NZ News
(includes global news relevant to NZ and retrospective additions)
22 May, 2024
National accused of breaking election promise by delaying offshore wind rules - Newsroom

National promised a permitting system for offshore wind farms would be in place within a year, but that has now been pushed out to mid-2025

"New rules to enable the development of offshore wind farms won’t be in place until the middle of next year, despite a promise by the National Party during the election to finalise them within a year. A briefing to Energy Minister Simeon Brown, RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop and Environment Minister Penny Simmonds, obtained by Newsroom under the Official Information Act, shows legislation for the rules won’t even be introduced to Parliament until December. “This is work that is critical to New Zealand’s future, it’s critical to our plans for how we decarbonise, but it’s also critical investment in New Zealand’s infrastructure as well,” Labour’s energy and climate spokesperson Megan Woods said. She added that she viewed it as a broken campaign promise from National.

When Woods was the Minister of Energy, the system of permits and space allocation for offshore wind farms was due to be completed in July this year. The Labour government consulted on a permitting system in August last year. She says that, as far as she knows, it was still on track when she left office in November. Just days before the election, the National Party released an offshore wind policy promising to “complete the development of offshore wind regulations including commercial permits within one year”. But the briefing obtained by Newsroom shows that while Cabinet decisions on the permitting system are due this month, legislation won’t be introduced until December and won’t be in force until mid-2025."

15 May, 2024
Carbon credit supply might need to be cut as efficient furnace comes online - RNZ

"A new steel-making furnace will reduce emissions so much that environment officials have floated the idea of reducing the whole country's supply of carbon credits to compensate. The Ministry for the Environment is asking the public - and emitters - how many tonnes of carbon dioxide the government should sell at auction from 2025-29, and at what range of prices. When NZ Steel's new electric arc furnace starts working in around 2027, hundreds of thousands of tonnes worth of permits to pump out carbon dioxide that the old furnace would have needed to cover its coal use will be up for grabs. These could be sold to other emitters, lowering pollution prices and lowering incentives for other companies to go cleaner, says the ministry."

15 May, 2024
New Zealand's latest population figures revealed by Stats NZ - INews

New Zealand's population has risen by more than 100,000 people in the past year, Stats NZ revealed today.

The year ended March 2024 saw New Zealand's population grow by 2.5%, or about 130,700 people, the agency said this morning. That figure stems from an estimated natural increase (births minus deaths) of 19,500 and an estimated net migration (migrant arrivals minus migrant departures) of 111,100 people. And New Zealand saw fewer births and deaths in the year ended March 2024 than the year before. The agency said there were 56,277 live births registered in New Zealand in the year ended March 2024. That's down from 58,707 in the year ended March 2023, a decrease of about 2500. And there were 37,623 deaths registered in the year ended March 2024, over 1000 less than the 38,835 deaths registered in the year ended March 2023. "The total fertility rate was 1.52 births per woman, down from 1.65," Stats NZ said. "The infant mortality rate was 3.8 deaths per 1000 live births, up from 3.5 per 1000, but down from 4.2 per 1000 in the year ended March 2022."

The agency also released New Zealand's provisional national population statistics for the same period. "At 31 March 2024: New Zealand's estimated resident population was provisionally 5,338,900. "There were 2,680,900 females and 2,658,000 males. "The median age of females and males was 38.9 and 37.1 respectively. Today's release comes after Stats NZ's population insights analyst Rebekah Hennessey said in February that 2023 had seen the "lowest number of births registered in 20 years". "

10 May, 2024
Government hypes gas crisis ahead of restarting drilling - Newsroom

Solar power is the cheapest form of energy in the Pacific but the Government says New Zealand’s only choices for keeping the lights on are gas or coal

"Analysis: Energy Minister Simeon Brown took the rare move of making a ministerial statement in Parliament on Wednesday, warning New Zealand could struggle to keep the lights on due to an unexpected shortage of gas supply in the latest regular update from the Gas Industry Company.

