Notes from the Mayoral Candidates Forum are available here as a PDF: Dunedin-Mayoral-Forum-Notes
Notes from the Mayoral Candidates Forum are available here as a PDF: Dunedin-Mayoral-Forum-Notes
Minutes from the Wise Response Society 2016 Annual General Meeting are available as a PDF here: WiseResponseFinalMinutes2016AGM.
The Society’s AGM will be held on at 3.00pm on Thursday 4th August 2016 at Landcare/GNS Building, 764 Cumberland St., Dunedin. If you have any motions, business or agenda items for it please let me know.
Attached are the annual reports from the Chairman, the Treasurer and the Auditor as well as the Agenda.
Note also that the AGM is timed to coincide with the Royal Society’s “Ten-by-Ten” presentation to explain the findings of their recent Climate Change Reports. That meeting is also being held on the 4th August at the Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, 419 Great King Street starting at 5.30pm. The hope is that it will be more worthwhile for out of towners to make the trip and take in both!
For those of you who wish to skype in the address is <williamgeorge.lee>
Best wishes and hope to see you can make it on Thursday if you are in Dunedin.
Dugald (Secretary Wise Response Inc)
As demand for growth exceeds earth’s physical limits
causing unprecedented risks, what knowledge and changes
do we need to secure New Zealand’s future wellbeing?
The Wise Response Committee has continued to be guided by the Society’s mission statement above in ongoing initiatives at local and national level. Here’s a quick overview of our recent activities:
The Society’s AGM will be held at 3.00pm on Thursday 4th August 2016 at Landcare/GNS Building, 764 Cumberland St., Dunedin. If you have any motions, business or agenda items for it please let me know by 18 July.
The AGM is timed to coincide with the Royal Society’s Ten-by-Ten presentation to explain the findings of their recent Climate Change Reports. That meeting is also being held on the 4th August at the Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, 419 Great King Street starting at 5.30pm. The hope is that it will be more worthwhile for out of towners to make the trip and take in both!
The Decision has been to grant the consent at Studholme, South Canterbury with 90 pages of conditions. Opposition from various submitters clearly resulted in Fonterra offering to halve the scale of the proposed plant. However, this is something of a pyrrhic victory for WR given our contention is that the entire intensive dairying model from cow pat to smoke stack is unsustainable, particularly in light of the global GHG predicament acknowledged at Paris COP21. Even at half size, the net affect of the entire operation at capacity would still be to increase NZ gross GHG by 1.5 – 2.5% when Bob Lloyds evidence was that we need to reduce annual global emissions by 5.5% year on year to stay below 2 degrees C.
Six experts for Wise Response presented evidence in opposition at the Environment Canterbury hearing on Fonterra’s proposed Studholme Dairy Factory expansion in South Canterbury. The case addressed impacts caused by the increased energy use (i.e. increased carbon emissions at a time when New Zealand needs to reduce its emissions), the intensification of dairy farming in the region, which contributes even more GHG equivalent than the burning of coal, and discharges to the freshwater and marine environments from the dairy factory and the dairy farms themselves.
Our six experts are:
All our witnesses did a stellar job. The brief summary of evidence from a couple of them is no reflection on the other submitters! The link to the submissions from all are available here: http://bit.ly/1V0JGgN.
Witness John Peet in his evidence explained that as a globe we are reaching biophysical limits of both source resources and our sink resource capacity. He reminded us that we are part of a global ecosystem with finite limits that are subject to physical laws that we ignore at our peril.
He presented the results of an analysis (supported by other credible scientists) suggesting we have reached the limits to growth of BAU model. He considers that unless we urgently shift our production and consumption behaviours away from high energy dependency and high pollution rates we are at risk of profound impacts on our economic activity and social fabric.
A palpable change in the mood of the hearing occurred when Bob Lloyd spoke, and explained the dire situation regarding climate change and CO2 emissions. He refused to be craven about reference to climate change, and said he would call it “global warming” instead. He talked for about an hour, explaining how little carbon we can burn in the future, and then challenging the commissioners to reject the application.
Dugald MacTavish (secretary) did a great summing up, putting forward a legal case based on the RMA Pt 2 for the necessity for regional councils to “promote” sustainable management of resources. He then presented a strong case for considering the co-dependence of factory and farm suppliers and challenging the Fonterra assertion that “the activity” is simply the factory. His full summing up statement can be read here: http://bit.ly/1RTwJmw
Being a submitter in opposition has provided the opportunity to highlight the unsustainable nature of dairying and following the Paris agreement, the hypocracy of development that relies of coal for its source of energy. Here’s a write up in the ODT: http://bit.ly/25Zk3k7
Following our Nov 2015 expert submissions to the hearings on the ORC Regional Policy Statement, we still await notification of the final document to be in a position to consider appealing it to the Environment Court.
