Wise Response Climate Change Workshop – Wellington, 27 Jan 2016

The workshop was held 27 January at Victoria University.

A recording of the presentations is available from Victoria University here.

Slides from the papers presented are available as PDF’s here:

A context for Wise Response: background and objectives, Sir Alan Mark (Chair, Wise Response), Dugald MacTavish (Secretary, Wise Response)

Overarching question: What structure/process/other thing is needed in order to make pro-gress on fundamental systemic issues? Yvonne Curtis (NZ Futures Trust) and Derek Wallace (School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, VUW)

The Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Law, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, (Patron of Wise Response). Note this is reproduced below.

What young New Zealanders expect of our leaders, Paris Outcomes Summarised, James Young-Drew (Member Youth Delegation to COP21)

Carbon Budgeting, Why carbon budgeting is a key part of the solution, Simon Terry, (Executive Director, Sustainability Council)

Amending the Resource Management Act to deal effectively with greenhouse gas emissions, Hamish Rennie, (Senior Planner, Lincoln University)

What we in NZ do now matters: reducing our heavy reliance of fossil fuels, Susan Krumdieck, (Mechanical engineer and systems analyst, Canterbury University)

Transport Systems – a local body perspective, Chris Laidlaw, (Chair Wellingon Regional Council)

Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the agricultural sector, Alison Dewes, (Agricultural Consultant)

Changing investment patterns, Robert Howell, (Society of for Socially Responsible Investment)

Draft case for a long term, precautionary climate change strategy, Guy Salmon, (Ecologic)

Values and frames – beyond economic – to achieve the required cultural change throughout society, Helen Dew, (Project Wairarapa)




Climate Change panel discussion


Sir Geoffrey Palmer, patron of Wise Response gave the following address:

The Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Law: International and Domestic

It is available as a PDF here: The Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Law

The Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Law: International and Domestic

Address to a Public Meeting
Sponsored by Wise Response and Victoria University of Wellington

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC
27 January 2016

Climate change is a wicked problem with many facets.
All disciplines have something to contribute. Here I am dealing primarily with the law contained the Paris Agreement of December 2015.
I shall try and analyse the extent of the legally binding commitments that have been achieved and also look at the political achievement of Paris. The two are not the same.
I shall then turn to briefly consider what Paris means for the two prime statutes for dealing with climate change in domestic New Zealand law: the Climate Change Response Act 2002 and the Resource Management Act 1991.
Lawyers deal in analysis of text. This can be both boring and complicated. I apologise in advance. But it is a necessary exercise if we are to sort out how far is left to go on this journey.
I was at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. I was Minister for the Environment when the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published. These issues I have followed ever since. Long exposure to the problem of climate change makes me impatient at the lack of achievement in combatting it and the perils that poses for the future of humankind.

Binding Obligations: are they sufficient?
The political achievement at Paris was substantial. It was a tribute to skillful French diplomacy. Momentum was achieved. The legal achievement of Paris on the other hand, in terms of hard law obligations was more muted. The Paris Agreement is long on aspiration and short on obligation.
The negotiating strategy devised for Paris called for nations to make Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These were not intended to be and are not legally binding. As expected the cumulative offers received at Paris fell well short of what will be required to keep the temperature below 2°C by the end of the century, let alone 1.5 degrees.
Since the objective of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we obviously have a long way to go. We are not there yet or anywhere near. So in those terms Paris is not a success. The absence of binding targets on nations means there can be no effective enforceability of the INDC commitments, inadequate though they are.
This approach was deliberate on the part of negotiators, trying to avoid some of the traps that the Kyoto Protocol fell into. They tried to keep the developing countries in the tent and to accommodate the United States, where the prospect of securing Senate consent for binding targets looked hopeless, largely due to Republican party attitudes concerning climate change denial.
Thus, the issue is whether the Paris Agreement will after further iterations ripen into a success and achieve mitigation to the level required within the time available. That in turn will depend upon how far the political momentum generated at Paris will continue in order to ultimately produce sufficient binding obligations. The calculation was that an agreement with everyone on board was better than one where they were not, even if the price paid was to lower the level of ambition. The Paris Agreement can best be understood as a global political commitment to a future continuing process to address climate change issues. That represents welcome progress.
Lawyers deal in binding obligations. In order to find these, they look closely at the text. The text arising from Paris speaks with several voices. Analysing the binding obligations flowing from the negotiations and those which are aspirational may help in assessing the achievement. The Paris Agreement has some binding elements. And there are some binding elements of the Framework Convention and later instruments but many of these are not directly relevant to mitigation. And at this point mitigation is the critical issue.
Given the difficulties facing the negotiators and the failures of the past the legal architecture of the Paris Agreement has some impressive and interesting elements. Clearly the strategic aim was to pull all nations into the agreement by being very inclusive and avoiding division and confrontation. The strategy reminds me of the old nursery rhyme “Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly”. Once caught in the web, the threads of the agreement will tighten later and it may be very difficult for nations to remove themselves because they would be likely to lose a lot of face. Shaming in its various forms remains one of the most potent international sanctions.
Let me begin by starting at the end. Article 27 of the agreement permits no reservations to it to be made. Nations can withdraw after three years from the date the agreement entered into force. And the agreement enters into force on the thirtieth day after the date “on which at least 55 parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions having deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.”1
The agreement is open for signature from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017. It is open for accession from the day following the date upon which it is closed for signature. So it will be a long time before we will know who has signed up and who has ratified. And ratification is the act “whereby a State establishes on the international plane its consent to be bound by a treaty.”2 I judge it will be 2018 at the earliest before we receive the necessary ratification answers and can therefore analyse what the precise legal effect of the agreement is. It does not seem in this case that signature alone will be sufficient for a State to be legally bound.
A cunning feature of the Agreement is that a great deal of activity will take place within the councils of the Convention system before ratification occurs. Much detailed and specialised machinery was set running in Paris and while much of this does not involve legal obligations imposed on States it does mean that a great deal of work will rapidly occur that is likely to make the nature of future decisions clearer and possibly easier for States to swallow.
The forward momentum is achieved by the bifurcated nature of the agreement. It comes in two parts. In a total package of 31 pages of text only 11 pages constitute the binding Paris Agreement. It is preceded by 19 pages of “decisions” made by the Conference of the Parties (COP). It was decided to adopt the Paris Agreement under the UNFCC although the relationship between the Paris Agreement and the Convention is not on all fours. Some nations may adhere to one and not the other.
The dispute settlement mechanism for the Paris Agreement as provided in Article 24 is the same as for the Convention itself. Disputes are likely to occur between nations and the effectiveness of the Agreement may depend on how efficient the method is in settling disputes. Over time the emphasis is likely to move to enforceability issues. Nations are enjoined to seek settlement of a dispute through negotiation or any other peaceful means of their own choice.3 That mechanism stipulates that nations when ratifying the Agreement may state “in respect of any dispute concerning the interpretation for application … it recognizes as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to any party accepting the same obligation …submission to the International Court of Justice and/or Arbitration.” Such declarations are not mandatory. Where the dispute process does not produce a resolution after 12 months, the dispute is submitted to a conciliation commission, created upon the request of one of the parties. While this dispute settlement mechanism is not as strong as domestic law enforcement through municipal courts, it is stronger than many international environmental treaties.
The first part of the document recording decisions of the COP also records the decision to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement. That group will prepare for entry into force of the Agreement and oversee the implementation of a work programme. This will start in 2016.