.... Presenting a situation of declining gas supply that has long been expected and is well-understood as a sudden crisis is an attempt to make the case for the Government’s pivot back towards fossil fuels for industrial uses and electricity production in New Zealand. The centrepiece of this pivot is the reversal of the ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration, which Jones has hinted could be accompanied by legislative changes to remove requirements around cleaning up discontinued wells or even government underwriting of major capital investments. Both Brown and Jones have therefore taken aim at the oil and gas ban as the cause of the current problems. However, there’s no direct connection between declining gas production from existing wells and the exploration ban which came into effect less than six years ago.

.... Since 2021, the International Energy Agency has found that no new oil and gas fields are needed to meet its net zero pathway. “The unwavering policy focus on climate change in the net zero pathway results in a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand, meaning that the focus for oil and gas producers switches entirely to output – and emissions reductions – from the operation of existing assets,” it wrote in a landmark report on net zero that year. The International Institute for Sustainable Development likewise concluded in 2022 that new oil and gas is “incompatible” with 1.5C. “According to a large consensus across multiple modelled climate and energy pathways, developing any new oil and gas fields is incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5C,” the 2022 report found. Finally, just last year, the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found even keeping warming to 2C required keeping half of known gas reserves and a third of known oil reserves in the ground. “Significantly more reserves are expected to remain unburned if warming is limited to 1.5C,” the panel said. This implicitly means searching for new reserves is not consistent with either 1.5C or 2C."

09 May, 2024
Less than half of Kiwi businesses recycling e-waste — survey - 1News

More than half of Kiwi businesses say they haven’t recycled electronic waste in the last year, according to an e-waste recycling organisation.

"A survey commissioned by Echo, released today, found 61% of businesses were improperly disposing of e-waste. When asked why they didn’t recycle or dispose of their e-waste, 45% of business owners said they simply didn’t know what to do with their devices, while 35% said they don’t have the time to dispose of e-waste properly. E-waste was the fastest growing solid waste stream in the world, with 53.6 million tonnes produced globally in 2019, according to the World Health Organization. In Aotearoa New Zealand, 19.2kg of e-waste was generated per capita – above the OECD average of 17.1kg and more than 2.5 times higher than the world average of 7.3kg. Just 2% of this e-waste was diverted from landfill and recycled properly.

Echo CEO Patrick Moynahan said the results reflected the unsustainable habits of Kiwi business owners. "With so many businesses saying they haven’t properly recycled their e-waste over the last year, this signals a huge number of items potentially ending up in landfill rather than being disposed of responsibly," Moynahan said, in a statement.

... Moynahan said approximately 98,000 tonnes of e-waste ended up in landfills every year in New Zealand, highlighting a "major opportunity for sustainability improvement across the country". "

08 May, 2024
World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target - The Guardian

Exclusive: Planet is headed for at least 2.5C of heating with disastrous results for humanity, poll of hundreds of scientists finds

‘Hopeless and broken’: why the world’s top climate scientists are in despair

Hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists expect global temperatures to rise to at least 2.5C (4.5F) above preindustrial levels this century, blasting past internationally agreed targets and causing catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet, an exclusive Guardian survey has revealed. Almost 80% of the respondents, all from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), foresee at least 2.5C of global heating, while almost half anticipate at least 3C (5.4F). Only 6% thought the internationally agreed 1.5C (2.7F) limit would be met.

Many of the scientists envisage a “semi-dystopian” future, with famines, conflicts and mass migration, driven by heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storms of an intensity and frequency far beyond those that have already struck. Numerous experts said they had been left feeling hopeless, infuriated and scared by the failure of governments to act despite the clear scientific evidence provided.

... The Guardian approached every contactable lead author or review editor of IPCC reports since 2018. Almost half replied, 380 of 843. The IPCC’s reports are the gold standard assessments of climate change, approved by all governments and produced by experts in physical and social sciences. The results show that many of the most knowledgeable people on the planet expect climate havoc to unfold in the coming decades.

