Wise Response Society Slams Climate Change Commission’s Growth Orientation
New Zealand, June 26, 2023 – The Wise Response Society, a coalition of scientists, engineers, planners, artists, and sportspeople, has strongly criticized the Climate Change Commission (CCC) for its continued focus on growth despite the undeniable link between growth and increased emissions. In its submission to the CCC’s draft advice on the 2nd Emissions Reduction Plan, the Society emphasized the urgent need for a shift towards a steady-state economy and economic degrowth to effectively combat climate change.
According to Prof. emer. Thomas Neitzert, Secretary of Wise Response, achieving the necessary emissions reductions of approximately 8% annually to avoid irreversible climate tipping points and to have a slim chance to limit temperature rise to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels is incompatible with a growing economy. Neitzert stated, “We must initiate a dialogue in New Zealand about the merits of a steady-state economy, as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is an inappropriate indicator for well-being and happiness in a developed country.”
The Society’s submission also addressed the failure of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to effectively reduce emissions since its inception. Instead, Wise Response recommended an alternative approach through Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs). Under this system, the gross emissions budget for the 2nd Emissions Reduction Plan proposed by the CCC would be used, and carbon units would be allocated to citizens and purchased by industries. Prof. Neitzert explained, “Adopting a fixed budget ensures that emissions reductions are met, while providing fair carbon allocations for all and avoiding unexpected price hikes in fossil fuel products. Tradable quotas are one of the few environmental success stories, when they worked during the elimination of CFCs in the 1990s.”
The Society also urged caution regarding the use of the term “zero emissions,” particularly in relation to electric vehicles. They highlighted the importance of considering emissions associated with offshore vehicle production and embedded in their materials. The same applies to the manufacturing processes of windmills, solar panels, and geothermal plants.
Furthermore, the Society points out, there is only one climate crisis with respect to New Zealand having a dual set of climate targets: one “domestic” set apparently in line with the zero carbon act and one “global” set in terms of international commitments made in the National Determined Contribution (NDC) and during COP conferences.
Lastly, the Society expressed disappointment over the absence of specific dates and numbers in the Climate Change Commission’s 19 recommendations. They stressed the importance of clear guidance, including phase-out dates and updates on standards, to ensure New Zealand keeps pace with international best practices.