insecurity increases, and adaptation becomes more difficult — is unrealistic.
"Victoria University professor James Renwick told Q+A he has accepted the planet will surpass the key target. "I'd love there to be some miraculous change and emissions reductions. But, really, I think we can't avoid 1.5 degrees," he said. "We will go through it globally in the next few years, and we'll be at that level — on average — within 10 years or so, and then going on from there." The risk the world will temporarily exceed 1.5C in warming when compared to pre-industrial levels continues to increase, according to modelling by the World Meteorological Organisation. Between 2017 and 2021, that likelihood was 10%. As of 2023, projections now put that figure at 66% by 2027.
Renwick said the lack of action on emissions reduction since 2015, when the Paris Agreement was signed, is "really dispiriting". At that climate summit, world leaders agreed to the legally-binding 1.5C target, down from an earlier goal of 2C. However, as of late 2022, a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found countries' climate action pledges remain insufficient to meet the target. While Jacinda Ardern famously declared climate change as her generation's "nuclear-free moment", Renwick told Q+A that her prime ministership didn't live up to the rhetoric."
27 May, 2023
Dairy farmer bridges cultural gap beside braided awa - RNZ
"With the help of a cultural land advisor, North Canterbury farmer John Faulkner is creating a diverse mahinga kai - Māori food gathering site - on his riverside property. "I've got the land, I've got the area..." That's what went through John Faulkner's mind while hearing about the efforts to regenerate rural land at a zone committee meeting. Now with the help of Makarini Rupene (Ngāi Tahu), Faulkner was restoring the biodiversity on his land.
Down from Faulkner's dairy support block, on the south bank of the Waiau Uwha River, tōtara, mānuka, kānuka, cabbage trees, and flax were nestled once again. "And approximately 50 or 60 rongoā māori species in here. They are all endemic of a five-kilometre radius, so they were here in the past."
Faulkner's 162-hectare dairy farm, a kilometre up the road, was integrated with the support block. In winter, the cows come down and graze on the 35h available to them. He wanted a restoration site based on traditional Māori values and usage of the land. After learning about mahinga kai, and furthermore, nohoanga sites, Faulkner believed he had the space to develop a contemporary version."
26 May, 2023
‘Damning’ govt report lays out freshwater failures - Newsroom
Supposed protections weren’t enough to stop sensitive lakes deteriorating, a Ministry for the Environment report says
"A long-awaited government report lays bare the disconnect between the realities of intensive farming and the illusion of environmental progress. The report, produced by the Ministry for the Environment and published on its website on Wednesday, dismantles the idea a cascade of plans, frameworks, national standards, and consents is leading to healthier water bodies.
Headlined ‘Lessons Learnt’, the report centres on the sensitive Ōtūwharekai/Ashburton Lakes – a network of wetlands and lakes in the Canterbury high country, the largest of which is Lake Heron. The report finds the freshwater management system, including audited and compliant environment plans for adjacent farms, fails to protect the lakes.
Too many nutrients from the surrounding land is the direct cause of decline in the lakes, which are generally shallow, and slow flushing. “Over 95 percent of [the nutrients] is due to leaching and run-off from land-use practices on the adjacent pastoral farms,” the report says.
… Environmental groups call the report damning, and evidence of systemic failure – a shot across the bow ahead of a national rollout of freshwater farm plans, similar to those used in Canterbury.
… Greenpeace campaigner Christine Rose says the report is damning of the system the government is relying on to fix freshwater. “This is really just the tip of the iceberg.” The system is broken, she says, and the report is evidence to suggest freshwater bodies across the country will become increasingly contaminated, and deteriorate further.
… Freshwater ecologist Dr Mike Joy, of Victoria University of Wellington, a member of the science and technical advisory group established in 2018 to oversee evidence for the Government’s freshwater reforms, says: “It’s reinforced or substantiated everything that I’ve been saying about the failure to protect freshwater.”
21 May, 2023
Govt's NZ Steel deal welcomed by climate activists - INews
"The Government's announcement today of a deal with NZ Steel to significantly reduce the emissions of their Glenbrook site has been largely welcomed by climate activists.
However, activists and opposition politicians alike have taken issue with what they see to be a "corporate welfare" approach to emissions reduction. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the project, in which the Government would partially fund to the tune of $140 million an electric arc furnace, "dwarfs anything we have done to date" in emissions reduction. It would reduce NZ Steel's emissions by almost half and the country's by 1% or 800,000 tonnes annually.
India Logan-Riley, a climate activist from rangitahi-led climate action group Te Ara Whatu, said: "It is nice to get good news after the climate policy bonfire earlier in the year and very little for climate justice in the budget." But they raised concern over the fairness of the Government subsidising a high-profit, high-emissions industry. Companies that have profited from fuelling the climate crisis should not be looking to taxpayers to bail them out when they should be using their own profits to make the shift. "If the Government is going to make financial contributions then it would be sensible for the public to expect a degree of control or ownership of these corporations. "There has to be future accountability for these companies." "
09 May, 2023
Why the heat is on carbon offsets claiming to protect forest - Stuff.co.nz
"Some carbon offsets promise to reduce deforestation. There’s growing evidence these claims may not always stack up.