... The 1.5C target was chosen to prevent the worst of the climate crisis and has been seen as an important guiding star for international negotiations. Current climate policies mean the world is on track for about 2.7C, and the Guardian survey shows few IPCC experts expect the world to deliver the huge action required to reduce that.
... The experts were clear on why the world is failing to tackle the climate crisis. A lack of political will was cited by almost three-quarters of the respondents, while 60% also blamed vested corporate interests, such as the fossil fuel industry. Many also mentioned inequality and a failure of the rich world to help the poor, who suffer most from climate impacts."

08 May, 2024
Genesis Energy to fire up coal imports amid dwindling gas supply - 1News

Genesis Energy is to resume importing coal, as reduced gas supplies and increased demand add to the problems of keeping the lights on in future years.

"The company said it currently had about half a million tonnes at its Huntly power station, which it expected to be well through after this winter, but would then replenish to maintain a stockpile of 350,000 tonnes, enough to meet its own needs. Chief executive Malcolm Johns said coal use was necessary as gas supplies were down a third on a year ago, hydro-lake inflows were 13% lower, and solar and wind power were intermittent. In addition, demand had risen about 4%.

... Meanwhile, the Government highlighted the fall in gas supplies and pointed the finger at the previous Labour administration for banning offshore exploration and putting obstacles in the way of investment. Energy Minister Simeon Brown and Resources Minister Shane Jones said it had been told that some large gas consumers were concerned about being able to secure gas contracts. "The previous government stifled investment confidence in the natural gas sector. We are now seeing the serious impacts of these decisions with significant reduction in gas being produced which is leading to significant supply constraints and higher prices for consumers," Brown said."

... Jones said the Government would bring in law changes to increase gas production. "New Zealand has abundant natural resources, including energy resources such as natural gas. It is a tragedy to leave this abundance in the ground while our manufacturers suffer and our industrial base moves overseas. We are going to fix it." “

07 May, 2024
Meridian Energy: no need to ‘engage’ locals ahead of fast-track applications - Newsroom

Meridian Energy’s submission on the Fast-Track Approvals Bill outlined several ways the public could gum up the process, rendering a ‘fast’ bill slow

"In its submission on the Fast-Track Approvals Bill, Meridian Energy has recommended an amendment “to ensure there is a lesser threshold of discussion before lodging a referral application”. This amendment embodied a major theme of the company’s submission, which was to restrict ways in which the public could engage with fast-track project applications. Early stages of consultation and specific provisions for dealing with significant impacts were seen as vulnerabilities that could be exploited by third parties, leading to a slowdown of a Bill designed specifically to be fast. In short, Meridian’s submission declared that “existing RMA ‘fast’ processes are, in fact, not fast”, and sought to make amendments that would hasten the company’s ability to provide Aotearoa with renewable energy."

01 May, 2024
1News poll: NZ split on Govt's Fast-track Approvals Bill - 1News

Just 40% of people support the Government's Fast-track Approvals Bill, while 60% don't, didn't know, or didn't want to say - according to a new 1News Verian poll.

"The Fast-track Approvals Bill is aimed at introducing a "fast-track, one-stop-shop consenting regime", to "enable faster approval of infrastructure and other projects that have significant regional or national benefits", according to its legislative statement. To access the fast-track approvals process, project owners would need to apply to three joint Ministers — Ministers for Infrastructure (Chris Bishop), Transport (Simeon Brown), and Regional Development (Shane Jones). A project would then be referred to an expert panel for assessment and recommendation to the ministers, who would ultimately determine whether the project proceeded.

It's been criticised as anti-democratic as it greatly reduces public say on fast-track projects. Some have also criticised the lack of precise definition of what constituted projects of "significant regional or national benefits". Submissions on the bill closed on April 19 and the Environment Committee will now prepare a report with recommendations to Parliament on it, before it faces a second reading.

In the 1News Verian poll, run between April 20 and 24, 1000 eligible voters were asked: “The Fast-track Approval Bill will allow some ministers to approve infrastructure projects without going through the current approval process, for example, getting resource consent.

"Do you support or oppose the Government’s Fast-track Approvals Bill?”