There is a great deal in the non-binding text about INDCs and it notes that “much greater emission reduction efforts will be required in order to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C above preindustrial-levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” The COP also decided to invite the IPCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global gas emissions pathways. The language in this part of the text evinces an intention to ratchet up the INDCs. The language requires parties to submit their INDC at least 9-12 months before the relevant COP. There is emphasis on both clarity and transparency. And there will be guidance for accounting of INDCs. Work in abundance is also ordered up from Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice. Other Committees of Expert groups are loaded with work. The Adaptation Committee also receives instructions.
Finance is the subject of heavy attention and more work. It is the same for technology development and transfer. Capacity building similarly for developing countries also receives a big work plan. There is also a capacity building initiative for Transparency to build institutional and technical capacity to advance Article 13 of the Agreement. There is also activity around facilitating implementation and compliance. And resolution was made to enhance the provision of urgent and adequate finance with a roadmap to be produced to secure USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation.
Much of the language in the 19 pages of COP decisions talks of “requesting” “encouraging” “striving” and similar hortatory language that speaks not the language of State obligation. But there emanates from the document a sense of urgency and vigorous activity on a wide range of fronts. The work seems designed to advance the agreement itself in quite a rapid way. Plenty will happen quickly, as it needs to do.
All of this reflects the political-break through that Paris achieved. And much of the work is explicitly aimed at providing help to developing countries of a practical and useful sort. But activity however well directed and however productive is not in itself a substitute for binding legal obligations.
Nevertheless, the flavour of Paris represents a commitment to work towards binding legal obligations that will limit emissions. The first 19 pages of text were important in the sense they engender a feeling of activity. The bare features of the legal Agreement itself would have looked very thin without the COP decisions. The very lengthy “Decisions to give effect to the Agreement” gives the impression of substantial, even frenetic activity. Halting climate change could be the outcome in the future. There are some welcome indications, too, that the business community has read the signals and will fall into line on decarbonising economies. These signals are important and we may have turned the corner with business on the issue but it is vital the trend be sustained.
As for the Agreement itself, Article 2 provides there is a commitment to “Holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” There are similar commitments to increasing the ability to adapt to climate change and foster climate resilience and making finance flow “consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.” This general type of commitment can hardly be said to create any binding obligations on the States themselves. Article 2 is not a hard commitment to hold the increase to 1.5 degrees and we do not know what “well below 2 degrees” may mean. There is a commitment to pursue efforts to hold the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees but that is not an obligation to achieve it. But all States are required to “undertake and communicate ambitious efforts” as defined in the Agreement “with a view to achieving the purpose of the agreement.” And this process will be a progression over time.
The agreement itself comes closer to imposing specific obligations on States than the decisions of the COP, but many of the Articles contain principles rather than specific obligations. Nevertheless, there are hard law obligations to report and communicate about various matters such as each party being required to account “for their nationally determined contributions” as required by Article 4 in quite defined ways. But in many of these Articles there remain large elements of discretion left to States, and gaps. Language such as “should”, “flexibility” “strive” and “aim” and all the familiar weasel words of international agreements are employed.
Article 4 states “… Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible … and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter … so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century …”. This language contains an important commitment, the precise nature of which is susceptible to a number of interpretations. What does “balance” mean? It does not say “net zero emissions” but does it mean that? And when will “peaking” occur? The purpose of Article 4 is clear enough but it is not accompanied by specific legal obligations later in the Agreement.
Aims are not legal commitments.
There is imposed a legal duty on parties to account for their emissions and to prepare every five years and communicate successive INDCs to reflect its highest ambition and each successive one “will represent a progression” beyond the party’s then INDC. (How binding this requirement will be is not easy to judge. What happens if nations fail to comply?) The special circumstances of developing countries and small island developing States is recognised in this Article.
Accounting for INDCs is mandatory and parties “shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting.”4 Each party to the agreement is responsible for its emissions levels. Countries are obliged to pursue policies with the aim of achieving their pledges. As far as I can see there is no legal obligation on nations, although the Decisions text invites them to do so. The agreement says they are to “strive” to write a low emissions strategy by 2020.
Parties “should take action to conserve and enhance carbon sinks and reservoirs of GHGs, with an emphasis on forests. Parties “are encouraged” to reduce emissions from deforestation.5
Parties are free to choose voluntary cooperation in implementation of INDCs with cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes. A mechanism is established by the agreement to facilitate the market. It will be supervised by a body designated by the COP. Rules and procedures will have to be adopted. At the same time integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches and a framework to promote these is established by the Agreement, but without any detail. No mechanism has been set up to set an international carbon price, but it is possible a club approach by big emitters agreeing among themselves could cause such a price to emerge.
Adaptation is advanced by agreement on the “global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.” Each party shall “as appropriate engage in adaptation planning processes and the implementation of actions, including plans and policies.” There is encouragement to strengthen cooperation. Parties “should” submit and update periodically an adaptation communication setting out its plan, actions and priorities. It is to be recorded in a public registry. There is nothing much here in the nature of hard law obligations. It also omits critical areas of international law, such as adaptation allowing the collective human right of self-determination and individual human rights, such as the right to life. The fact that these were intentionally removed from the draft text creates some uncertainty as to the applicability of those laws to climate change-related issues like the relocation of peoples from small island states, especially since references to organised migration and planned relocation were also removed from the final text.
Article 8 on loss and damage revolves around the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with climate change and this may be enhanced and strengthened. It is far from clear what will come out of the loss and damage work. But it may be a positive move that it has been separated from measures for adaptation to climate change. But it is made clear in the Decisions of the COP that the agreement itself does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation for loss and damage.
Article 9 deals with financial resources to assist developing countries. “Developed country parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.” That is a legal duty but it is very generalised and lacks the specificity required for enforcement.
Article 10 is concerned with technology development and transfer. “Accelerating, encouraging and enabling innovation is critical for an effective, long-term global response to climate change and promoting economic growth and sustainable development.”
On capacity building, Article 11 of the Agreement says capacity building “should enhance the capacity and ability of developing countries … and those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, such as small island developing to take effective climate change action …”. No enforceable legal obligations arise here. And there is no methodology for measuring capacity and whether or not it has been enhanced.
Article 12 is succinct. It erects a legal duty of cooperation “to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.”
If this Agreement solves the problem of climate change in the future it will be, in my opinion, because of the provisions in Articles 13 and 14 operating in conjunction with Article 4. Enhanced transparency is the goal of Article 13, which provides that “an enhanced transparency framework for action and support, with built-in flexibility which takes into account parties’ different capacities and builds upon collective experiences is hereby established.” Its purpose “is to provide a clear understanding of climate change action in light of the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2, including clarity and tracking of progress towards achieving parties’ individual nationally determined contributions under Article 4, and parties’ adaptation actions under Article 7 including good practices, priorities, needs, and gaps to inform the global stocktake under Article 14.”
There is a transparency of action and a transparency of support — both are established. The reporting requirements established for both of these is specific and is the subject of technical expert review. Provision of the required information and reporting is mandatory. This appears to be one of the most effective provisions in the Agreement and one likely to make a difference. A periodic global stocktake of the implementation of the agreement is required every five years, the first being in 2023.
This should be of material assistance in reaching the goal of the agreement.
Article 15 provides for a mechanism to facilitate implementation and to promote compliance with the Agreement. An expert-based committee is established for the purpose. It must function “in a manner that is transparent, non-adversarial and non-punitive.” Its procedures remain to be settled.
It is difficult to assess how all this will work or whether it will produce the desired outcome in time. It all depends upon continuing political will. And there are many geo-political problems that could knock the process all off-course. But it has to be said it is a positive start, if a long delayed one. The hallmark of all the previous 20 Conferences of the Parties has been procrastination; putting off hard decisions until later. That has occurred again here and time is rapidly running out. An earlier start would have made the problems of adjustment much easier. But it is a start. The mechanism for ratcheting up the INDCs over time may prove to be a successful strategy. But it must be understood the rate of decarbonising the economies of the world must be very rapid and there is nothing in the Agreement that directly addresses fossil fuels and their use, only the emissions that result from that use.
The Agreement has potential. Whether the potential will be realised is a question of speculation. The Agreement does not assure us that temperatures will not rise by more than 2°C, let alone be restricted to 1.5°C. It is more a political agreement to keep trying than a legal set of binding obligations that will produce the necessary result. But the Agreement does contain sufficient binding obligations that could in time make a difference. When the detail has been developed we will know more.
I am not prepared to judge at this juncture whether the approach taken in Paris will succeed. I hope it does. But it seems virtually certain that it will not succeed in holding the warming to 1.5°C by 2050. The next test will be the climate summit in Morocco in November 2016. Then in 2020 the emission cutting plans of nations must be submitted. Paris could succeed or it could fail as Kyoto did. For me it is a case of one hand clapping. Whether the Paris Agreement will succeed in combatting climate change is a question with no answer at this juncture.
The Paris Agreement does offer some solace to Small Island Developing States but it appears to be too little too late. The reference to 1.5°C is directed at their interests. They succeeded in having that reference included in the Agreement. They will secure funding from the Green Climate Fund to assist them in adaptation. There will be more funds made available and they will be better directed than in the past. There will be more research into and enhanced transfer of technologies that may assist them. More technical support is likely to be made available. They will secure help to develop their capacity to cope with the problems as explicitly provided for in Article 11. They will be cut some slack in complying with aspects of the Agreement. They will benefit from the sense of urgency that infuses the whole international effort. It seems difficult to conclude, however that the Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands will avoid catastrophe.

The Implications for New Zealand of the Paris Agreement
It is commonly accepted that New Zealand has been a laggard in its domestic policy terms to the climate change threats. That will have to change after Paris and it should change quickly. How much will be done before the election in 2017 must be regarded with skepticism given the actions that have been taken by the National led Government since they were elected in 2008. To find out whether Paris has produced a change in approach we will have to wait and see. The timetable arising from Paris does not legally require an urgent approach in the present parliamentary term.
What needs to be done in New Zealand is plain enough in policy terms.
First, some clear guidance and leadership should be provided to local government in order to cope with the challenges that it will face in relation to inundation from rising sea levels that will result in coastal flooding, coastal erosion and interfere with coastal groundwater. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has made that abundantly clear in the eight recommendations contained in her 2015 report. Seven of them concern actions by central government and they should be heeded.

They were:6
(1) Recommendation to the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation:
(a) Take direction on planning for sea level rise out of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and put it into another National Policy Statement, such as that envisaged for dealing with natural hazards.
(b) Direct officials to address the matters raised in this investigation in the revision of the 2008 MfE Guidance Manual.
(2) Recommendation to the Minister for the Environment:
In revising central government direction and guidance on sea level rise, include protocols for the procurement of elevation data, and work with Land Information New Zealand and other relevant agencies to create a national repository for LiDAR [this is a methodology used to measure the data] elevation data.
(3) Recommendation to the Minister for the Environment:
In revising central government direction and guidance on sea level rise, set standards for the use of IPCC projections of sea level rise to ensure they are used clearly and consistently across the country.
(4) Recommendation to the Minister for the Environment:
In revising central government direction and guidance on sea level rise, specify planning horizons that are appropriate for different types of development.

