Wise Response has released its submission to the Zero Carbon Bill.
It is available to download as a PDF (1MB) here: Wise Response Society Submission on the Zero Carbon Bill 19 July 2018 Final
We welcome comments on the submission. Please email these to firstname.lastname@example.org
Submissions to the Zero Carbon Act may be viewed here: Ministry for the Environment.
The Otago Daily Times have covered Climate Change and Wise Response’s position in their weekend magazine.
- Main story: https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/calls-action
- Wise Response’s “all gases” position, urgent action and link to our draft submission: https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/making-submission
- An argument for “fee and dividend” over an ETS https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/putting-price-our-emissions
Wise Response has made a submission to the Review of New Zealand’s Taxation System. The submission is available as a PDF (1MB) here: Tax Working Group – Wise Response Submission Final
Wise Response is a Dunedin-based but New Zealand-wide Society www.wiseresponse.org.nz , launched in 2013, with the purpose of persuading the New Zealand Parliament, Government and New Zealand society in general, to confront and respond effectively to any confirmed threats arising from the 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 well-being?”
As Chairperson I conducted a nation-wide tour that year with 11 public meetings from Auckland to Invercargill to explain the Society’s purpose and strategy, and gain support. The Society has no formal membership beyond its committee of 15 persons and its Patron, Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC.
We received over 5,000 signatures for our petition to Parliament in April 2014, that recommended they undertake a Risk Assessment of New Zealand, in five subjects as follows:
- Financial security: the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged global financial crisis.
- Energy and climate security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels.
- Business continuity the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower carbon economy.
- Ecological/Environmental security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes.
- Genuine well-being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and GDP and increasing inequality.
The Appeal sought a commitment to a quantitative, cross-party risk assessment of how and exactly where New Zealand is exposed – environmentally, socially and economically – as a rational, integrated basis for planning a more secure future. The submission was referred to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, with a hearing in July 1, 2015. The majority response was negative; claiming Government was adequately addressing the issues of concern, but the three minority parties (Labour, NZ First, Greens) offered strong endorsement.
With two meetings in Wellington, the Society facilitated development of a Position Statement and Action Plan for ENGOs on climate change, under the name Climate Consensus Coalition Aotearoa (CCCA). This proposed a goal and a process by which to effectively meet the spirit and intent of the Paris Accord of Dec. 2015. So far, the total of individuals and the membership of organisations which have formally endorsed it, numbers approximately 330,000 from about 100 organisations.
In August, 2017 we made presentations of the CCCA Position Statement and Action Plan to MPs at Parliament, on behalf of its creators and supporters. There were two presentations – one in the morning to GLOBE-NZ members (chaired by Dr Kennedy Graham) and the second to an invited audience of all MPs in the Beehive Theatrette, hosted by GLOBE-NZ.
Our Society has also made formal submissions on several other relevant issues, including the Emissions Trading Scheme, the Resource Legislation Amendment
Bill, the Productivity Commission, the Otago Regional Council’s Regional Policy Statement. We also participated in Earth Day and the launch of Our Climate Declaration in Dunedin. On behalf of the Society I presented a resolution to the Royal Society Fellows AGM in October 2014, which resulted in the Society producing and publishing two substantial commissioned reports in 2016, on the Implications and the Mitigation of Climate Change in New Zealand.
More recently, Jan. 2018, the Society organised a public meeting in Dunedin on “Climate Change issues: from Bonn COP23 and beyond”, Central and Local Government responses, addressed by the Hon James Shaw, Minister of Climate Change, Mr Dave Cull, President of Local Government NZ and Hon Clare Curran, with some 400 attendees.
The Wise Response Society supports the Government’s efforts to reduce poverty in New Zealand, as quickly and effectively as possible. We believe there is no moral justification for people in New Zealand having to live in poverty. All New Zealanders should have access to a basic standard of living that should include adequate food, housing, education, welfare and health care, and where appropriate, meaningful employment. The overwhelming majority of international (e.g., Universal Declaration of Human Rights), moral and religious codes state that society has an obligation to provide the social and economic institutions so that people do not have to live in poverty.
In recent decades New Zealand has adopted neoliberal economic policies based on the priority of markets to determine the allocation of goods and services, and a downsizing of the state to play a regulating and compensatory role. This has led to the widespread growth in poverty and in environmental degradation, including potentially catastrophic climate disruption. There are many reasons for the failure of this philosophy and its policies, at both theoretical and practical levels, which we can elaborate on as necessary, but central to our submission is the moral imperative that we have an obligation to sustain and care for all the people who live in New Zealand, particularly our children, and protect them from the consequences of poverty.
We applaud the stated aims of the Bill which are to reduce child poverty and improve the overall well-being of children. Its stated purpose is to: encourage governments and society to focus on reducing child poverty; to hold governments to account against published targets; and to require transparent reporting about levels of child poverty.