Of those who responded, 40% said they supported it, 41% said they opposed it and 19% said they did not know or preferred not to say."

23 April, 2024
Government reveals first changes to Resource Management Act - RNZ

Farming, mining and other industrial regulations are being scrapped or amended under the government's first changes to the Resource Management Act. The changes include revision of stock exclusion, winter grazing, Te Mana o te Wai, mining consenting, and suspension of Significant Natural Area requirements. RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop announced the government's plan in a statement today, highlighting five changes the government expected to introduce in its legislation due to be introduced to Parliament in May and passed by the end of the year. He said the government was aiming to "reduce the regulatory burden on resource consent applicants and support development in key sectors, including farming, mining and other primary industries". The changes in this bill were focused on changes that could take effect quickly, and give certainty to councils and consent applicants, he said.

The five changes highlighted include:

▝  Repeal intensive winter grazing regulations.

▝  Remove low-slope map from stock exclusion regulations.

▝  Suspend requirement for councils to identify new Significant Natural Areas for three years..

▝  Resource consents will no longer need to demonstrate accordance with Te Mana o te Wai heirarchy of obligations, during the review of the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.

▝  Coal mining consenting pathways to be re-aligned with other mining activities in the National Policy Statements for Indigenous Biodiversity and Freshwater Management, and the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater.

The coal mining changes had already been announced by Resources Minister Shane Jones."

22 April, 2024
Fast Track Approval Bill: Government watchdogs seek substantial curbs on ministers' powers - RNZ

"Two government watchdogs are recommending changes to the new Fast Track Approval Bill so conflicts of interest can be managed and the natural environment can be better protected. In two separate reports, the auditor-general and the parliamentary commissioner for the environment have urged the select committee, which is currently reviewing the legislation, to consider changes to the decision-making process laid out in the new legislation. The bill in its current form would give three ministers the ability to green-light infrastructure projects like roads, dams and mines, regardless of the risk to biodiversity, or if they have previously been denied consents by the courts.

But the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton said the role of ministers as decision-makers should be scrapped. Rather than allowing any project to be eligible to be fast-tracked, Upton's report recommended "limiting eligible projects to those that provide significant public benefits". In addition, he recommended environmental considerations be elevated, and the role of the minister for the environment in the process be restored. It should also exclude previously declined or prohibited activities from the fast-track process. Currently, the bill would allow those decisions to be overridden. Meanwhile, the auditor-general is urging the select committee to change the bill to include requirements for better managing conflicts of interest."

16 April, 2024
Shane Jones announces easier coal mine consenting - RNZ

"Resources Minister Shane Jones has announced changes to coal mine consenting he says reduce barriers to extraction and bring it into line with other types of mining. The government's first Resource Management Amendment Bill, to be introduced next month, will make changes to the Resource Management Act, freshwater environmental standards, and the National Policy Statements for Freshwater Management and Biodiversity. It will remove additional controls for coal mining introduced by Labour that were set to end the consenting pathway for existing thermal coal mines from 31 December 2030.

Jones, in a statement, said the government's planned changes would ensure New Zealand's access to locally sourced coal so processors would "not be forced to rely on imported coal to meet their needs". He said the impacts of extracting coal were "similar, if not the same, as those occurring in mining other minerals" and the changes would enable a wider range of consent applications for coal mining. "Coal is a small but mighty part of New Zealand's productive output and makes a significant contribution to regional economies," he said."
09 April, 2024
Climate Change Commission lays down wero over methane targets - Newsroom

The commission has issued a stern and not-so-subtle warning that there is no reason to water down goals to slash climate pollution from livestock

"Analysis: On Saturday, the Government preempted nearly a year of work by the Climate Change Commission by announcing a separate review of New Zealand’s methane emissions targets, just 48 hours before the commission was due to publish its own analysis on the subject. Now, in that document, the commission has fired back with a stern and not-so-subtle warning that there is no reason the goals for reducing climate pollution from livestock and waste should be watered down.