(5) Recommendation to the Minister for the Environment:
In revising central government direction and guidance on sea level rise, specify that ‘best estimates’ with uncertainty ranges for all parameters be used in technical assessments of coastal hazards.
(6) Recommendation to the Minister for the Environment:
In revising central government direction and guidance on sea level rise, include a standard process for council engagement with coastal communities.
(7) Recommendation to the Minister for the Environment:
In revising central government direction and guidance on sea level rise, specify that councils develop whole coast plans for dealing with sea level rise, and expand coastal monitoring systems to enable adaptive management.
(8) Recommendation to the Minister of Finance:
Establish a working group to assess and prepare for the economic and fiscal implications of sea level rise.

The second policy should be to amend the Resource Management Act 1991 to allow local government to properly deal with climate change factors when making environmental decisions. At present it is largely prevented from doing so when assessing and granting consents. The 2004 Amendments to the Act introduced provisions prohibiting consent authorities from consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change when making rules to control discharges in air and when considering an application for discharge permit. Furthermore, a National Policy Statement or Environmental Standard on Climate Change needs to be designed and agreed. These are major policy tasks.
Thirdly, the massive and deliberate emasculation by repeated statutory amendments to the Climate Change Response Act 2002 will have to be undone if the greenhouse gas trading scheme is to be given capacity to actually reduce New Zealand’s emissions.
At present the scheme has notorious weaknesses:
it has had a negligible effect in reducing domestic emissions;
the only reason New Zealand will meet its Kyoto commitments from 2008-2012 will be units acquired from short-term forestry absorption, not because New Zealand has been reducing its emissions — its gross emissions are in fact increasing;
forestry trading seems to be a virtual standstill;
failing to implement quantitative limits on offset use — buying cheap units elsewhere means no pressure comes on domestic emitters to reduce their emissions;
there are few incentives to invest in decarbonisation, subsides to coal and gas industries continue — the carbon bill in New Zealand is effectively socialised at present;
we need to head for zero emissions but we are not.

The Government has issued a Discussion Paper upon which it is taking submissions from the public.7 Big and bold changes will need to restore credibility to the trading scheme and actually address the problem.
Fourth, an agreed policy needs to be forged among the parties represented in Parliament. On this issue above all others regulatory lurches of policy when the Government changes are exactly what must be avoided. Yet that it is exactly what we have had. In the United Kingdom cross-party consensus on climate policy was achieved before the 2015 election. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party all signed on to a policy pledge to a fair, strong, legally binding global climate deal that limits temperature rises to below 2°C. And they agreed to work across party lines on carbon budgets and to accelerate steps towards a low carbon economy and end the use of unabated coal for power generation.
It ought not to be beyond an MMP Parliament in New Zealand to achieve such an approach. So far they do not seem to have even tried. Tenderness to vested special interests needs to give way to the public interest. That is what a Parliament is for, after all.



Select Committee respond to Petition for NZ Risk Assessment

Petition for NZ Risk Assessment

In July last year a team of 4 representatives appeared before the Finance and Expenditure Committee in support of the Wise Response petition for a NZ Risk Assessment (link) put to the House on April 9. 2014. They included Dr Alan F. Mark Chair Wise Response; Dr Susan Krumdieck Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Canterbury; Dr Janet Stephenson Director, Centre for Sustainability, Otago and Mr Paul Young, founding and executive member, Generation Zero.

The Committee’s decision was to not recommend it to the House. It was however, a split decision, with the Select Committee Report including statements from Labour, Greens and NZ First providing reasons for their dissention.

The Committee’s report considers that there is already considerable work going in the area of risk assessments. However, our view is that these seem largely designed to assess threats to existing market logic, which is of course in large part responsible for our concerns. Both the submissions of Wise Response and the Committee’s report may be viewed at (link) – see what you think.

There is no formal appeal process to a Select Committee decision. It has however been suggested that it would be worth replying to the report and copying it widely to MPs. A reply will be prepared.

The Finance and Expenditure Committee’s decision is available to download as a PDF here: Decision_of_the_F_and_E_Select_Committee_160915

A post about the presentation to the select committee may be viewed here.

Wise Response AGM, Tuesday 25 August

The Wise Response AGM will be 3.00pm Tuesday 25 August at Csafe, 563 Castle St, Dunedin.

Annual General Meeting
Tuesday 25 August, 3.00pm, Centre for Sustainability, 563 Castle St, Dunedin

Main business is to appoint officers and discuss the 2015 programme.
Other business includes:

  • Finance and Expenditure Select Committee response to Risk Appeal
  • Regional Policy Statement – preparing for the hearing
  • Litigation against Govt for failing to respond to science
  • Climate change action before Paris 
  • Achieving a more effective coalition of “environmental” groups
  • Employing coordinator and funding requirements
  • Newsletter and communications

All welcome.  The following documents are available as a PDF:

1. Minutes of the last Special General Meeting Dec 2014
2. Treasurer’s report
3. Annual Report
If you wish to skype in, please advise your skype address.
Sir Alan Mark, ΦΒΚ, Hon DSc (Otago), FRSNZ, KNZM

“As demand for growth exceeds earth’s physical limits causing unprecedented risks, what knowledge and changes do we need to secure New Zealand’s future well-being?”


WR Present to the Select Committee

The Wise Response society presented its appeal to the Finance and Expenditure (F&E) select committee yesterday. Chairperson Sir Alan Mark was accompanied by Wise Response members Dr Janet Stephenson, Dr Susan Krumdieck, and Paul Young.

The presentation was covered on National Radio:

Dr. Susan Krumdieck from the Wise Response group spoke with Kathryn Ryan on National Radio about the presentation and the way engineers approach problems of this scale.

The presentation was covered briefly at the end of the paliamentary news round-up on National Radio.

The presentation may be downloaded here as a PDF (0.6MB): WiseResponseSubFinanceExpSelectCtteeFINAL and is reproduced below.
To view the presentation online click here: http://bit.ly/1Hy2Sg4.

The presentation appeared to be well received, and we now await an official response! Special thanks to the 40-50 supporters who were there in person to show their concern for the appeal.

Supporters are encouraged to engage with the MP’s listed above, and voice their support for the appeal.

Permanent members present:
David Bennett (chair) (N)
Andrew Bayly (N)
Chris Bishop (N)
Alastair Scott (N)
David Seymour (ACT)
Grant Robertson (L)
Stuart Nash (L)
Rt Hon Winston Peters (NZ First)
Russel Norman (Green)

Replacement members
Kanwalit Bakshi (N) – replacing Jami-Lee Ross
Hon Damien O’Connor (L) – replacing Hon Clayton Cosgrove


Members of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee;

My name is Alan Mark, I am the Chairperson of the Wise Response Incorporated Society, and am an Emeritus Professor in Plant Ecology at the University of Otago; and with me are:

Dr Janet Stephenson, Director of the University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability;

Dr Susan Krumdieck, a Systems Engineer and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury, and Co-founder of the Global Association for Transition Engineering; and

Mr Paul Young, Co-founder and Executive member of Generation Zero, of Wellington.

On behalf of Wise Response, we appreciate the opportunity to present a submission to this Select Committee, and elaborate on the petition and submission made to the House of Representatives on April 9 last year, with 4660 signatures, now 5036. In our 9-page submission to the Committee (to be taken as read but we would be happy to answer any questions) we are renewing a formal request of The House, based on our belief that New Zealand is now facing an increasingly difficult future, with increasing risks to its economic, environmental and social well-being, many of which arise from resource use that is starting to exceed the carrying capacity and sustainability of many of the resources that we depend on for our welfare, and particularly the perceived needs of future generations.

We share these problems with much of the world and in five major but inter-related areas. So we, as a group of well-informed New Zealanders, are formally requesting that The House; firstly initiates a Parliamentary, i.e., cross-party, agreement to undertake a National Risk Assessment of: Economic Security, Energy and Climate Security, Business Continuity, Ecological/Environmental Security and Genuine Well-being, as outlined in our petition, with an integrated, holistic approach; and, secondly, that from this Risk Assessment, develop and implement cross-party policies to avert any confirmed threats to present and particularly future generations of New Zealanders.

My colleagues will further elaborate on these issues, and I’ll now pass over to Dr Janet Stephenson:

Janet Stephenson:

We are concerned that New Zealand is underprepared for a future which will be startlingly different from the past; A future in which social and economic wellbeing are facing increasing risks, many of which originate internationally.

Recent reports by three well-respected global agencies – the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, and the global insurance market Lloyd’s – provide different, but equally concerning, perspectives on these risks.

The World Economic Forum produces an annual Global Risks Report, defining risk as ‘An uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, can cause significant negative impact for several countries or industries within the next 10 years”. In their 2015 report, the four highest likelihood and highest impact global risks are water crises, interstate conflict, failure of climate change adaptation, and fiscal crises. In the statement that we circulated to the Select Committee previously, we included a diagram that showed these and other economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, technological risks. The largest increases in risk likelihood and/or impact between 2014 and 2015 are interstate conflict, state collapse or crisis, spread of infectious diseases and energy price shocks.