To achieve its purpose the Bill would specify child poverty measures and ensure agencies work together to improve the well-being of children. It would also require: specific child poverty targets to be set, reports about child poverty to be produced and published independently of Ministers. The Government of the day would adopt, publish, and review a Government strategy for improving the well-being of all children, with a particular focus on child poverty and the needs of children at greater risk.
We agree with Prime Minister Ardern in introducing this Bill, that “for a country with relative abundance, New Zealand has the opportunity, and the moral obligation, to ensure children are free from the burden of poverty.
This Bill is the framework for measuring and targeting child poverty. It sets in law four primary and six supplementary measures of poverty and material hardship. It requires the government of the day to then set targets to reduce child poverty. It requires governments to develop a comprehensive child well-being strategy that keeps child poverty top of mind, and keeps the focus on improving the living standards of children.”
Our Society is particularly concerned with the persistence of, and the increase in, the numbers of children under the very low-income, 40% of the after-housing costs median moving line (140,000 children). There is thus a strong case for making this one of the primary measures for the allocation of resources sufficient to explain how families might fall below this line. This particular measure signifies the most serious end of child poverty and so policies are urgently needed to ensure that no child falls below this line.
Finally, our Society applauds the various proposals contained in this Bill and we agree that tackling and measuring child poverty is complicated and demanding, but our children are relying on civil society to act and so we strongly support this Bill.
Our Society has also endorsed and added our support for the Children’s Sector Joint Submission on this Bill and we also endorse the detailed submission presented by the Child Poverty Action Group.
Sir Alan Mark FRSNZ, Chair, Wise Response Society Inc.,
A copy of the submission is available here as a PDF: WiseResponse ETS Lt to MfE.
Wise Response Society Inc.,
c/o Alan F. Mark, FRSNZ, KNZM,
205 Wakari Rd.,
Hon Paula Bennett, Helensburgh,
Minister of Climate Change Issues, DUNEDIN.
Parliament House, 12 December 2016
WELLINGTON. Your reference 16-m-1360
Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
Dear Minister Bennett,
We congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Prime
Minister. The purpose of this letter is to give our Society’s support to the Climate
Change Adaptation Technical Working Group you have appointed, and to encourage
you to continue to take a leadership position by also establishing a forum to address
mitigation, and invite you to our rescheduled NGO’s climate change workshop.
We thank you for your letter of 11 November 2016 indicating you would be unable to
attend the NGOs climate change workshop on 14 November, which was postponed due
to the severe earthquake that day. We hope you can join us on Monday 13 February
2017. We are also holding a participatory climate change modelling workshop on the
afternoon of Sunday 12 February to work on scenarios.
The Wise Response Society would like to applaud your leadership in establishing the
Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group. The need for adaptation will
continue to grow. Global warming impacts are already being felt and the transient
response of the climate to the energy balance shift caused by increased
accumulation of green house gases is at least 30 years. This means that even if
emissions were halted today, climate impacts will worsen for decades.
We were encouraged by this statement in your letter:
“We need to make emissions reductions all across the economy and I believe
we, as a country are up for the challenge. I am considering ways to come up
with a long term plan to reduce emissions. I want people to start thinking past
just the next few years, right out to 2050 and beyond”
We agree absolutely that insufficient attention has been directed so far at what we
can do to reverse known causes of climate warming. However, the terms for the
Adaptation Working Group do not permit it to consider mitigation nor to develop
policy recommendations for reducing emissions.
Fossil fuels are used in all sectors of society. We acknowledge the political and
economic difficulty of addressing the reduction of transport fuel use, coal burning,
agricultural practices and land use. We urge you to consider that due to New
Zealand’s remoteness, culture of resilience, and bent for innovation, our companies
and organisations could be some of the first in the world to find profitable new
enterprises for accomplishing the energy transition and ecological recovery. Such
enterprise would help offset costs and risks associated with emissions reduction.
The Nationally Determined Contributions declared at Paris will almost certainly not
be adequate to keep global warming below 2deg. C. above pre-industrial levels. The
internationally agreed pathway would require at least 5% reduction in emissions
year-on-year from 2016. This level of reduction in fossil fuel consumption and
land use change will require innovative transitions in transportation demand,
agriculture practices and business operations, and consumer behaviour, as well as
social expectations and values. The next five years will be a critical period for
creative and heretical innovation.
Underscoring the situation is the fact that at any time, a tip-over point will be
reached where feedback loops – such as methane emissions from thawing
permafrost and more heat absorption in an ice-free Arctic – might make remedy
impossible. This means so much is at stake now that our best chance of a solution is
if all New Zealanders and political persuasions are availed of the bald facts about
mitigation options and their implications, as soon as possible and no matter how
politically or economically unpalatable they may be.
We thus ask that you urgently establish an additional forum focused on identifying
adequate and “just” mitigation measures that could operate in parallel with the
Adaptation Group. This way, elements common to both could be exploited to best
advantage and an integrated plan developed.
To address the range of practice outlined above, the terms for a new working group
would not only need to include a mix of specialist scientists, engineers and
businesses, but also the likes of young people, social leaders and behaviour
specialists. We would like to offer dialogue with our Society’s members to explore
innovative ideas and new ways that research and development could drive the
transition and how the forum might best operate.