Though the commission’s review of New Zealand’s methane targets (and the 2050 net zero goal) would have been fully completed well before the Government announced its own separate review, officials at the independent advisory body had clearly anticipated where the methane debate was heading. In part, this is because the farming lobby groups whose pleas for a review were picked up by the Government had also submitted their views to the commission.

At issue is whether the methane targets – a 10 percent reduction from 2017 levels by 2030 and a 24 percent to 47 percent cut by 2050 – need altering. The sector has advocated for them to be weakened ever since they were first announced, preferring an approach that would in effect “lock in” the agriculture industry’s contribution to climate change but constrain it from worsening the problem. When that advocacy fell on deaf ears in the Labour government, the industry turned to a new tactic: commissioning research it claimed provided new evidence for why the targets are too ambitious. That research again relies on the perspective of reducing New Zealand’s ambition to merely targeting “no additional warming” from methane.

... There is no mechanism under the Zero Carbon Act for amending the methane target if the Climate Change Commission doesn’t recommend changes. That doesn’t stop the Government from changing the legislation to let itself change the target if its separate review panel comes to a different conclusion from the commission, but it would highlight how the independent commission’s advice was being dismissed. It is now for ministers to choose to pick up the wero and accept the commission’s findings, or to ignore it and start the latest battle in New Zealand’s long-running war over agricultural emissions."

28 March, 2024
EV, plug-in hybrid road user charges legislation passes in Parliament - 1News

The legislation requiring light electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids to pay road user charges has passed its third reading in Parliament ahead of the scheme starting on Monday.

"The charges for plug-in hybrids will be cheaper than initially planned after the government decided to accept an amendment proposed by the opposition. The changes mean EV owners will pay $76 per 1000km driven - the same as diesel vehicles - and plug-in hybrid owners $38 - down from the $42 that had been proposed - on a pre-pay basis.

...  Some submitters to the select committee had been frustrated by the cost of the new charges for EVs, saying it was unfair and a "penalty on a plug". The difference in tax paid between some similar-model petrol and electric cars was about $500 a year, with EV users paying about four times as much as the carbon price paid by the petrol car's driver, for carbon pollution, they said."

28 March, 2024
Climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger named New Zealander of the Year - RNZ

"Climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger has been named as the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa. Dr Salinger is recognised as one of the first scientists to address global warming and has dedicated almost 50 years to advancing climate science. Born in Dunedin in 1947, he completed a Bachelor of Science from the University of Otago in 1971, a Doctor of Philosophy from Victoria University in Wellington in 1981 and a Master of Philosophy in Environmental Law from the University of Auckland in 1999.  Dr Salinger is currently an adjunct research fellow with the School of Geography, Environmental and Earth Sciences at Victoria University. He is an influential communicator on climate change and has addressed audiences nationwide.

20 March, 2024
Government earns $190m from first carbon auction of the year - RNZ

"The first carbon auction of the year sold the right to emit just under three million tonnes of greenhouse gas, earning the government $190 million, money it previously said would help fund tax cuts. Emitters paid $64 a tonne, the legal minimum the government can sell at, ending a run of failed auctions when no permits sold. Not all the units on offer sold. But the auctions can clear part of their total if every bid reaches the confidential reserve price - or in this case, the legal minimum price floor, which must have been at or above the reserve. The reserve price has to be set after looking at carbon spot prices, so it does not tank the secondary market for buying and selling permits.

Ahead of the auction earlier this week, a tonne of climate pollution on the secondary market was trading at $64.50. The government price settings were changed after a group of activist lawyers took former climate change minister James Shaw to court, challenging the Labour Cabinet's decision to reject advice from the Climate Change Commission on tightening supply, to reduce the stockpile of units companies are holding on to.

All four of last year's auctions failed, and the market was looking shaky this week, according to market commentators. By law, many big polluters need to buy enough units each year to cover their emissions. After being used, they go on a virtual scrap heap and cannot be used again. Big electricity company Genesis needed fewer units last year because of a wet year, meaning it could use more hydropower and burn less coal. But the climate commission has warned there is a broader issue of oversupply. Millions of units were cancelled last year after all four government auctions failed to sell any, a development which might have been expected to tighten supply."