The United Nations Global Assessment Report 2015 on Disaster Risk Reduction focuses solely on risks relating to the natural environment: earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunami, volcanic ash, drought and climate change. They include country-specific analyses of the likely costs of these events. For New Zealand, they estimate that by far the greatest risk is from storm surges and flooding, with probabilistic Annual Average Losses estimated at $US323 million and $US399 respectively. The report also states that global climate change is already modifying hazard levels and exacerbating disaster risks through changing temperatures, precipitation and sea levels, amongst other factors.

Lloyds is a major player in the global specialist insurance market. They regularly produce reports on emerging risks (and their implications for insurance). Recent reports on risks from the natural environment note the dynamic changes already evident such as increasing occurrence of hurricanes and flooding. They have also produced other reports on risks to society and security such as the impacts of global food system shocks, and the risks of business failing to adapt to a low-carbon economy.

Almost all of the risks identified in these reports have the potential to impact on New Zealand, either physically (e.g. storm surges, flooding, droughts) or through the economy (e.g. oil price shocks, interstate conflict, fiscal crises) or society (e.g. disease outbreaks).

In failing to identify, understand and prepare for these risks, New Zealand puts itself in a very vulnerable position. The livelihoods of current and future generations are threatened if governance focuses just on the short term, and assumes that the patterns of the past are a decent predictor of the future. But, clearly, we do not have the luxury of continuing business as usual.

This changing risk landscape means that risk is exacerbated when the short-term economic cost of taking action is emphasised over the long-term economic and social costs of not acting. The World Bank makes this point in a recent report which provides policy advice on transitioning to a zero-carbon future.

The solutions exist and are affordable, the report says, if governments take action today. It warns, however, that costs will rise the longer action is delayed. To keep global temperatures within the 2°C limit, waiting just 15 more years and taking no action until 2030 would increase costs of transitioning by an average of 50 percent through to 2050.

The need for a long-term perspective on risk is one of the reasons we are asking for a cross-party agreement to undertake the risk assessment and to act on the findings – the issues are long-term and are relevant for much longer timeframes than a term in parliament. As the World Bank says with respect to climate change: “Getting to zero net emissions and stabilizing climate change starts with planning for the long-term future and not stopping at short-term goals.”

Susan Krumdieck:

As well as the global risk assessments that Janet has talked about, there are plenty of example internationally of countries that have undertaken their own national-level comprehensive risk assessments.

One example is the USA’s Strategic National Risk Assessment undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security. The purpose there is to support national preparedness for threats that pose the greatest risk to the US including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters. The assessment process has been used to support the development of collaborative thinking across all levels of government about prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

Ireland is another example, closer in scale to New Zealand. The Foreword of their draft Nation Risk Assessment explains: “One of the priorities or our country and our people as we move towards economic recovery is to ensure we learn from the mistakes of the past. One of those mistakes was complacency at a time of prosperity, so that serious questions were avoided. Never again should threats to our nation’s future be ignored. Never again should dissenting voices be silenced when warning of risks up ahead.” The Assessment sets out the risks (both financial and nonfinancial) which Ireland faces, including those beyond a short time horizon.

Importantly, the OECD is also encouraging nations to undertake all-hazards national risk assessments. The OECD’s recent Recommendation on the Governance of Critical Risks has been developed in recognition of the escalating damages that occur due to extreme events. They warn that recent events are a stark warning for economic systems that are dependent on global supply chains. The Recommendation proposes actions that governments can take, in collaboration with the private sector, to better assess, prevent, respond to and recover from the effects of extreme events, as well as take measures to build resilience to rebound from unanticipated events.

Once a risk assessment has been undertaken, the next mission is to develop a risk management approach – formulating responses that build resilience and support strategic decision making: How are you going to react, and do you have the management systems in place that enable you to make the correct decisions whatever comes along, in time to make a difference?

The whole purpose of risk management is to enable the right people to make the right decisions at the right time. You have to have scientific measurement, monitoring and reporting, and you have to have trusted, independent experts interpreting the data. Your risk management engineers and experts create scenarios – then, they stay on the job, adjusting their approach based on real-time observations, and working with local institutions and authorities.

One way of doing this is using the Managed Adaptive Approach – “Planning in” from forward scenarios and using on-going observations of problems as they arise. These scenarios must include compounding of coincident events and problems “perfect storm scenarios”.

We need to get a good handle on the worst that could happen, we have to use scenarios to deal with the uncertainties, we need to “practice” responses and decisions, and we need to be observing and learning continuously as we go along and things change and the global issues cause local risks and problems. Engineering for the “much worst case” may provide needed measures in a forward environment of “extreme” being the new norm.

Paul Young

I’m here to represent younger generations of New Zealanders, who it’s fair to say have more skin in the game when it comes to the longer-term risks we are discussing.

The serious flooding in Wellington, Dunedin, Hokitika and Manawatu-Whanganui over the past couple of months have given New Zealand a sense of the new risk environment that may result from the more frequent and severe weather events likely to be induced by climate change.  We do not yet know the full impacts but Horizons Regional Council, for example, have put an initial figure of $120 million on the cost of flood recovery in the Manawatu-Whanganui region. Together with the Wellington, Dunedin and Hokitika events, this may not be far off the estimate in the UN Global Assessment Report 2015 that Janet mentioned.

A risk assessment for New Zealand needs to assess the impacts of single-issue risks such as more frequent flooding, droughts and storm surges on the economy and society. But even more importantly, it is crucial to understand the implications for New Zealand of combinations of risks playing out at the same time.  Here are three brief future scenarios based on realistic risks identified by the global reports referred to previously:

Scenario 1:  Increasing numbers of climate refugees on boats are attempting to enter New Zealand as a result of sea level rise impacting their low-lying nations.  At the same time there is a significant outbreak of highly infectious disease.  How should New Zealand respond?

Scenario 2: Inter-state conflict with oil producing nations leads to an oil price shock.  At the same time, New Zealand’s long-running favourable exchange rate drops significantly.  The cost of petrol and diesel would skyrocket under this scenario. What options are there to reduce the significant impact on New Zealand’s economic activity?

Scenario 3: The increasing costs of more extreme weather events create a significant negative impact on regional and national economies. However, low-lying infrastructure such as roads, sewerage systems, storm-water systems need investment to future-proof them against sea level rise and extreme weather events.  Where is the money to come from?

The last example in particular highlights the intergenerational dimensions at play. Being unprepared for risks, and failing to take appropriate near-term actions to mitigate these, could see future generations in charge overwhelmed and unable to muster an effective response as multiple risks converge. As in medicine, prevention will invariably be better than cure. And as per the Government’s approach to social welfare, early intervention delivers the greatest value to society.

Speaking for my peers, my experience is that a great many are deeply concerned, fearful even, about the future we will inherit in the face of escalating risks such as climate change. Many are even losing faith in our political institutions to deal with these threats at all.

To address this, we need to see our leaders working together to effectively address the risks facing our society. Heeding Wise Response’s request for a National Risk Assessment would be an instrumental first step in the right direction.

Alan Mark:

In conclusion; we trust we have convinced the Committee of the urgent need for such a risk assessment and we request that the Committee initiate its own specific enquiry in to the subject matter of the petition, perhaps assisted by the Auditor General and/or the PCE, and/or the Prime Minister’s Science Adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, or the Committee may refer the petition to The House with a recommendation for appropriate action.

We now welcome questions and comments.

WR Submission to NZ Climate Change Consultation

Wise Response has made a comprehensive submission to New Zealand’s Climate Change Target Consultation.


The submission may be downloaded here (PDF 1.4MB): Wise Response Society Incorporated – response to Climate Change Consultation-1


Summary of Wise Response submissionMoa

1. A low carbon future offers a huge opportunity for NZ if we follow our suggested ‘Kea’ policy pathway. If we retain the view that we should only be a ‘Moa’ (the other pathway we describe), then we risk being left behind in what is likely to be a rapid global transition.

2. NZ’s mix of renewable energy resource and innovation potential means that it could potentially be a leader in some aspects of mitigation – for example, in reducing agricultural GHG emissions, geothermal energy, an electricity grid running on close to 100% renewable energy, swapping coal for wood-based industrial heat, and an electric vehicle fleet which (unlike other countries which largely rely on coal and gas-generated electricity) makes a huge amount of sense in New Zealand.

3. The shift to a low-carbon future is not simple. It involves on the one hand a change in ‘culture’ (norms, practices, technologies) amongst households and businesses, as well as changes in the broader structures such as policies and physical infrastructure to support the change. This wider structural change needs to be orchestrated so as to ensure that they are aligned rather than working against each other, and support change at the individual and business level. Many of the changes required to achieve a low-carbon future require investment today in order to achieve change in 5-15 years time (eg mobility infrastructure) so we cannot afford to wait until climate problems worsen. Again, this requires government leadership.

4. New Zealand risks being left behind if it does not adopt a credible position at the Paris talks, and sees that through with effective action domestically. On the other hand, there are huge advantages in being front-footed and actively transitioning to a low-carbon future. We have much to gain (and little to lose) from a positive and strong stance at Paris.

5. Science shows us that globally we may still have a small window of opportunity in which to alter an emissions trajectory to avoid catastrophe. New Zealand must be big enough to recognise that, given the magnitude of the reductions required, the only way we can fulfil our ethical obligations and responsibilities, is with a major shift in New Zealand’s policy direction.