When ticking an airline's carbon offset box, you’re probably picturing your dollars creating green action: someone planting a seedling that will grow into a tree. But fairly often, you’ll be paying someone not to take action: to not chop down or burn existing trees.
People selling these offsets say forests lock away vast amounts of greenhouse gas that the world cannot afford to release. Rather than landowners making money by harvesting wood or clearing the land for farming, they can get paid to keep the trees, by selling offsets. But opponents say the concept opens a can of worms. It only works if the forest is at risk of being chopped or burned – and it’s tough, if not impossible, to calculate the precise amount at risk.
If it turns out the trees were never seriously at risk, the offset projects could become a sort of protection racket: with people threatening forest to secure cash. Meanwhile, the oil companies and airlines that buy credits can claim they’re taking climate action, while continuing to contribute planet-heating pollution."
09 May, 2023
Judicial review against Minister for Climate Change following failed ETS auction - Link
"Today Lawyers for Climate Action NZ Inc filed High Court proceedings seeking judicial review of the Climate Change (Auctions, Limits, and Price Controls for Units) Amendment Regulations 2022.
The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) requires businesses in covered sectors to surrender one unit for every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted.
The ETS has an important role to play in meeting our domestic and international emissions reduction targets. In order to do this, the Climate Change Response Act 2002 requires volume and price settings to be made annually for the five years ahead. By law the settings must be in accordance with our emissions budgets, our nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement and the 2050 net zero target.
In December last year, Cabinet rejected the advice of the Climate Change Commission and the recommendations of the Minister of Climate Change about what the ETS volume and price settings should be. The effect of the Cabinet decision was to make available at low prices an additional 35 million units over the next five years. That is more than one year’s worth of emissions for sectors within the ETS.
LCANZI’s judicial review claims that in overriding the recommendations from the Commission and the Minister, Cabinet failed to address whether the settings were in accordance with the emissions budgets and the NDC. Instead the decision was driven by concerns that rising ETS unit prices would flow through to households. LCANZI seeks a declaration from the Court that the regulations are inconsistent with the Climate Change Response Act, and an order that the regulations be remade."
View statement of claim
27 April, 2023
New Zealand too reliant on tree planting to meet net zero emissions targets, experts warn - The Guardian
"Climate commission draft guidance says country must take more action to directly cut pollution instead of relying on trees
New Zealand’s heavy reliance on planting trees to offset carbon pollution threatens to torpedo the country’s ambitious plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050, according to warnings from the body advising the government on its climate policy direction.
The independent Climate Commission published draft guidance on Wednesday that – when finalised later this year – must be considered by New Zealand’s leaders as they draw up their next suite of plans to meet the country’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The provisional document sounded renewed alarm about the government’s inclusion of carbon offsets through forestry in its calculation of emissions reduction, and a lack of clarity on how much meeting climate goals should be made up of real cuts to high-polluting activities.
New Zealand’s government “needs to make a choice about how far it will go” in directly cutting polluting activities versus simply planting trees to remove carbon, the report said. If it did not, New Zealand would fail to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the writers added. “Our current pathway of policies will not get us there,” the chair of the commission, Rod Carr, told reporters in Wellington on Wednesday"
27 April, 2023
Climate Commission warns of 'boom and bust' for forestry and emissions trading scheme - Stuff.co.nz
"The Government has been given a firm shake-up from the Climate Commission, with new advice warning it must urgently rethink the emissions trading scheme and its over-reliance on planting exotic forests.
The warning comes in the commission's draft advice for the Government's second emissions reduction plan, which will cover the years 2026 to 2030 and form part of the roadmap for how the Government will meet its net-zero carbon goal by 2050.
"The current pathway we are on seems to reward sequestration in forests above gross emissions reduction ...If we are on that pathway, the commission's conclusion is, we will not meet the target," chair Dr Rob Carr said. "Every time we offset an emission you or I make today with another hectare of forest, we are committing New Zealanders to maintain that forest cover for a very long time, so we are removing choices, options and opportunities from the future.""
26 April, 2023
"Luxon refuses to say if tax system unfair: 'Wealthy aren't the problem' - 1News
"Today, Inland Revenue (IRD) and Treasury released the findings from two inquiries looking at how much tax high-wealth individuals pay across all income sources, and another on what the general population pays.
... The IRD report gathered information on 311 of the country's wealthiest families - many of them with a net worth of more than $50m. The mean estimated net worth of the families surveyed was $276 million in 2021. Treasury found the general population pays an effective 20.2% tax rate across all income sources. The IRD found that high-wealth individuals, by comparison, pay about 9.4%.
Luxon was put on the spot by reporters this afternoon at Parliament who challenged him on whether he agreed with the report's findings.
