31 December 2012

Christmas in the Ruahine Range

I went tramping from Christmas Day until yesterday the 30th December, in the Ruahine Range.

I started at the North Block road-end, about 35 km inland from Waipukarau in the Hawkes Bay region. Right at the North Block road-end is Triple X Hut.

On the 25th, I left the car at about 12:40 and walked up the well-maintained Sunrise Track. This track zig-zags up a spur through luxuriant red beech forest interspersed with rimu, miro and mistletoe. I got to Sunrise Hut at 3:00pm.

In spite of the misty but warm and humid conditions, I continued up to Armstrong Saddle and headed northwards on the main divide of the Ruahines towards Sparrowhawk Bivvy. Within 30 minutes, the mist had cleared, and I had several fine hours of good visibility to traverse the largely untracked tops to the biv, before arriving at 8:15pm.

Note that the bivvy is nestled just off the tops amongst leatherwood shrubs and stunted Mountain beech trees. The bivvy has two distinct parts; the lower original NZ Forest Service 'dogbox' biv structure and the larger attached vestibule added by DOC. It provides a lot of utility as it has a bench seat and a cooking bench. ANd you can stand up in it.

I am afraid that's it for photos. I took the Sparrowhawk Biv photos on my cell phone. I had no spare batteries for my digital camera.

After waiting out a migraine, and a day's rain, I tramped further along the tops in mist again, before dropping down to Maropea Forks Hut. Of biodiversity interest, was seeing a couple of Powelliphanta snails and shells in the tussock herb-fields above Sparrowhawk Biv.

That night at Maropea Forks Hut I met a lovely couple from Auckland, Brinley and Connie. Later that evening, near the hut, I saw a rifleman.

The next day I tramped up the Maropea River (where I saw one blue duck) to Top Maropea Hut, an excellent-condition NZ Forest Service design 4-bunk hut with a great outlook. The outlook back over the Ruahines was so nice in the afternoon sun, that I sat for too long with no shirt on, drinking a cuppa, and reading a 'New Scientist' magasine, that I got sunburnt shoulders.

Finally, yesterday, I tramped out to Triple XXX carpark via Amstrong Saddle, Sunrise Hut and the Sunrise Track again before driving home.

20 December 2012

New Zealand's double dealing and special pleading over the Kyoto Protocol second period Tim Grocer special

Is Tim Groser a Kyoto pariah? Or a Kyoto visonary? A global emissions reduction emissary or is he tar-sanded with a Canadian brush? I once more try to make sense of New Zealand's double dealing and special pleading over the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period and the Doha hooha. This time with the aid of Tim Groser, who has written an opinion editorial in the Herald.

Tim Groser, New Zealand's most forthright Minister for Climate Changes, has a shocker of an Op Ed in the New Zealand Herald.

When I first read it, I wrote down my responses to what seemed the most misleading claims. The headline shocker is that either Tim Groser is so out of touch with his portfolio that he has no idea what the current price of carbon in New Zealand, or he is so incompetent that he can't tell US dollars from NZ dollars.

But there are shockers for all of us. I present Groser's quotes in italics and in indented blockquote format, followed by my response in plain text and no indents.

TG: "It's time to move past Kyoto agreement"

Canada o Canada. Groser is channelling Canadian Minister of Environment Peter Kent "Kyoto for Canada is in the past."

TG: "The unrelenting emphasis (on Kyoto) has sucked energy out of debate, diverting attention from the real problem."

This is a classic PR spin tactic of diversion. Groser wishes to divert attention towards the USA, China and India and away from New Zealand's double dealing.

TG "The science, as I interpret it, remains pretty clear"

Yes, Tim Groser does not deny the science, it's just that National and Mr Groser have no intention acting domestically in any way consistent with the science. Perhaps that makes him a 'policy denier'

TG "The international community needs to develop a more robust approach involving far more of the major emitting countries. Whatever New Zealand does will be completely irrelevant unless the major emitters participate."

Canada o Canada "We support a new international climate change agreement that includes commitments from all major emitters. That is the only way we are going to achieve real reductions and real results" Canadian Minister of Environment Peter Kent.

TG "some of the confusion has been deliberate"

Ah the old fifth column within, the extreme green economic traitors, those awkward truth telling ecologists like Mike Joy, Ha I can just find some with other opinions.

TG "First, the ETS has not been "gutted" by the changes passed recently in Parliament"

No, because the NZETS was "gutless" from day 1, as it has no cap, and it always allowed unlimited importing of international units. In 2012, National did defer indefinitely agriculture's entry and extend indefinitely the provisions for half-price emissions for emitters (2-for-1 deal).