15 March, 2024
Joint NASA, NOAA Study Finds Earth’s Energy Imbalance Has Doubled - NASA

Researchers have found that Earth’s energy imbalance approximately doubled during the 14-year period from 2005 to 2019.

"Earth’s climate is determined by a delicate balance between how much of the Sun’s radiative energy is absorbed in the atmosphere and at the surface and how much thermal infrared radiation Earth emits to space. A positive energy imbalance means the Earth system is gaining energy, causing the planet to heat up. The doubling of the energy imbalance is the topic of a recent study, the results of which were published June 15 in Geophysical Research Letters.

Scientists at NASA and NOAA compared data from two independent measurements. NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) suite of satellite sensors measure how much energy enters and leaves Earth’s system. In addition, data from a global array of ocean floats, called Argo, enable an accurate estimate of the rate at which the world’s oceans are heating up. Since approximately 90 percent of the excess energy from an energy imbalance ends up in the ocean, the overall trends of incoming and outgoing radiation should broadly agree with changes in ocean heat content.

“The two very independent ways of looking at changes in Earth’s energy imbalance are in really, really good agreement, and they’re both showing this very large trend, which gives us a lot of confidence that what we’re seeing is a real phenomenon and not just an instrumental artifact, ” said Norman Loeb, lead author for the study and principal investigator for CERES at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “The trends we found were quite alarming in a sense.” "

12 March, 2024
Climate Change Commission urges govt to cut carbon credit surplus - RNZ

"The government has been urged to quickly shrink the number of carbon credits available for polluters to buy, after four failed auctions in 2023. The Climate Change Commission says there are too many credits on offer, the problem is getting worse and it won't fix itself. It also says the government needs to clarify what its plan is for meeting its climate targets, because uncertainty is affecting investor confidence. The next carbon auction is on 20 March.

The coalition government promised to use emissions pricing - not subsidies - to meet New Zealand's climate goals. But independent advice from its top climate body, out today, says it doesn't have the settings right to get there and its lack of clarity is undermining the market. The Climate Change Commission said the market (the Emissions Trading Scheme or ETS) was flooded with too many carbon credits. These are the units many large polluters must buy when they release planet-heating gases. The surplus created a "high risk" the country won't meet the emissions budgets written into law, the commission said. Last year, all four of the government's carbon auctions failed because of low demand for new units."

11 March, 2024
Advocates attack loss of climate change focus in transport policy - INews

Paul Winton does not mince his words: "The 60s have called Simeon Brown and they want their transport plan back."

"Winton is a trustee of All Aboard Aotearoa, a coalition of advocacy groups fighting for a more sustainable transport system. He said the Government's new draft policy statement on land transport, released on Monday, was a disgrace. "This is a transport plan that wouldn't have been out of place in 1955 in Los Angeles," he told Morning Report. "... back in the days, when they thought that building roads and suburbs as far as the eyes could see was something that would drive the economy and drive better lives for people. But 60 years later, we know that is not the case." Under the Government's draft statement, climate change was no longer a "strategic priority". That means, if implemented, the New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi and other decision-makers would not be required to consider emissions when making transport investment decisions. This was a U-turn from the previous government's position in the 2021 GPS, currently in effect.

... All Aboard Aotearoa, comprised of organisations such as Greenpeace, Lawyers for Climate Action and the Citizens' Climate Lobby, has relied on the climate change priority in the 2021 policy statement to bring court proceedings against Waka Kotahi and Auckland Council. They argued, albeit not entirely successfully, that these decision-making bodies failed to take the climate change priority into account. One of those cases regarded the Mill Road corridor project in Auckland, set to cost a $1.3 billion. The case was dropped when the previous government decided not to pursue the project. But it might rear its head again, with the proposal listed as a road of national significance in the new draft policy statement. Winton would not rule out further litigation down the line if this draft entered into force. "The wires are running hot with the various legal activists at the moment looking at how they can curtail this destructive approach to transport planning," he said.