6. We are thus currently gambling with the future in a manner resembling a game of “Prisoner’s Dilemma” – with a death penalty for losing.

7. Committing to truly ambitious and inspirational INDCs can set our Nation on a new and exciting path which conveniently now makes economic sense as well. This is what “being realistic” requires!

8. We must consider the climate change response in the context of the overall risk environment that we face. Our Society is calling for a comprehensive risk assessment across the broad spectrum of separate but interrelated risks. There are many other risks which we have to navigate concurrently as a nation, and species. We need to ensure that the climate change response is made in a manner that is cognisant of both the probability of occurrence and the severity of the impacts of the other risks we face. (Refer to the UK Institute and Faculty of Actuaries 2013 report on ‘Resource constraints: sharing a finite world. The evidence and scenarios for the future’ which is a comprehensive overview of the risks: http://bit.ly/1Hr4epA)

Wise Response Society Incorporated makes the following key recommendations for its ‘Kea’ pathway:

9. The Society calls on the New Zealand Government, “Mo tatou, a mo ka uri a muri ake nei” (“For us and our children after us”) to immediately commit to action of a scale commensurate with the risk that unabated climate change poses.

10. That the government submit and fully commit to an INDC which assumes a path of global cooperation, that will see all countries including New Zealand play its full part in keep temperature rise under 1.5 deg C. The pathway that science is telling us leads to that target involves zero carbon emissions globally by 2045-2060.

11. Given the the level of risk posed by climate change and its irreversibility, NZs INDC must align with:
a. the Precautionary Principle which requires that:
i. GHG emissions be reduced to the extent, and at a pace, necessary to protect against the threats of climate change that can still be avoided; and
ii, the level of reductions of GHG emissions required to achieve this, must be based on any credible and realistic worst-case scenario generally now accepted by mainstream climate change experts.

b. The measures required by the Precautionary Principle should be adopted without regard to the cost, unless that cost is completely disproportionate to the reduction in emissions.

12. The Government sets up a permanent, standing consultative body to interact with the community on climate change based on the principle of continuous dialogue rather than a one-off collection of submissions. This problem is going to require concerted effort, sustained across many generations, and it needs proper resourcing.

13. That all submissions to this consultation and the summary of the submissions be made publically accessible prior to the Government confirming the targets and a report be prepared giving reasons for the Government’s decision.

It is Not a Target – Seminar Wellington

Atmospheric CO2 concentration of 350 ppm was not a target, it was a safety limit

In December 2015, the 21st Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) will be held in Paris. Around the world, citizens, organizations, institutions and governments are reacting to the IPCC 5th Report and calling for urgent action to arrest the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in order to limit climate warming to less than 2oC. The IPCC’s 80% reduction below 1990 gross greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is not a target, rather it is a climate system failure limit. The climate science has resolved the risks of adding 550 Gt more carbon to the atmosphere as carrying unacceptable risks of catastrophic failure of essential systems across the entire planet.
Our country’s target to reduce emissions as our contribution to the new international climate change agreement should be ambitious and begin immediately. We should transition to an economy not dependent on oil use given our geographic isolation and our economy’s exposure to imported oil.

This event will feature a panel from the Wise Response Society, led by Sir Alan Mark, Emeritus Professor of Botany, Otago University. The panellists will give a short presentation on the WR recommendation for NZ’s carbon commitment followed by one hour for discussion. The WR team will be presenting their submission to a public hearing of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee at Parliament at 10:00am 1 July.
The Wise Response is an on-going open petition appeal to New Zealand’s Parliament to comprehensively assess imminent risks to our environmental, social, economic and cultural well-being. The appeal was launched in May 2013 with signatures of 100 prominent New Zealanders, and a petition was presented to Parliament in April 2014 with more than 1000 signatures.

New Zealand Climate Change Target Consultation

Wise Response held a public meeting to discuss concerns with a Discussion paper, just released by Minister of Climate Change Issues, Tim Groser, on “New Zealand’s Climate Change Target: Our contribution to the new international climate change agreement.”(PDF)

This was in preparation for the meetings to be held nation-wide to consult on New Zealand’s Climate Change position.


The meeting passed a unanimous motion:

RESOLUTION: “N. Z. Climate Change Target” meeting, sponsored jointly by Wise Response Society and Sustainable Dunedin City, University of Otago, Dunedin, 18 May, 2015.

Moved Alan Mark; seconded Stuart Matheson: ~180 persons in attendance:

“That this public meeting strongly urges the New Zealand government to endorse both the moral imperative and the economic, social and environmental opportunities of a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy and society.  To this end, it should adhere to the mitigation option proposed by the IPCC Mitigation Report 2014 that keeps us below a 2 deg. C. rise in global average temperature. This meeting moves that our government should propose effective GHG emissions targets, along these lines, at the Paris Climate Change Summit.”

Carried unanimously.



More info and online submission form here.

An overview and critique of the Government’s position here.

Fix Our Future – a website dedicated to this climate change consultation with 6 key points:

(1) We need the Government to act on climate change as an investment in our future.‎

(2) We need New Zealand to call for a global zero carbon target, and walk the talk by committing to a pathway towards zero CO2 emissions by 2050 or earlier (alongside reductions in other greenhouse gases).

(3) Targets need to be backed up with a credible plan.

(4) We need a New Zealand climate law that holds the government accountable for reducing emissions, and an independent Climate Commission.

(5) We need the Government to establish a cross-party climate working group and an ongoing programme to engage meaningfully with New Zealanders on climate change solutions.‎

(6) We need to see meaningful policy changes that will start cutting New Zealand’s emissions, during this term of government.


Presentations were given from Dunedin’s Climate Change experts, and are reproduced below:

Prof Bob Lloyd, Physics Dept, on: “How much carbon can we burn?”
Prof. Janet Stephenson, Sustainability Centre, on: “Transitioning to a low carbon future.”
Dr Bill Lee, Landcare Res., on: “Effects of global warming on our biodiversity.”
Rose Penwarden, Oil-free Otago & 350.org., on: “Why we must curb our fossil fuel use.”
Dr Alex Macmillan, NZ Climate and Health Council, on: “Climate change & human health.”
Emeritus Prof. Jim Flynn, University of Otago, on:  “Our targets must look beyond New Zealand.”
John Cocks, Sustainable Dunedin City, on:  “Planning for a sustainable Dunedin City”

Carbon and Climate Change – Bob Lloyd (PDF)

Carbon and Climate Change, Bob Lloyd

Let’s recap where we are up to

IPCC reports 2014 came out last year

Critical information regarding mitigation is in a couple of graphs

RCP2.6 is the only scenario that keeps us below 2 degrees with a 2 in 3 chance and even this scenario assumes CCS post 2070

The allowable CO2 emissions for this scenario are 900 GT from the end of 2010 onwards. Or 250 billion tonnes of C. How much carbon have we got in existing reserves? Around 750 billion tonnes C (BP stats 2014) so we can only burn around 1/3 of known reserves.

Note IPCC 2014 says only 1/5 can be burnt.

The 900 GT is around 120 tonnes CO2 per person. The world is emitting a little over 5 tonnes per capita per annum which gives us 24 years at present rates of emission (NZ 8, China 7, US 19, Kuwait 30, TT 36, India 1.5, Nepal 0.1 )

But our emissions are increasing so the next question is what the increases for the future looking like are?

Historically (last 10 years): from 2004 BP energy outlook to 2035

Coal 3.3% 1% (BP)

Gas 2.6% 1.7%(BP)

Oil 1.1% 0.8% (BP)

Historical increases will put us over the line in 2031 with the IPCC range being between 2024 and 2036

BPs estimate extends the crossover by one year to 2032

If we managed to keep emissions from all fuels at 2014 levels the crossover extends by 3 years to 2034

To keep below 2 degrees we would need to reduce all emissions from the end of this year by 5% pa . If we wait until 2020 the reduction will need to be 7% pa. Fatif Birol IEA says 8% pa.

With these scenarios the total emissions in 2050 would need to be only 5GT per annum i.e. the total reduction from 2014 would need to be 87%, close to what some people in Germany are proposing.

But even this is not enough for rich countries as the poor countries (think Nepal) still want development and to increase emissions. The rich countries will need to reduce emissions even faster and at the same time transfer funding to the poor countries to assist their development.

If we decide to mitigate we have to meet the scientific targets, which are already too low and have pretty dodgy statistics i.e. would we build a bridge with a 33% chance of failing. Comparison with catching a plane. There is no point in trying to do our best if we cannot meet the targets.

Can we meet the targets? Technically yes but politically it is not likely.

Why 3 main reasons

1 The obvious one: vested interests: funding of climate sceptics, protection of corporate interests using instruments such as the TPPA , Coal lobby the oil lobby. There are over 100 trillion dollars in the carbon which should not be extracted.

2 Internal politics: . Together with peak oil we have peak economy. Almost all developed countries have a declining oil consumption, static or declining economies pumped up with huge debts, China cannot afford not to continue increasing incomes otherwise there would be revolt. US and European Governmentscannot afford to provoke the population even further from the already instituted austerity programs. Greece is at present rebelling austerity. The unions are demonstrating against CO2 reductions in Germany because this will mean loss of jobs in the coal industry.