TG "No New Zealander - no household, no company - has to pay more, or subsidise anyone because of this decision"

Except New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited and Norske-Skog Tasman.

TG "Our top priority is to strengthen the recovery in extremely difficult international economic times."

That really means Groser's top priority always was to have an emissions trading scheme with a more-or-less zero carbon price.

TG "the (NZETS) legislation was, in effect a , a one-way bet taken on the last day of the Labour Government's life in 2008 that the 2009 Copenhagen Summit would deliver a 'single, comprehensive and ratifiable climate change agreement' (the political mantra of the day)."

That statement is a totally revisionist Chairman Mao-like rewrite of history to suit a political agenda. The staggered entry of sectors dates back to Helen Clark's MOU with agriculture signed after the Belch Tax debacle. It also reflects political lobbying by Business NZ and the need to find votes of support from Peter Dunne to get the legislation passed.

TG "We no longer have to pass amending legislation to avoid an automatic ramping up of the scheme, irrespective of either economic conditions or international progress."

By saying this Groser lets us know that for National the delayed entry dates and the apparent all-sectors design were a "Potemkin village". National never had any intention of bringing agriculture into the NZETS.

TG "At current low international carbon prices - they move around but they are clustered around $5 - there is indeed little petrol in the ETS tank. But that is exactly the way it was designed - to be aligned to world prices, whatever world prices are, up to a cap"

To me this is so gobsmacking it's...Hekia Parata. Groser has no idea what the current NZ carbon price is! Groser can't even read the price of a New Zealand unit (NZU) off the Bloomberg website without confusing US dollars and NZ dollars. What an idiot!

Here is the chart Groser can't read

The NZU price is NOT "around $5" Its around $NZ2.50/tonne

So Tim Groser says the NZETS is designed to import the international carbon price and thats a good thing. If it is so good being wedded to international prices, why has he taken us out of the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period?

TG "The domestic political debate has confused the structure of the policy with the international drivers of the carbon price."

Thats just adding insult to financial injury to the Kyoto forestry sector where some have has lost 80% of the value of the post-1989 Kyoto forests. It's a double blow, as the Government is keeping forestry removal units (earned for the same forests) to itself to fudge the Kyoto net position.

TG "watch what happens to the carbon price when the international recession is over and the EU moves to strengthen carbon markets and, hopefully, more countries start adopting carbon policies. You will then hear, no doubt, the exact opposite of the current political debate. Foresters will be happier as the carbon they sequester becomes more valuable (paper profits unless they sell them) and emitters will be less happy as they pay a higher carbon price."

Thanks for lecture on prices, Tim. By the time the Eurozone has dealt with the over-allocation their carbon markets, and if they ever do, it will be way past 2015 or 2016, and New Zealand won't even be in Kyoto's second commitment period and Tim Groser will probably have canned the NZETS by then anyway!

TG "NZ continues to make remarkable progress in increasing the share of our electricity coming from renewable energy - it is 77 per cent and climbing."

Tim Groser is taking credit for past Ministry of Works hydro projects. Does he really think the public are so stupid as to see that argument as in any way relevant to climate change mitigation? Meanwhile the younger generation are calling for the power shift to 100% renewable electricity. How long until Groser calls them 'extreme greens'?

TG "So is this a great time to put new costs on our major exporting industry when we have a huge need to increase our exports?"

I could say how else could a carbon price work if it is not a real cost? How can any NZ carbon price policy be effective if half the economy is out? This is Groser's and National's real policy bottom-line. Exports uber alles! Exports above all else! National truly and obviously have no intention of pricing New Zealand's domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

TG "Our agriculture sector is, by and large, the most carbon efficient agriculture sector in the world."

Thats very Bruce Wills of him. So agriculture will be fine with a no-exceptions emissions trading scheme or carbon tax.

TG "This is the Global Research Alliance on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which we lead."

Great but what pays for it? Thats right, taxpayers. So that's a subsidy, then. Having agriculture in the emissions trading scheme would help pay for it.

TG "A few days ago we joined another international initiative on climate change - the Climate and Clean Air Coalition"

Great! so now we mitigate climate change by friending someone's Facebook page. I think I will let William Nordhaus know he doesn't need to run carbon pricing on the DICE global model anymore as it's all on Facebook.

TG "It is time to move beyond Kyoto and find a solution that can have a real environmental impact."