... In addition to setting out broad, strategic priorities, the Government's policy statement also identified certain "activity classes" that it wanted to fund and how it planned to fund them. The previous government used these to direct capital to pedestrian corridors and cycleways, as well as public transport services. But this new draft appears to pull that right back. "Investment in walking and cycling should only take place where there is either clear benefit or increasing economic growth or clear benefit for improving safety and demonstrated volumes of pedestrians and cyclists already exist," the draft said. According to Winton, this flew completely in the face of what was needed to reduce New Zealanders' reliance on cars. "We know from around the world that the things that shift people to alternative and sustainable modes of transport is having those modes available," he said. "The biggest driver to adopting cycling as a means of getting around is being able to do it without fear of being hit by a car." "

06 March, 2024
The Māori climate activist breaking legal barriers to bring corporate giants to court - The Guardian

In a landmark case, Mike Smith has won the right to sue seven of the country’s biggest companies over their alleged contributions to climate change

" ...In a landmark decision in February, New Zealand’s supreme court unanimously ruled Smith has the right to sue seven New Zealand-based corporate entities, including fuel companies Z Energy and Channel Infrastructure, power and gas company Genesis Energy, NZ Steel, coal company BT Mining, Dairy Holdings and the country’s largest, and biggest emitting company dairy exporter Fonterra, claiming they contributed to climate change.

... Smith argues the defendants’ activities – including directly emitting greenhouse gases, or supplying fossil fuels – amount to three forms of civil wrong or “tort”: public nuisance, negligence and a new form of civil wrong described as a “proposed climate system damage tort”. He alleges the companies together were responsible for more than one-third of the country’s total reported greenhouse gas emissions between 2020 and 2021. Smith alleges they have contributed to the climate crisis and damaged his whenua (land) and moana (ocean) in the small coastal settlement Mahinepua – five hours north of Auckland – including places of customary, cultural, historical, nutritional and spiritual significance to him and his whānau (family). A distinctive element to Smith’s case is his argument that principles of tikanga Māori – broadly, a traditional system of obligations and recognitions of wrongs – could inform his action and moreover, should inform New Zealand common law generally.

The companies applied to strike out Smith’s proceedings in the lower courts, arguing, in part, that Smith’s claim was “incoherent” and would damage the integrity of tort law. In 2021, the court of appeal agreed, believing the case doomed to fail and struck it out. But in a major reversal, the supreme court said a judicial pathway should be open and common law should be able to evolve. It acknowledged climate change was an “all-embracing” existential crisis and said the law should take into account the 21st-century context. In other words, Smith should be allowed to test climate change harm through the court."

02 March, 2024
New satellite monitors NZ methane emissions from space - 1News

In what is considered to be a New Zeeland first, our agriculture will now be monitored from space.

"In just a few days, satellite MethaneSAT will be launching from Florida's Cape Canaveral to keep a watchful eye on climate change. The satellite, which is primarily funded by the US Environmental Defence Fund, will help the Americans look for leaks from oil and gas production. New Zealand has contributed almost $30 million to the satellite. "It's something that's never really been done before — agricultural missions from space," NIWA carbon chemistry and modelling scientist Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher said. There are other satellites in space looking for methane emissions, but MethaneSAT is different from the rest: it scans 200km by 200km patches. This means the readings will have higher sensitivity readings and higher certainty data — which may help in the fight against climate change."

28 February, 2024
These are the projects environmental groups say shouldn’t be fast-tracked - Newsroom

A coal mine tops the list of projects conservationists fear will be pushed through without adequate scrutiny

"In April this past year, conservation group Forest & Bird made a plea to Stevenson Mining, the company behind plans to mine a forest-covered mountain ridge on the South Island’s West Coast. “It’s time for them to withdraw this climate-damaging proposal once and for all,” chief executive Nicola Toki said in a press statement. Her comments were prompted by the latest setback for the proposed Te Kuha open-cast coal mine, 10km south-east of Westport, as the Environment Court overturned a decision by commissioners to grant resource consent. The project has suffered several legal losses, including in the Supreme Court, in 2020, over access arrangements across a local reserve, administered by Buller’s council. Access across conservation land was declined by the previous government in 2018. Underpinning this was former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s pledge, in 2017, of “no new mines on conservation land”.

