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 &, 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.



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 (

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

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 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 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.

WR Submission to Otago Regional Council Regional Policy Statement

Wise Response has made preliminary comments on the Otago Regional Council’s Regional Policy Statement.

The comments are below or can be downloaded here: Wise Response Preliminary Submission to ORC RPS


Preliminary comments on the Otago Regional Council’s
Regional Policy Statement

To: Regional Policy Statement Review Team,
Otago Regional Council.
From: Wise Response Society
Contact: Sir Alan Mark,

What in Otago is important to you?

Wise Response Society encourages all levels of government as well as all New
Zealand citizens to ensure that our way of life and priorities are not leading us, either
wittingly or unwittingly, to deny our children the opportunity of a viable and fulfilling
Specifically the Society seeks to have addressed systematically this key question: “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 wellbeing?”
Evidence-based science on several fronts, shows that, due in large part to
encountering limits, New Zealand in general and Otago in particular are
environmentally, socially and economically vulnerable. Therefore, until we address
the implications of limits, planning is unlikely to be realistic; it may even undermine
critical needs over the next decade or two.
Following the Precautionary Principle, Wise Response asks the Otago Regional
Council to base its revised Regional Policy Statement (RPS) on an objective,
uncompromising assessment of the relevant science and associated risks. The risks
identified need to be prioritised and logical principles and policies developed
dispassionately from the consequent outcomes.
From these analyses, we anticipate that the RPS will need to place greater weight on
genuinely securing the longer term future and accordingly, given our current situation,
a level of near-term inconvenience will be unavoidable for us all if this is to be
achieved.  Plan wording will need to be tough, explicit and unambiguous to make a
real difference and minimise legal challenge.
Relying on the free market and handing the management of our key resources over to
local management groups that may not be truly representative of the public at large or
have the necessary breadth of understanding, are policies that appear unlikely to
achieve sustainable management of the available natural and physical resources.

What do you think the major issues facing Otago are?

Wise Response Society considers the following issues to be the most urgent:
1.   Lack of willingness by most of our leaders and citizens to accept credible
scientific evidence about the adverse impacts of our current living
arrangements and practices on the environment, and therefore our failure to
recognise the urgent need for transformational (mitigation) rather than
incremental (adaptive) change.
2.   Vulnerability, due to the high level of dependence of our communities and
businesses, including farming, on carbon-based fuels and financial shock, as
well as the loss of diversity, loss of local control, and loss of skill base in
production and manufacturing.
3.   Our failure to genuinely arrest and reverse a steady deterioration in the quality
of our land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes and
ecosystem services.  In this respect we note that much better outcomes could
be expected if many of the polices in the current RPS were just properly
4.   Our collective preoccupation with the accumulation of material wealth above
other measures of progress and quality of life.
A range of other issues flow from our failure to address these primary issues.

How do you think these issues should be addressed?

Wise Response suggests Council address these issues primarily in these ways:
1.   demonstrates in the RMAct S32 analysis that it has systematically assessed the
scientific evidence relevant to the above issues and risks, then sets down
clearly what constraints and assumptions it will adopt as a basis for each of the
Policy Statement’s objectives and policies.  The rationale for omitting or
altering any existing policies should also be clear.
2.   acts consistently in accord with the Precautionary Principle as expressed in the
New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (Policy 3), as an underlying tenet
of the Regional Policy Statement and makes building both urban and rural
resilience its first priority in the face of growing uncertainty.
3.   formally accepts the duty of each Otago resident, business and organization to
mitigate as well as adapt to serious threats to a living planet which appears
inherent in the Precautionary Principle.
4.   accepts the implications of rigorous research and statistics, and the established
principles of physics, ecology and environmental management as a basis for
adopting principles and policies that will significantly reduce risk exposure,
including strongly sustainable approaches to infrastructure and economic
5.   shifts the focus of its activity away from promoting economic development
throughout the RPS, and returns to sustainably managing the natural and
physical resources, as required under S5, RMA.
6.   takes into account the global as well as the national context to give
“sustainable management” a fully integrated and defensible bio-physical
7.   actively informs the general public of the need for any transformational policy,
and explains how citizens can best aid the process of sustainable management
of our natural and physical resources, at the same time as improving their
personal security and contentment.

Other matters

Wise Response Society would like to submit further on the ORCs draft plan, and
produce further relevant evidence in support of our submission, once the draft plan is
prepared, and wish to be involved in the formal planning process, post-notification.
Meanwhile, the Society would be happy to liaise further on this preliminary
submission if that would assist the Council.


WR Special General Meeting – Monday 1 Dec

Wise Response Society Inc
Notice of Special General Meeting

Monday 1 December, 4.00pm, Centre for Sustainability, 530 Castle St, Dunedin

 Business to be conducted

  •     Apologies
  •     Receive the Society’s Statement of Account
  •     Elect members of the committee and officers
  •     Fix the annual subscription
  •     Appoint an auditor
  •     Consider if appropriate to appoint a patron
  •     Motions to be considered
  •     Rule changes to be considered
  •     General business, including updates on:

    • Royal Society adoption of Climate Change motion and implications/opportunities
    • Regional Policy Statement review
    • Appeal to Parliament – Select Committee stage
    • Communications and website

All welcome.
Sir Alan Mark, ΦΒΚ, Hon DSc (Otago), FRSNZ, KNZM,

THIN ICE Kickstarter deadline approaches

Thin_Ice_DocoThe campaign to fund the edit of a TV version of THIN ICE – the inside story of climate science” for airing on US Public Television this summer has now reached 70% of its target, with a deadline of noon, Monday, 24 November. The team is delighted with the support the project has received so far. They want to remind those still wanting to help others appreciate the integrity and commitment of climate scientists, as well as their message,  that there are only a few more days left to donate. You can help by donating  as little as $10, get a THIN ICE beanie for $70, or give your local school a one year licence for unlimited streaming for $225. Check it out here.

This project will also broaden the appeal of  THIN ICE for schools, community groups and for TV in other countries.”

In order to have the Thin Ice Documentary aired on US Public Television it needs funding to be edited. You can help by donating a little on the kickstarter funding site.

This will also make it more accessible for schools, community groups and for tv in other countries.

WHAT’S THE STORY? Our climate is changing worldwide, with more extreme weather, melting ice and rising sea levels. If it really has been caused by us, we need to know how and why so we can deal with it together. So, what’s your experience of climate change and what do you think? We see climate change stories in the media and hear about it from our politicians. Now our film, an award-winning feature documentary, brings you the scientists’ voice directly from field and laboratory to film viewers at home, community halls and classrooms.  With your support we can edit THIN ICE to TV length to reach a much wider audience. 

At this stage we need numbers of donors more than $$, so this is a pitch for you to check our Kickstarter site. Hopefully it will move you sufficiently to chip in $10! More is of course acceptable, but currently we would be delighted just to have you join us in this effort, and of course the support of any friends you might spread the word to on Twitter or Facebook.

Research confirms ‘Limits to Growth’ correct

Research from the University of Melbourne has concluded the Club of Rome’s 1974 ‘ Limits to Growth’ Report is substantially correct in its findings that civilisation will likely collapse sometime this century.


The British national daily newspaper “The Guardian“ states that new research from the University of Melbourne confirms that the “book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.”

“[…] The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.

So were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.

The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. […]”


To find out more about the “Limits to Growth” and about its real message, follow this link.