‘Limits to Growth Revisited’ Report Published

Limits_RevisitedThe report is available here as a PDF (4MB)
“A report commissioned on behalf of a cross-party group of British MPs authored by a former UK government advisor, the first of its kind, says that industrial civilisation is currently on track to experience “an eventual collapse of production and living standards” in the next few decades if business-as-usual continues.

The report published by the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth, which launched in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, reviews the scientific merits of a controversial 1972 model by a team of MIT scientists, which forecasted a possible collapse of civilisation due to resource depletion.

The report launch at the House of Commons was addressed by Anders Wijkman, co-chair of the Club of Rome, which originally commissioned the MIT study.

At the time, the MIT team’s findings had been widely criticised in the media for being alarmist. To this day, it is often believed that the ‘limits to growth’ forecasts were dramatically wrong.

But the new report by the APPG on Limits to Growth, whose members consist of Conservative, Labour, Green and Scottish National Party members of parliament, reviews the scientific literature and finds that the original model remains surprisingly robust.

Authored by Professor Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey, who was Economics Commissioner on the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission, and former Carbon Brief policy analyst Robin Webster, the report concludes that:

“There is unsettling evidence that society is tracking the ‘standard run’ of the original study — which leads ultimately to collapse. Detailed and recent analyses suggest that production peaks for some key resources may only be decades away.”

The 1972 team used their system dynamics model of the consumption of key planetary resources to explore a range of different scenarios.

As Professor Jackson and Webster explain in the new APPG report:

“In the standard run scenario, natural resources (for example oil, iron and chromium) become harder and harder to obtain. The diversion of more and more capital to extracting them leaves less for investment in industry, leading to industrial decline starting in about 2015. Around 2030, the world population peaks and begins to decrease as the death rate is driven upwards by lack of food and health services.”

Not all the model’s scenarios result in this outcome, but the majority of them “show industrial output declining in the 2020s and population declining in the 2030s. The researchers didn’t put precise dates on their projections. In fact, they deliberately left the timeline somewhat vague.”

Open Letter on Climate Change to the Prime Minister

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.

The TPPA and New Zealand’s Future

WR_TPPA_Poster_March_2016_ 2Public meeting at 7.30pm Monday March 14 at 7.30pm in the St David Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

Professor Tim Hazledine, Economics Department, University of Auckland will talk on: “The TPPA and New Zealand’s Future”.


Gold Coin Entry

Sponsored by Wise Response Society Inc.

Wise Response Climate Change Public Lecture, Wellington

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change: How New Zealand can up its game

This Public Lecture was hosted jointly with the Institute of Governance and Public Policy at Victoria University, 27 January 2016.

The meeting was standing room only at 250-300 persons, so clearly interest in what NZ can/should/will do after Paris is high.

Speakers were:

Sir Geoffrey Palmer on: “Climate Change and the law: International and Domestic”, Dr Alison Dewes, Agribusiness Consultant, on “Opportunities in agriculture to reduce GHG emissions”, Mr Rod Oram, economics/political commentator, on ”The transport issue and transfer to renewable energy resources”, and James Young-Drew of GenZero and leader of the Youth Delegate to the Paris COP21 Conference on “Why a New Zealand response to COP21 is urgent”. (Prof. Jonathan Boston, Chair).

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

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

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

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

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


Wise Response Strategy Workshop, Wellington

“How does NZ move forward from Paris COP21”

Also held on the 27th January 2016 this workshop was to test interest in a strategic plan on just how NZ might meet its obligations in limiting global warming to the 1.5 degree limit identified in Paris .WR consider that to achieve this much better mechanisms for addressing long range, structural and systemic sustainability issues and options will be needed. The two main vehicles explored were

  • a coalition of like-minded NGOs and other concerned parties to develop and promote a long range strategic plan and speak as a single voice for concerted action
  • To explore the feasibility of a formal and independent body (e.g. a Climate and/or Futures Forum and/or Commission), whose purpose(s) would be to provide independent advice to Govt on long-range planning needs, including global warming.


Some 18 different organisations were represented at the workshop and a number of experts provided information for the facilitated discussion sessions. The Workshop endorsed

  • the outcome of COP21 aim to stay within 1.5 degrees global warming
  • the necessity for a paradigm shift in thinking in NZ
  • the desirability of a Climate Forum and an independent Commission (publicly or privately funded, to be developed)
  • majority support from 18 organisations in further exploring the feasibility of a more effective coalition to address the risks we face.
  • amendments to RMAct and Emissions Trading Scheme consistent with international obligations
  • interest in an employee to facilitate the process

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)

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)

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.



WR Submission to the Otago Regional Council’s Policy Statement Review

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:

Wise Response Submission to ORC Policy Statement

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

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.