Canada o Canada. "Kyoto for Canada is in the past..","Copenhagen and Cancun agreements, which were negotiated in 2009 and 2010 as the world stared down the end of Kyoto, are the future." Peter Kent, Canadian Minister of Environment.

TG "We are on track to meet or exceed our Kyoto commitment to 2012."

Only because of the "Kyoto escalator" of the gross 1990 baseline for the net target forest fudge.

From 1990 to 2010, New Zealand's gross emissions grew by 20%, from 60 million tonnes (mt) to 72mt. Net emissions grew by 59% (from 32mt to to 52mt (data New Zealand's Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2010) So both gross and net greenhouse gas time series show a relentless upward trend.

So for my conclusion, I might just recycle some from a previous post. But with one difference.
  1. When we hear Tim Groser talking of focusing on a global climate solution that involves 86% of the emitters that can have a real environmental impact, we now know he is just recycling speech notes from Canadian Minister Peter Kent and diverting attention from New Zealand's policy shambles.
  2. Tim Groser and National have absolutely no intention doing anything domestically to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
  3. Tim Groser and National also have absolutely no intention of imposing any real carbon price on New Zealand's industrial and agricultural emitters.

19 December 2012

New Zealand's double dealing and special pleading over the Kyoto Protocol second period and the Doha hooha Part 1

Is Tim Groser a Kyoto pariah? Or a Kyoto visonary? A global emissions reduction emissary or is he tar-sanded with a Canadian brush? I try to make sense of New Zealand's double dealing and special pleading over the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period and the Doha climate change talks hooha.

I am very confused about New Zealand's climate change policy since the Doha international climate change talks (COP18) and New Zealand opting out of a second period of the Kyoto Protocol back on 9 November 2012.

The Kyoto part two opt-out is described as a lose-lose decision that shuts New Zealand out of the Kyoto international carbon markets and is a shambles and a disgrace.

So I have a question for all Hot-topic readers.

If Minister of Climate Change Tim Groser is serious about New Zealand's 2020 greenhouse gas target, why would he forego formally lodging the 2020 target into the existing Kyoto Protocol framework (where the national institutions and arrangements are already up and running), in favour of pledging to meet the target on a voluntary basis?

Let me break that question down into several parts.

  1. Imagine you are the Minister for Climate Change in the government of a small developed nation.
  2. This nation has signed an international treaty with a few other nations which states a short-term national target for emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
  3. This nation enacts the treaty by creating some new institutions; a national register for emissions units, national inventories of GHG emissions, national surveys of afforestation, and public servants to report the predicted progress towards the national target.
  4. The nation has adopted several policies relying on the treaty institutions; an emissions trading scheme, forest sink schemes, research alliances, and international trading of emissions units.
  5. The nation has a second publicly stated medium-term target for GHGs for the years following the expiry of the first target.

If you are serious about that second GHG target, why would you pledge the target on a voluntary basis, when you could have formally lodged your target into the existing treaty (where the national institutions and arrangements already exist)?

Any answers? Anyone? Would you like to phone a friend?

Okay, here's a hint. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has said that we are on track to exceed the 1990 GHGs baseline by 30% rather than meet the 2020 target of reducing GHGs by 10 to 20% compared to 1990.

Figure 3.2 from page 18 of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, “Lignite and climate change: The high cost of low grade coal”, December 2010. Data from MfE 2009. Fifth national communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.

Now just because New Zealand's net emissions are likely to consistently increase through to 2020 doesn't automatically mean New Zealand would not meet the 2020 target if translated into a Kyoto second commitment period target. We could just buy extra emissions units from the international Kyoto carbon markets.

That is, if there was a sensibly designed emissions trading scheme. Such a scheme would be 100% "emitter pays", with emitters making their own market-based decisions to either reduce emissions or to buy the emissions units. Well we certainly don't have that.

So my conclusion is that it is not just that Tim Groser has absolutely no intention doing anything domestically to achieve the 2020 target of a 10 to 20% reduction in GHGs. Groser and National also have absolutely no intention of imposing any real carbon price on New Zealand's industrial and agricultural emitters.

More climate change and energy policy shambles - Gerry Brownlee's anti-carbon tax

Gerry Brownlee, formerly a minister of energy and fossil fuel, and currently the Minister for Transport and for bulldozing democracy, heritage and social order in Christchurch, today announced that petrol duty will be increasing by 3 cents a litre annually for the next 3 years.

Specifically mentioned are the Rangiriri and Tamahere-Cambridge sections of the Waikato Expressway, the Mackays to Peka Peka section of the Wellington Northern Corridor and the four-laning of the Groynes to Sawyers Arms (Johns Road) section of the Western Corridor in Christchurch.