We are very hopeful that you (or any new Minister of Climate Change Issues) and
ministry staff might be able to join our 13 February sponsored workshop, as it will
include discussion on mitigation and testing whether participatory mediated
modelling might provide a helpful way to build consensus on this important issue.
Wise Response Society Inc.
 Susan Krumdieck, “Transition Engineering”, In: Energy Solutions to Combat Global Warming, Ed: XinRong Zhang and I.
Dincer, Springer (2016) p. 647-706.
Bob Lloyd, Evidence to Fonterra Studholme Dairy Factory Expansion, Environment Canterbury, 2016.
 Andrew Winston, The Big Pivot, Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World, Harvard Business
Review Press, Boston, MA (2014).
Dear Prime Minister,
This is an Open Letter with reference to the statement ascribed to you under the heading: “Science key to climate” (ODT, March 23), in which you are quoted from your address to the Platinum Primary Producers annual conference in Wellington, that “The world is going to heat up if it’s [climate change] left unchecked. ….. [but people] …. are missing one fundamental point and that is science will deal with the issues, as long as we keep investing. If we did absolutely nothing and just allowed temperatures to continue to rise then we would have a huge issue but the truth is that won’t happen.”
We are reassured that you are acknowledging the potential seriousness of global warming but we consider your conclusion to be quite wrong. We are deeply concerned that you could rely so heavily on science to develop ways to curb the earth’s current warming trajectory when the mainstream science community has agreed that we must have a credible plan to reduce net carbon emissions to zero, as a matter of urgency. Science is important, but action on the basis of science is even more important.
As you are aware, virtually all (195) nations agreed at COP21 that in order to prevent a catastrophic situation of combined extreme weather events, continued sea level rise and ocean acidification, average warming should be kept to 1.5 deg C. above pre-industrial levels. It is now time for all national leaders to recognise the urgency of this situation and respond.
Meanwhile, the warming continues, with 2015 being the warmest year and January and February 2016 being the warmest months ever. Ambient CO2 now exceeds 400 ppm, and mountain glaciers, such as those in our Southern Alps, keep shrinking. Given scientific advice that such trends lag by up to 30 years and are very difficult to reverse, the lack of action by Government in developing comprehensive adaptation and mitigation strategies is effectively gambling with our country’s future. The absence of leadership is scientifically and morally indefensible.
Accordingly, we would be very interested to learn what advice you have received from your personal science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, aimed at addressing the many problems associated with global warming. Does he consider research is sufficient in its own right, or that action (including effective policies, targets, and strategies) is also required to reduce both current green house gas and nitrogen emissions?
Instead of promoting BAU and hoping that science will solve these issues, we consider that the only responsible way for New Zealand to play its part in meeting the 1.5 degree limit is to urgently establish a national carbon budget and emissions reduction programme. To be effective, this programme would need to be staged, allocated between sectors and critically require the participation of all New Zealanders, desirably with oversight by an independent Climate Commission.
Your response to the issues we have raised would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely, Alan F. Mark, FRSNZ, KNZM. Chair, Wise Response Society Inc.
In November 2015, Wise Response appeared before 3 ORC commissioners to make a case for much more realistic recognition of the implications of resource limits in the Plan under the “precautionary approach” which is a requirement in the National Coastal Policy Statement.
Eight expert witnesses appeared for the Society addressing different threats to the business-as-usual model – Dr John Peet on Energy and engineering, Dr Bob Lloyd on the remaining carbon budget, engineer Nathan Surendran on energy and transport, Dr Bill Lee on the state of ecology and biodiversity, Dr Alan Mark on upland ecology and hydrology, Dr Liz Slooten on the state of marine ecosystems, Dr Alexandra McMillan on threats to public health and Chris Perley on land use.
We were limited to 2 hours for the entire submission and some of the experts phoned in, so it was something of a mission. But in closing, one commissioner remarked that the presentation had been “invaluable for them because it had come at the Plan from a completely different direction to other submitters”.
Once the commissioners have completed their deliberations, the RPS will be publically notified. Should any submitter still have concerns with the notified document, they can appeal the Decision to the Environment Court. Given the deep structural nature of the changes we seek and the wide range of submissions Council recieved, we anticipate having to appear before the Environment Court. More details at http://www.orc.govt.nz/Publications-and-Reports/Regional-Policies-and-Plans/Regional-Policy-Statement/Otago-Regional-Policy-Statement-Review/
The evidence given is available to download as PDF’s:
Oral submission to the RPS Final, Dugald McTavish
Upland Ecology and Hydrology, Dr Alan Mark
Energy and Engineering, Dr John Peet
The Remaining Carbon Budget, Dr Bob Lloyd
Energy and Transport, Nathan Surendran
The State of Ecology and Biodiversity, Dr Bill Lee
The State of Marine Ecosystems, Dr Liz Slooten
Threats to Public Health, Dr Alexandra McMillan
Land Use, Chris Perley
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.
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 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)
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.