3 International politics. Geopolitics will always trump climate change mitigation. There is no way China for instance is going to reduce emissions if this would endanger its economy with the US threatening from the side-lines. Ditto Russia and the rest of the BRIC countries. Ditto the US which is already losing economic ground to China. A new arms race is happening right now.

My Conclusion. Getting international agreement on mitigation is going to be next to impossible. Ten years ago I gave it 5 years in my opinion we have now much reached the end of the line. My last hope is Paris if not the move has to be to adaption.

Which brings us to the NZ climate change consultation document the subject of tonight’s meeting.

The intro is fine it agrees with the above analysis. Then the doc starts whining about NZs special circumstances, existing hydro, methane emissions from ruminants etc . Note the IPCC 2014 has no limit on methane emissions from agriculture in its mitigation scenarios only CO2 inc folu in fact the main limits concentrate solely on CO2 emissions.

Why is the NZ government asking the NZ public what emissions reductions should be? The scientists (including some from NZ) have already told us what they need to be. The question in NZ should be how to we meet the scientifically recognised targets. And how can NZ assist the developing countries to reduce their emissions while simultaneously developing their economies.

For climate change with nonlinear tipping points there is no point in doing the best you can. Again doing the best you can to get to the airport on time is not a good strategy if the best you can do falls short of the target. If you cannot make the flight the best you can do is ring up and cancel or postpone the flight. In fact to meet the mitigation targets we should cancel all flights. Ring ring excuse me sir/ mam We have a problem here on earth, I would like to put civilisation on hold for the next 2000 years or so is that possible? Click – oh oh I have been put on hold!

Why have they produced such a gross document? My guess is that the NZ Govt. has come to the same conclusion as myself: that mitigation is close to being dead in the water.

In this case the main object from a national point of view is protect short term national and corporate interests ie to do as little as possible while appearing to appease the international and local community. Game theory. Prisoners Dilemma

Is there hope? Only possibility at this stage is concerted international outrage to engender worldwide cooperation.


Prof. Janet Stephenson, Sustainability Centre, on: “Transitioning to a low carbon future.”

Wise Response Talk Janet Stephenson (PDF)

Summary of comments on Discussion Document: ‘New Zealand’s climate change target’

May 18, 2003


CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABILITY • Kā Rakahau o te Ao Tūroa, University of Otago.

  1. The government’s discussion document outlines some of the costs of mitigation but fails to discuss the hugely greater costs of inaction.  The costs of climate change, if left unchecked, will make it increasingly difficult to be able to afford adaptation, let alone mitigation, because it will depress economic activity. And the longer it is left before acting, the more expensive it will be to change our systems to cope. This was a point made clearly by Nicholas Stern in his 2006 landmark report The Economics of Climate Change.  An example is the costs of drought to NZ (predicted to become more frequent with climate change) – the 2007-9 drought reduced direct and off-farm outputs by $3.6 billion.  The drought in 2012-13 reduced NZ’s GDP by 0.3 to 0.6%.  Once we are on an economic back foot from the impacts of climate change, it will become increasingly difficult over time to have the financial capacity to adapt systems to climate impacts, let alone reduce emissions.
  2. There is a significant overlap between actions required for adaptation and actions required for mitigation.  These are often discussed as binary opposites – with a strong voice in NZ suggesting that we should only focus on adaptation.  But rather than seeing them as alternate actions we need to recognise that they are complementary and often involve the same or similar responses.  For example, both involve the development of systems (farming, transport, etc) that are resilient, adaptable to change, not highly dependent on resources that may significantly change in availability or cost.  

  3. To argue that we contribute only a small portion of global emissions and therefore should not worry about taking action, is akin to me saying that I should feel OK about throwing my rubbish all over my street because I’m only one of many people who live in the street, and people with bigger houses should stop throwing their rubbish around before I do.  Nonsense. We’re all in this together.

  4. NZers have a high per capita emissions profile and many of the goods and services that we enjoy are produced using the fossil-powered energy in the largest emitting countries such as China and the USA.

  5. A low carbon future offers a huge opportunity for NZ.  If we retain the view that we should only be a ‘follower’, then we risk being left behind in what is likely to be a rapid global transition.  NZ’s mix of renewable energy resource and innovation potential means that it could potentially be a leader in some aspects of mitigation – for example, in reducing agricultural GHG emissions, geothermal energy, an electricity grid running on close to 100% renewable energy, swapping coal for wood-based industrial heat, and an electric vehicle fleet which (unlike other countries which largely rely on coal and gas-generated electricity) makes a huge amount of sense in NZ. 

  6. I observe significant concern about our climate future, and interest and support for a low-carbon future amongst businesses, households, communities and some councils.  They see benefits that include retaining NZ’s clean green market status, improved resilience, improved public health, future-proofing, opportunities for innovation and new products and services.  However NZ lacks clear leadership in this space (unlike UK, Scandanavia and EU more generally, for example). This means that efforts are currently fragmented and less effective than they might be if there was a more coherent and linked-up approach.  NZ needs a clear government commitment and targets, and to show leadership that NZers will respond to.

  7. The shift to a low-carbon future is not simple. It involves on the one hand a change in ‘culture’ (norms, practices, technologies) amongst households and businesses, as well as changes in the broader structures such as policies and physical infrastrcture to support the change. This wider structural change needs to be orchestrated so as to ensure that they are aligned rather than working against each other, and support change at the individual and business level.  Many of the changes required to achieve a low-carbon future require investment today in order to achieve change in 5-15 years time (eg mobility infrastructure) so we cannot afford to wait until climate problems are upon us. Again, this requires government leadership.

  8. NZ risks being left behind if it does not adopt a credible position at the Paris talks, and sees that through with effective action domestically.  On the other hand, there are huge advantages in being front-footed and actively transitioning to a low-carbon future.  We have much to gain (and little to lose) from a positive and strong stance at Paris.

Janet Stephenson


CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABILITY • Kā Rakahau o te Ao Tūroa, University of Otago


Dr_Bill_Lee_notes_NZ_Climate_Change_Commitment (PDF)

Dr Bill Lee, Landcare Research, on: “Effects of global warming on our biodiversity.”

New Zealand’s Climate Change Commitment

Public Meeting 18th May, 2015

My research interests in climate centre on understanding the response of the indigenous biota to climate changes over the past 40 million years and to ways in which modern plants adapt to climate along resource availability gradients.

Our understanding or the potential effects of climate change on New Zealand’s terrestrial biodiversity were nicely summarised in 2011 in a report for the Department of Conservation by Matt McGlone and Susan Walker of Landcare Research (http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/science-and-technical/sfc312entire.pdf).

On the climate side, we are looking at rising mean and particularly winter temperatures, rising sea levels ( at least 1-2 m over the next century), increasing precipitation along the main axial ranges, and reduced rainfall in eastern and northern areas, and more regular extreme events.

  • Terrestrial biodiversity declines in New Zealand are currently driven by mammalian predation (everywhere) and habitat loss (lowland-montane and coastal).
    • Warmer temperatures, particularly winters, are expanding predator ranges (increasing altitudinal rat line) and increasing densities, impacting both meso-predators and top predators. This will make predator elimination and control strategies more challenging while increasing loss rates of vulnerable native birds, lizards and invertebrates. Mega mast flowering in beech and tussock biomes may further exacerbate predator numbers and impacts, although there is debate about the likelihood of this occurring.
    • Habitat loss is currently via agricultural intensification (especially in threatened environments where little indigenous biodiversity remains or is protected), and there is concern that climate-change mitigation efforts around expanded plantation forestry hydro-electricity and water abstraction will further reduce native habitats. In addition, the coastal squeeze where rising sea-levels hit against hard infra-structure is also displacing native habitats.
  • New Zealand is experiencing some of the effects of global changes. For example, a global analysis of phenological changes in vegetation based on remotely sensed absorption of photosynthetically active radiation (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) revealed strong shifts in the vigour of southern hemisphere forests, including those in New Zealand.
  • Globally, forests are a major carbon sink, sequestering 26% of fossil fuel emissions. In New Zealand, with increased temperature, annual wood production could increase by 6-23% depending on rainfall, mostly confined to cool mountain environments. Maximum productivity and therefore carbon sequestration gains will require spatial shifts in structure and composition. Overall, the adjustment speed to temperature and rainfall shifts will depend on disturbance frequency.
  • Freshwater systems are vulnerable to water warming where unbuffered by forest. Temperatures above 22 C may be lethal for stoneflys and eel migration. These habitats will also face more invasive fish and plant species from subtropical climates and will experience lower habitat quality in eastern catchments reflecting declining water flows from reduced precipitation and water abstraction for agriculture.
  • Marine ecosystems changes are already occurring but the system is complex, depending on currents, Southern Oscillation Cycles etc. Most noticeable are recent declines in seabirds (9), including wandering albatross, red-billed gulls and titi. In some of these fishing is possibly a factor, but not all. A common influence seems to be the lower availability of krill or other food sources associated with locally warmer nutrient-poor surface water.
  • Although there are few intrinsic constraints for indigenous biodiversity in the most realistic climate change scenarios for New Zealand, range readjustment to accommodate climate shifts are nowadays complicated by habitat fragmentation restricting migration and lack of suitable warm climate-adapted taxa to occur in northern areas.
  • Conversely, many current and potential invasive species, both plant and animals, and including pathogens and diseases, will have increased opportunities in a warmer-climate New Zealand.
  • Overall biodiversity is and will change to respond as the climate profile of New Zealand shifts. However, little of this is outside of the evolutionary climate envelope for most species. Climate change will exacerbate existing threats associated with predator pressure and habitat loss, and increase the potential for new invasive species. We need to maximise opportunities to maintain native dominance in systems and this could involve assisted migration and protection against ecosystem transformation, although these approaches would only be a sustainable option for very small areas.