... He refused to say whether rich Kiwis needed a tax hike. "The people that are being treated unfairly is the middle working class New Zealanders and they're the people that need a tax break." More tax cuts have been part of Luxon's economic policy since March 2022. But last year, the National leader was forced to sideline plans to effectively repeal the Government's 39% top tax rate on those making over $180,000 — citing inflationary pressure."
26 April, 2023
IRD report shows wealthy NZers pay much lower tax rates than other earners - Beehive.govt.nz
"Inland Revenue research released today reveals a large differential between the tax rates ordinary New Zealanders pay on their full income compared with the super-wealthy, Revenue Minister David Parker says. “This internationally ground-breaking research provides hard data showing that the wealthiest New Zealanders pay tax at much less than half the rate of other Kiwis,” David Parker said. “The data, based on full income information from 311 of our wealthiest citizens, shows that the average person in this group pays an effective tax rate of just 8.9% tax on their economic income – that is, income from all sources, including capital gains on investments. “In contrast, most New Zealanders pay tax at more than twice that rate. For example, someone earning a salary of $80,000, with no other income, pays 22% tax on that income, excluding GST. “The difference is mainly because the very wealthy earn only a small portion of their income from wages and salaries, unlike most New Zealanders.
“The differential is even larger when GST is included: for the wealthiest, their effective tax rate rises to 9.5%, but for the person on an $80,000 salary, it goes up to around 28 or 29%. That is because wealthy New Zealanders spend a much smaller portion of their income each year, compared with other earners.” The High Wealth Individuals Research Project is internationally significant because it uses real data, unlike other overseas studies which draw on surveys or scenarios, David Parker says."
04 April, 2023
Government’s proposed crackdown on lobbyists dismissed as too tentative - NZ Herald
"The government’s proposed crackdown on lobbyists has been dismissed as too tentative, and just about meaningless.
Following RNZ’s investigation into political lobbying, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has commissioned long-term work on regulating the industry - but in the meantime wanted lobbyists to develop their code of conduct, and is removing their swipe card access to Parliament.
… Hipkins wants advice on how to regulate lobbying long-term to report back next year. In the short-term, he has started by asking the Speaker to revoke lobbyists’ swipe card access to Parliament. Around 80 lobbyists - including people in unions, business, and the non-government sector - are currently on Parliament’s approved list.
… Hipkins’ attention to the issue was first raised following an investigation by RNZ two weeks ago. But the issue was last looked at in 2012, aer former Green Party MP Holly Walker introduced a member’s bill. It did not make it past the select committee stage."
26 March, 2023
Veteran scientist kicks up over climate – Newsroom
A knighted, nonagenarian scientist adds his voice to the call for a climate election in October. David Williams reports.
“A horror start to 2023 isn’t going to stop outspoken scientist Sir Alan Mark giving a serve to politicians about climate change. “Right now, we’re not doing anything beneficial to the global ecosystem with greenhouse gases becoming more and more threatening,” he says at his Dunedin retirement village. “And it seems like the politicians aren’t able to deal with the issue.”
… What do politicians need to do? “Act to reduce the production of greenhouse gases,” he says. Mark acknowledges the democratic process makes that difficult in New Zealand, because a party taking a strong line can be reined in by a smaller party, effectively acting as handbrake. His message is clear: “Humanity’s got to act to deal with the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, which are having a major impact.”
… Several climate-related policies were axed or slowed in Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ latest policy purge. And as the projected cost of Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme, feted as a salve for New Zealand’s thorny dry-year problem, leaped to $15.7 billion, the Government admitted it was considering alternatives. Mark’s not impressed with political arguments against climate action. Yes, he says, the country earns a lot of money from farming – “that’s more reason why we need to do something to address the product of farming; the methane production particularly”. In saying that, it’s a difficult issue and farmers will need to be compensated. The argument New Zealand emits only a small amount of global greenhouse gases isn’t a reason for inaction, he says. “All of humanity has a responsibility to respond to global warming, which is going to ruin the planet if it doesn’t take action.”"
25 March, 2023
Lobbyists in New Zealand enjoy freedoms unlike most other nations in the developed world - RNZ
"The popular view of lobbying is based on perceptions of shadowy figures stalking the halls of power in Washington DC. But the industry here, in New Zealand, is far less transparent than in the US.
… Lobbying is big business in the US but it's highly regulated and relatively transparent. In the US, lobbyists can be jailed for five years for corruptly failing to comply with the Lobbying Disclosures Act 1995.
… Transparency International (TI) compared New Zealand's lobbying environment with Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the United States and found us wanting. "The absence of independent oversight of, and personal gains from, lobbying in New Zealand is glaring," TI's New Zealand chapter said in a November 2022 report.
… In 2010, the OECD, the club of rich nations, produced a set of principles for lobbying https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/public/doc/256/256.en.pdf), in what it called the "first international instrument to address undue influence and inequities in the power of influence".
… The OECD report shows New Zealand is one of 18 countries where "lobbying activities are not subject to transparency regulations". At its most basic, the OECD says countries should define what lobbying is. New Zealand doesn't even make it to step one."