Following an initiative by Wise Response (led by Alan Mark and Peter Barrett) at RSNZ Fellow’s AGM in October 2014, the Royal Society has now completed two climate change reports
The RSNZ Climate Change Roadshow venues are as below; the speakers being Drs James Renwick and Tim Naish of Victoria University. We’d ask that you promote the event near you to your networks. Attendees are asked to register at the RSNZ website:
|Hamilton | 12 noon Tuesday 5 July
Reception Lounge, Hamilton City Council, Garden Place
|Dunedin | 5.30pm Thursday 4 August
Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, 419 Great King Street
|Rotorua | 6pm Tuesday 5 July
Mokoia Room, Millennium Hotel, 1270 Hinemaru St
|Wanaka | 6pm Friday 5 August
Presbyterian Church Hall, 91 Tenby Street
|Napier | 6pm Wednesday 6 July
Century Theatre, MTG, 9 Herschell Street
|Auckland | 6pm Tuesday 6 September
The Auditorium, Level 2 Auckland Museum, The Domain, Parnell
|Palmerston North | 7.30pm Thursday 7 July
Palmerston North Public Library, 4 The Square
|Wellington | 6pm Wednesday 7 September
Aronui Lecture Theatre, Royal Society of New Zealand, 11 Turnbull Street, Thorndon
|Christchurch | 6.30pm Wednesday 3 August
C1 LT, Central Lecture Theatre Block, University of Canterbury, Arts Road
|Nelson | 7.30pm Thursday 8 September
Elim Christian Centre, 625 Main Road, Stoke
Those of us who attended the Wise Response Workshop at Wgtn on January 27th to discuss promoting a “Climate Commission” will no doubt be pleased that Victoria University have decided to start that process.
Adrian Macey (Institute for Governance and Policy Studies) has invited representatives from a number of groups/sectors to help develop TOR for a “Climate Change Forum” (CF). Accompanying the invitation was an initial outline of concept ideas for the Forum.
We consider environmental groups need to be fairly represented, with a good support network and sound guiding recommendations. We are about to invite representatives from the groups who attended the workshop to participate in a conference on the internet (Loomio) with the aim of reaching some agreement on the fundementals for partipating in a CF. This will test the practicality of using this type of technology to improve the coherence and power of the environmental voice in NZ – the other main recommendation from the workshop.
Here are the links to the govt briefing paper and the notes from the sessions taken by the facilitators Adrian Macey and Colin James:
One option is to encourage existing candidates to adopt ideas from the 5 main risk areas as part of their policy platform. But alternatively, how about running as a candidate yourself, as a way to raise awareness of the Wise Response appeal to better address systemic risks through policy? Nominations close nationwide noon 12 August 2016.
A couple of our committee members have indicated that they intend to stand – Nathan Surendran for Environment Southland and Russell Tregonning for Wellington Regional Council (http://rjattrue.blogspot.co.nz).
Some on the WR list have been exchanging ideas on how the five key points of the Wise Response Risk Appeal might look as a set of policy points (with some related issues covered below in brackets), if individual candidates wish to adopt them.
If you are interested in a mutually supportive policy discussion on this issue, we’re happy to facilitate an exchange of ideas using Loomio.
There are other excellent guidelines on the internet of course, an example being here: https://nertnetwork.org/the-concept-paper-on-region-wide-resilience/
We think as a Society we have done pretty well so far on purely voluntary input but now have reached something of a plateau. Progress will be difficult unless we can arrange some regular dedicated input to maintain momentum and see initiatives through.
The Committee have thus agreed to try and raise funds for a permanent employee for perhaps 2 days a week. We estimate that this will require a minimum of $25,000 for each of two years as a pilot. We have a programme of work that such an employee would undertake. So please give some thought to this and if you have any ideas as to possible sources (philathropic or funds) please let us know.
In the meantime we are delighted to advise that we will be hosting 3rd year student Jule Barth as an intern for the last term of 2016. Jule is completing a BA with a major in Geography and a minor in English at Otago University. We have agreed a list of ranked activities with her so you can expect to see Jule’s name linked to future activities from time to time.