Bill Lee

Landcare Research/University of Auckland


NZ’s Climate Change Target” Talk by: Rose Penwarden, speaking this evening on behalf of Oil Free Otago and 350.org.

Summary below:

This week Simon Bridges is in Melbourne promoting New Zealand as an exploration destination to some of the world’s largest petroleum companies. The NZ pavilion is being hosted by NZ P&M and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Govt-owned GNS Science is there too.

Asking us to help set a target for Paris while at the same time continuing with their fossil fuel expansion agenda is not, as Simon Bridges said, a “mixed and balanced approach to our energy future” but a sham.

More forests are being cut down than planted – to be mainly replaced with dairy pasture, only adding to our emissions. Our ETS is a farce – but even so, our highest emitting industry is exempt. We subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $46 million in 2013 while we stifle growth in clean low carbon enterprises. Our per capita emissions are some of the highest in the world, more than double those of the EU. With our carbon emissions going through the roof, instead of 5% below we are on track to be 34% above 1990 levels by 2020.

On Thursday the government will try to use the ‘cost ‘ argument. That’s what they’ve done in meetings so far – carefully framing action against climate change as a cost to households that we really probably can’t afford. They have carefully analysed the cost of mitigation, but have not analysed the cost of inaction. For example, the 0.5% this year’s February drought shaved off GDP growth, the estimated $1.3 billion cost to GDP of the 2013 drought and the $2.8 billion cost of the 2007-8 drought. That’s only droughts. How much have last week’s floods cost Wellington and Kapiti? The government’s intention seems to be to leave it to the next generation to pay. Continue fudging, playing around with carbon credits and forests, and leave true emissions reductions to them.

We can’t allow that. It will be too late by then. It’s crunch time. No room for pretence at action through creative accounting or figure fudging. We have to show the government that we have no time and no patience more flaky targets that they don’t intend to meet.

Oil Free Otago and 350.org urge Dunedin people to call the government out on Thursday before they try to fudge us with their one-sided cost argument.

Oil Free Otago and 350.org agree with Bob Lloyd and demand a target of carbon neutrality by 2030 according to climate science. Anything less is committing our children to an uncertain, possibly unsurvivable future. This is achieveable. NZ is in a unique position to do so, but it will take more guts than this government has thus far shown it is capable of.


NZINDC expert public meeting 18 May 2015 Macmillan notes (PDF)

Dr Alex Macmillan, NZ Climate and Health Council, on: “Climate change & human health.”

NZINDC expert public meeting 18 May 2015


OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council – part of a global movement of doctors and other .

Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice. Responsible policymaking requires a rising price on carbon emissions that would preclude emissions from most remaining coal and unconventional fossil fuels and phase down emissions from conventional fossil fuels.” James Hanson 2013

The main responsibility for this action must fairly fall on the wealthiest nations with the highest emissions. New Zealand is one of those.

The government’s discussion document certainly does not represent “responsible policymaking”.

Why health professionals?

CC is not a fringe environmental issue, but one that is central to human wellbeing and survival – it’s at the heart of what we want as NZers… secure future for our children, less poverty, more fairness, social stability and safeguarding the things we rely on for our health and wellbeing – like freshwater, human-friendly weather patterns, adequate healthy and affordable food.

Both the British Medical Journal and The Lancet have called climate change the greatest public health threat facing us.

Health professionals have previously played a leadership role in in taking action to reduce global threats to wellbeing, including the threat of nuclear war and we are starting to see this happen globally about climate change

Most hopefully, if we place human health at the centre of climate policy, re-framing it as an issue of health and wellbeing, we can build political will and put in place policies to combat climate change that also bring exciting co-benefits for health and fairness – I’ll come back to these at the end.

Health impacts globally and in NZ

We can say with a high degree of certainty that climate change is already having important effects on health and wellbeing globally, including in New Zealand, with increasing heat waves, flooding, droughts and severe weather events, increasing food prices and loss of fish and shellfish stocks, increasing water and food-borne illness, and changing infectious disease patterns.

The future impacts of health depend heavily on our urgent actions to mitigate and are not currently being counted in the government’s discussion document.

As well as worsening of the very direct physical health impacts I’ve already described, the prospect of a facing a future of uncontrollable climate change will continue to bring worsening fear, anxiety and depression for many, especially young people – uncontrollable climate change would leave a legacy that would last uncountable generations.

The building blocks for health, a stable society and economy, healthy housing and safe, affordable, healthy food will also increasingly be affected through loss of climate-sensitive primary industry (we’re already seeing this with summer droughts and loss of mussel stocks); sea level rise and coastal erosion; poor adaptation of housing to increasing heat; and an increasing influx of climate refugees from the Pacific putting pressure on all our social systems.

Maori, Pacific and low-income groups are at risk of greater impacts of climate change. We also have the potential to increase or decrease existing systematic injustices for these groups through our choices about action – especially how we distribute the costs and the benefits.

But as I said before, there are also exciting opportunities for health, wellbeing and fairness from strong, well-being centred climate action in New Zealand.

Direct improvements for health are possible for heart disease, lung disease, cancer, obesity, joint problems, diabetes, road traffic injuries, and mental health, with big savings for the health system and the economy that aren’t being counted in the government’s document.

Burning fossil fuels has previously made substantial contributions to improving the lives of many in wealthy countries (often at the expense of the poor). However, we’ve reached a time when keeping our current level of wellbeing and improving health rely us to make big behavioural and policy transitions away from fossil fuels. Benefits to health would then fall into five main areas:

MOVING AWAY FROM COAL – will improve air and water quality reduce mining injuries and deaths, and could transition boom and bust communities to a more resilient and healthy future

A shift from car-dependency and road freight to active and public TRANSPORT, clean rail and shipping would bring exercise and neighbourhood connection back into people’s daily lives, while reducing air pollution and road traffic injuries.

Warm, energy efficient HOUSING and transitioning to clean, climate-friendly home heating would reduce winter deaths from lung and heart disease and improve social justice by reducing days of school and work for the poorest families

A LOW-RUMINANT ECONOMY and DIET would reduce obesity, heart disease and cancer, improve the quality of freshwater and could improve the affordability of healthy local plant-based food

ASSISTING LOW INCOME COUNTRIES, through funding and technology transfer, to take a climate-friendly path of economic development could improve women’s health by addressing unmet need for family planning services; achieve massive reductions in indoor air pollution deaths and reduce global health inequalities.

To avoid the health risks and achieve the potential gains fairly, NZ needs to include the costs and benefits to health and equality in its calculations; set consistent, clear, adequate targets and put human wellbeing and fairness at the centre of well-designed policies to meet those targets. I’ve supplied copies of OraTaiao’s written submission guideline, hot off the press – as well as three health questions to ask at the public meeting on Thursday.

It makes no sense (to me) to spread fear and anxiety here and now, in order to reach a non-existent future where all our problems will be solved, allowing us to finally dispense joy.”Niki Harre

Let’s ensure we are able to dispense joy now and into the future by speaking up loud for a New Zealand national climate commitment that is cross-party, ambitious, and centred on human wellbeing and social justice.

Tena koutou katoa


Emeritus Prof. Jim Flynn, University of Otago, on:  “Our targets must look beyond New Zealand.”

Four Key Points:

(1) To raise public awareness the government should hold a referendum proposing an environmental surtax – say at 1 % extra on the tax you owe – this would do an enormous amount to get the public talking.
(2) It should subsidise the use of biochar to make it competitive with phosphate fertilisers – and investigate osmotic power to replace coal.
(3) It should issue a public statement of urgency – detailing decade by decade the consequences for NZ (and the world) of the present drift – thus putting itself on record as rejecting climate denial – it should hold a series of public meeting to get this statement debated.
(4) It should detail a strategy of how nations in general can take the lead – and action its own contribution. This would include: financial contribution to at least one project to developing hydrogen fusion; the same to get Salter’s ships on the water (to send up sea spray and retard global warming); the same to encourage Amazonian nations to forgo development of the rain forest in favour of compensation.


Climate_Change_John_Cocks_Sustainable_Dunedin_City (SDC)

John Cocks, Sustainable Dunedin City, on:  “Planning for a sustainable Dunedin City”

Sustainable Dunedin City Inc.was established over 8 years ago after a public meeting in the Museum’s Hutton Theatre. The theatre was packed with people interested in the issues of: 1) climate change; 2) declining energy security; and 3) sustainability, as they affect Dunedin City.

Of the many activities carried out by Sustainable Dunedin City – submissions, student education programmes, public talks, the Big Green Challenge, and its fortnightly newsletter – the single biggest event organised to date was a Resilience Summit in 2011. This was a day long event with approximately 100 people – people involved business, education, iwi, local government, community groups , health services, and more.