... there are fears Te Kuha could get a green light through the new Government’s proposed fast-track legislation. It comes after pre-Christmas comments in Parliament by Resources Minister Shane Jones that “mining is coming back”.

... Climate scientists say extracting more fossil fuels is antithetical to keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – a figure enshrined in the Paris climate agreement. A 2021 article in the journal Nature said a 50/50 chance of keeping within a 1.5C carbon budget required nearly 60 percent of oil and fossil methane gas, and 90 percent of coal to remain unextracted. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ warnings about coal mining have become increasingly forceful. In 2021, he said phasing out coal in the electricity sector was the “single-most important step to get in line with the 1.5C goal”. The following year, he said it was “delusional” for governments to fund new fossil fuel exploration or production. This past year, Guterres said coal and other fossil fuels must be phased out to avert climate “catastrophe”. "

25 February, 2024
New Zealand’s 'build-first mentality' labelled a risk - 1News

The country’s focus on building new infrastructure instead of maintaining what’s already been built has been criticised by Te Waihanga New Zealand Infrastructure Commission.

"Te Waihanga recently released a research report titled Build or Maintain, looking into the country’s infrastructure asset value, investment and depreciation amounts from 1990 to 2022. Te Waihanga New Zealand Infrastructure Commission is a Crown entity, which was set up in 2019 to work on long term strategy and planning for infrastructure, as well as give advice for major projects.

In 2022, New Zealand’s infrastructure assets, excluding land, were valued at $287 billion. Nearly three quarters of these assets are owned by the Government and local councils. The inflation-adjusted value of New Zealand’s infrastructure assets rose from $32,900 per person in 1990 to $55,800 per person in 2022, meaning the country has 70% more infrastructure per person than one generation ago. Speaking to Q+A, Te Waihanga general manager of strategy Geoff Cooper criticised New Zealand’s “build first mentality” when it should be focusing on maintaining existing infrastructure."

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."

15 February, 2024
‘They lied’: plastics producers deceived public about recycling, report reveals - The Guardian

Companies knew for decades recycling was not viable but promoted it regardless, Center for Climate Integrity study finds

"Plastic producers have known for more than 30 years that recycling is not an economically or technically feasible plastic waste management solution. That has not stopped them from promoting it, according to a new report. “The companies lied,” said Richard Wiles, president of fossil-fuel accountability advocacy group the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), which published the report. “It’s time to hold them accountable for the damage they’ve caused.

Plastic, which is made from oil and gas, is notoriously difficult to recycle. Doing so requires meticulous sorting, since most of the thousands of chemically distinct varieties of plastic cannot be recycled together. That renders an already pricey process even more expensive. Another challenge: the material degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can generally only be reused once or twice. The industry has known for decades about these existential challenges, but obscured that information in its marketing campaigns, the report shows. The research draws on previous investigations as well as newly revealed internal documents illustrating the extent of this decades-long campaign."

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 ( 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."

19 December, 2023
Planting pine or native forest for carbon capture isn’t the only choice – NZ can have the best of both - RNZ

"Analysis - New Zealand's per-capita contribution to carbon emissions is very high by international comparison. But so too is its potential to mitigate climate change by planting forests to quickly sequester large amounts of carbon. There is sometimes passionate debate about how best to do this. Should we continue establishing radiata pine plantations, or focus instead on planting New Zealand native trees? Arguments for and against each option exist - but there is also a third way that could achieve the best of both worlds: planting radiata pine forests that are not harvested, but instead transitioned over time into native forests through targeted management. We need to cut emissions drastically. But we also need to remove as much CO
from the atmosphere as possible, especially over the next 20 years. A transitional forest model is a powerful way to help achieve this."
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 -

"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 -

"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 -

"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, a􀀂er 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, 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."