This list of links from around the web speak to the risks and solutions being discussed globally in the areas of financial, climate and energy, business, ecological, and wellbeing risk:
In a close parallel to the Wise Response appeal’s recommended approach, UK parliamentarians have convened an ‘All Party Parliamentary Group’.
…the new report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (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.”
A further article by Jonathan Porritt provides further helpful commentary: Rediscovering the limits to growth debate:
Prof Tim Jackson, author of the APPG report ‘Limits Revisited’ has been named the 2016 Hillary Laureate by the Hillary Institute of International Leadership:
Announced today, the 2016 Hillary Laureate, Tim Jackson’s takeaway is “achieving prosperity in a world of environmental and social limits.”
…Prosperity without Growth counterpoints the conventional wisdom of prosperity equating to expansion of GDP with the challenge of decoupling economic activity from environmental impact, outlining a vision for lasting prosperity on a finite planet.
“We have to reconceive investment so that it’s not about the relentless and mindless pursuit of consumption growth. Rather we must invest in the idea of a meaningful prosperity, providing capabilities for people to flourish. Of course it’s nonsense to speak of prosperity if people don’t have food, clothing and shelter – but prosperity goes beyond material concerns – it has social and psychological aims – family, friendship, commitment, society. Ultimately investment in the new economy has to protect the ecological assets on which our future depends.”
“For so long mainstream economists and policymakers have denied the very existence of such a thing as neoliberalism, dismissing it as an insult invented by gap-toothed malcontents who understand neither economics nor capitalism. Now here comes the IMF, describing how a “neoliberal agenda” has spread across the globe in the past 30 years.
…The results, the IMF researchers concede, have been terrible. Neoliberalism hasn’t delivered economic growth – it has only made a few people a lot better off. It causes epic crashes that leave behind human wreckage and cost billions to clean up…”
The Post Carbon Institute has recently published a new book, available free online: www.ourewnewablefuture.org
It’s sobering conclusion:“There is probably no credible future scenario in which humanity will maintain current levels of energy use.”
Transition to 100% renewable energy? Sure.
Maintain current levels of growth and consumption? Not gonna happen.
Wise Response supporter University of Canterbury’s Prof Susan Krumdieck contributed to this book, and is also promoting the ‘Global Association of Transition Engineering’ www.transitionengineering.co.nz as a positive response by the global engineering community to the issues raised in the book.
Jeremy Leggett gave this 38 minute presentation in early June 2016, and it gives a thorough overview of recent developments in the ongoing story of changes in our global energy outlook. The talk is titled ‘The Winning of The Carbon War:
Commonly used models forecast by predicting demand rather than supply, which only works if total supply continues to increase. Commentator with an actuarial background, Gail Tverberg unpacks this key message from energy industry analyst Steve Kopits:
OUR CHILDREN’S TRUST has launched strategically placed and youth driven legal proceedings in federal and state courts and agencies, and in many other countries. Our youth simply ask their governments to establish enduring protection for our atmosphere through enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans…
Check their site and watch the 4 minute movie of the guys in the van and tell us thats not inspiring! http://ourchildrenstrust.org/
This paper, (Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, March 2016), presents evidence that fresh water from melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica is beginning to change the way that heat moves around in the global ocean, setting up feedbacks that will melt the ice faster. This in turn will lead to much more rapid sea level rise than suggested in the recent IPCC report, and much bigger temperature contrasts between warm and cold oceans in the North Atlantic and around West Antarctica — which will drive the mid-latitude superstorms… We recommend you watch Jim’s video.
Last year I was asked to review an international scientific report on the impacts of climate change on World Heritage sites and tourism. I reviewed a case study on the Great Barrier Reef, focussing on the increasing risks to tourism from climate change. Overnight the report was released – but mysteriously, the Great Barrier Reef chapter had been cut completely. I was astonished, given we’ve just witnessed the worst coral bleaching event in the Reef’s history…
Best wishes from the Wise Response Society Inc Committee
Sir Alan Mark, Bob Lloyd, Brian Turner, Pat Scott, Donna Watson, Emma Neale, Janet Stephenson, Jim Simpson, Jocelyn Harris, John Cocks, Lewis Verduyn, Liz Slooten, Mark Jackson, Nathan Surendran, Philip Temple, Rob Lawson and Dugald MacTavish
Patron: Sir Geoffrey Palmer
The 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.”
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.
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.
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)
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
Some 18 different organisations were represented at the workshop and a number of experts provided information for the facilitated discussion sessions. The Workshop endorsed
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)
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
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.
(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.
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.