Future scenarios were discussed – climate change and transport, food supply, sea-level rise, energy price rises, downside of reliance on coal, ideas for creating self-sufficient communities.

Actions to reduce carbon emissions and means of adaption to climate change were documented under the headings of:

  • Climate Change Impacts & Sea-Level Rise
  • South Dunedin
  • Wider community
  • Energy and the Economy
  • Transport to and within Dunedin
  • Resilience in Food Supply
  • Transition to low levels of consumerism & waste
  • Need for community participation

The actions identified remain applicable, and increasingly so.

The MfE discussion document starts with statement that Climate change is a truly global problem and all countries need to contribute to reducing emissions.

The third objective states that NZ’s contribution must guide New Zealand over long term in global transition to a low emissions world.

But where does NZ focus on transiting to a low emissions world, now and in the long term?

Some guidance is given in the document, yet doubt about the level of our commitment is seeded by:

  • raising uncertainty about technologies to assist in reducing emissions levels, and
  • the costs to households by reducing emission levels.

Of many important unanswered questions, we raise three.

  1. The document states that our key policy tool for reducing emissions is the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. What has NZ achieved with in reducing emissions with the ETS to date? What are the implications for continuing with the ETS in a global market?
  2. How do we redress our diminishing forestry carbon sink
  3. What is the basis of determining costs to society both in terms of:
  • Costs and risks of not acting, and
  • Costs and risks and opportunities of acting to achieve a low carbon NZ.

John Cocks

Co-chair, Sustainable Dunedin City

Other points noted during the meeting.

Other key risks

  • health impacts
  • ocean acidification impacts – on our fishing industry for example, on biodiversity, on ocean ecology
  • diminishing overseas marketing security
  • global conflicts.

Need public engagement at an emotional level

In contrast to other movements involving others (eg Save Manapouri, Anti-Apartheid), reducing emissions will affect each of us and dramatically so.

What personal action can we take to reduce emissions – a guide.

We need government leadership.

Zero emissions by 2050. Reduction targets need to be set on a year by year basis

Think of / invest in our younger generations and their future.

A national forum on Climate Change and Zero carbon is needed.

A umbrella organisation to coordinate the many environmental groups petitioning for a low carbon NZ..

Need climate change awareness promoted through our education system.

Focus groups in Auckland have having success in influencing change to the housing market.


Preparing for NZ Climate Change Consultation

Climate Change Poster 2

Media Release: Wise Response Society and Sustainable Dunedin City. 14 May, 2015.

A public meeting is being co-sponsored by the Wise Response Society and Sustainable Dunedin City to discuss concerns with a Discussion paper, just released by Minister of Climate Change Issues, Tim Groser, on “New Zealand’s Climate Change Target: Our contribution to the new international climate change agreement.”

There is an urgent need to air this important issue ahead of a public meeting convened by the Ministry for the Environment on Friday, May 21, one of ten around the country, to consult the New Zealand public on setting New Zealand’s post-2020 climate change target. The public are invited to make submissions on this issue to the Ministry for the Environment by June 3.

New Zealand will be participating in an International Climate Change Conference in Paris, in December, where world leaders will again, attempt to reach agreements on the way forward to ensure a viable future climate for humans and the many other ecosystems on which they depend.

The Minister’s Discussion paper indicates that we will be expected to table a target as part of our contribution that is more ambitious than we have committed to in the past. The key risks that are identified for New Zealand are sea level rise, flooding, wildfires and drought. However, the document paints New Zealand’s circumstances as having some “unique challenges” which “give us fewer low-cost options to reduce our domestic emissions compared with other developed countries”. For these reasons, it is suggested we should continue to purchase emission reduction units through the international carbon markets to offset our emissions” to help meet our commitments.

We believe that this approach will be quite unacceptable to most New Zealanders, and the concerned public should urgently discuss the range of future options available to us and convey these to the Government, particularly in the name of future generations, for whom we surely must show some responsibility.

We have planned a public meeting for next Monday, May 18, in the Castle One Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, at 7.15 pm, to air these issues. Admission is free and we have a range of informed speakers to outline the main issues before a question and comments session.

Alan Mark, Chair, Wise Response Society Inc.


More info and online submission form here.

An overview and critique of the Government’s position here.

Calls for Australia and NZ to follow Britain’s cross-party climate change pledge

Britain’s prime minister, deputy prime minister and leader of the opposition have made a joint declaration on climate change: “Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today. It is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication and economic prosperity.”

Calls for Australia and New Zealand to follow suit echo the calls from Wise Response for cross-party commitment to climate change action.

Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt has called on Australia’s political parties to follow Britain’s example by striking a joint pledge to urgently tackle climate change.

In New Zealand, author Ryan Mearns, of Generation Zero has urged New Zealand politicians to make the same commitment.

As reported in the Guardian, Britain’s Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders have pledged “to seek a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal which limits temperature rises to below 2C” – which is the safe level agreed upon by climate scientists to avoid dangerous global warming.

The pledge also made a commitment to work across party lines, to agree on carbon budgets in accordance with the Climate Change Act and accelerate the transition to a competitive low-carbon economy.

Similarly, Switzerland announced they were committed to cutting their emissions by 50 percent of 1990 levels come 2030.WR_Logo_trans_white


From public to planetary health: a manifesto

The manifesto endorsed by The Lancet calls for a social movement to support collective public health action at all levels of society; human health and wellbeing, threats to the sustainability of our civilisation, and threats to the natural and human-made systems that support us. The aim is to respond to the threats we face: threats to human health and wellbeing, threats to the sustainability of our civilisation, and threats to the natural and human-made systems that support us.

From public to planetary health: a manifesto

This  manifesto  for  transforming  public  health  calls  for a  social  movement  to  support  collective  public  health action at all levels of society—personal, community, national, regional, global, and planetary. Our aim is to  respond to the threats we face:  threats to human health and wellbeing, threats to the sustainability of our civilisation, and threats to the natural and human-made systems  that support us. Our vision is for a planet that nourishes and sustains the diversity of life with which we
coexist  and on which we depend. Our  goal  is to  create a movement for planetary health.
Our audience includes health professionals and public health practitioners, politicians and policy makers, international civil servants working across the UN and in development agencies, and academics working on behalf of communities. Above all, our audience includes every person who has an interest in their own health, in the health of their fellow human beings, and in the health of future generations.
The discipline of public health is critical to this vision because of its values of social justice and fairness for all, and its  focus on the collective actions of interdependent and  empowered  peoples  and  their  communities.  Our objectives  are to protect and promote  health and wellbeing, to prevent disease and disability, to eliminate conditions that harm health and wellbeing, and to foster resilience  and adaptation. In  achieving  these  objectives, our actions must respond to the fragility of our planet and our obligation to safeguard the  physical and human environments within which we exist.
Planetary  health is an attitude towards life and a philosophy for living. It emphasises people, not diseases, and equity, not the  creation of unjust societies. We seek to minimise differences in health according to wealth, education, gender, and place. We support  knowledge as one source of social transformation, and the right to realise, progressively, the highest attainable levels of health and wellbeing.
Our patterns of overconsumption are unsustainable and will ultimately cause the collapse of our civilisation. The harms we continue to inflict on our planetary systems are a threat to our very existence as a species. The gains made in  health and wellbeing over recent centuries, including through public health actions, are  not  irreversible;  they can  easily  be  lost,  a  lesson  we  have  failed  to  learn  from previous  civilisations.  We  have  created  an  unjust  global economic system that favours a small, wealthy elite over the many who have so little.
The  idea  of  unconstrained  progress  is a dangerous human  illusion:  success  brings  new  and  potentially  even more  dangerous  threats.  Our  tolerance  of  neoliberalism and  transnational forces dedicated to ends far removed from  the  needs  of  the  vast  majority  of  people,  and vespecially the most deprived and vulnerable, is only deepening  the  crisis  we  face.  We live in a world where the trust between us, our institutions, and our  leaders, is falling to levels incompatible with peaceful and just societies, thus contributing to widespread disillusionment with democracy and the political process.
An urgent transformation is required in our values and our practices based on recognition of our interdependence and the interconnectedness of the risks we face. We need a  new  vision  of  cooperative  and  democratic  action  at all levels of society and a new principle of planetism and wellbeing  for  every  person  on  this  Earth—a  principle that  asserts  that  we  must  conserve,  sustain,  and  make resilient  the  planetary  and  human  systems  on  which health depends  by  giving  priority to the wellbeing of  all. All  too  often  governments  make  commitments  but  fail to act on them; independent accountability is essential to ensure the monitoring and review of these commitments, together with the appropriate remedial action.
The  voice of  public  health  and medicine as the independent conscience of planetary health has a special part  to  play  in  achieving  this  vision.  Together  with empowered  communities,  we  can  confront  entrenched interests and forces that jeopardise our future. A powerful social movement based on collective action at every level of  society  will  deliver  planetary  health  and,  at  the  same time, support sustainable human development.

*Richard Horton, Robert Beaglehole, Ruth Bonita, John Raeburn, Martin McKee, Stig Wall
The Lancet, London NW1 7BY, UK (RH); University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand (RBe, RBo); Department of Public Health, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand (JR); Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK (MM); and Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden (SW)
We declare that we have no competing interests. RBe and RBo gratefully acknowledge their Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio joint residency.