The reason given for this policy is that the funding is needed for the Roads of National Significance programme and some upper North Island transport projects. I guess that means more spaghetti motorway in Auckland.

This is crazy policy.

The first level of craziness of the petrol duty hike is that it will affect the benefit-cost analysis (BCA) of each Roads of National Significance (RONS) project. Projects like Transmission Gully Expressway, have already been justified to hearings before the Environment Protection Authority on very marginal benefit/cost ratios. Julie-Anne Genter of the Greens said the benefit/cost ratio of Transmission Gully was 0.6. The RONS don't even break even in BCA terms. Now with the added petrol duty, the marginal benefit/cost ratio would be even worse. However, I bet that won't make Gerry Brownlee or Steven Joyce any less obsessed with them.

The second level of craziness with the petrol duty increase is the Government's complete failure to understand carbon pricing (which is what a petrol duty is) and to anchor their transport, energy and infrastructure policy with effective carbon pricing.

I have no problem with the price of petrol or diesel increasing. Road transport has many externalities that are not priced. It is "elephant in the room" obvious that the most important unpriced externality of liquid fossil fuels is global warming. And not a lack of four-lane expressways.

"But we have an emissions trading scheme!" I hear some one say. "Surely, road transport fuels are included in the NZETS?"

Yes we sort of have an emissions trading scheme which includes liquid fossil fuels which sort of prices carbon. But NZ carbon prices have crashed 72% in 2012.

According to estimates by the Energy and Data part of Steven Joyce's mega-ministry MoBIE, in the three months ended on 30 September 2012, the NZ emissions trading scheme probably accounted for 0.93 cents out of the regular petrol price of $2.09 per litre.

So we may describe New Zealand's petrol pricing policy as having two mutually conflicting parts. The price includes a component for revenue gathering for unneeded four-lane RONS expressways (3 cents/litre). The price also includes a component for the NZETS carbon price (0.93 cents/litre).

And the four-lane expressways part exceeds the carbon-pricing ETS part by a factor of 3.

This is the complete opposite of effective carbon pricing. Brownlees's petrol duty, to coin an expression, is an anti-carbon tax. What a shambles!

18 December 2012

Keeping it real. Carbon offsets from a permanent forest sink

In this post, I guest-post as myself! This post describes a carbon forest sink project that I am involved in and our debate about whether we should provide carbon offsets to anyone as part of the project. I originally wrote this for the Greens Frogblog

I am one of the trustees of a small 47-hectare carbon forest sink and native re-vegetation project and mountain bike park; "Project Rameka" in the east Takaka hills in Golden Bay.

It's really a response to climate change made by two of my old friends, Bronwen Wall and Jonathan Kennett, who bought the land in 2008. Bronwen and Jonathan decided to apply their experience organising native planting projects in Wellington to climate change after reading the 2007 fourth report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It's been embraced enthusiastically by the Golden Bay community who do the planting, pest control and track work through Project Rameka Inc.

The land is owned by a trust and I am one of the trustees. I did the early accounting for the trust and prepared the application to get the land into the Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative (PFSI).

In return for a 50-year covenant restricting the land use to forest, we receive about 800 carbon credits (assigned amount units) per year for Project Rameka. These units started life as part of New Zealand's 1990 baseline amount of carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol.

How many credits we get is based on the amount of carbon withdrawn from the atmosphere by the trees. Thanks to the Golden Bay weather, plants grow really quickly. So we really are storing carbon. We have seen 3cm annual growth rings in the few pines we have removed.

For a couple of years we didn't do anything with the units. They sat in our account at the NZ Emissions Unit Register (the 'bank' for carbon credits). We initially thought the units could be a revenue stream to fund more traps or native seedlings. However the many donations to the project have always kept ahead of the costs.

We also thought that if we owned these units then we would be keeping them out of the hands of emitters so possibly we might even be reducing New Zealand's emissions as well as sequestering carbon.

As we began to understand the New Zealand emissions trading scheme (NZETS), we realised that the good done by the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative couldn't make up for the design flaws in the NZETS, as they are joined at the hip. Both schemes create and use carbon credits that are bought, sold and have prices. We could say that the PFSI and the NZETS are both limbs connected by the blood flow of carbon credits to the body, the international carbon trading market.

So when we were approached by Green Party MP Kevin Hague, to offset his greenhouse gas emissions, we didn't say yes straight away. We had a bit of a discussion about it. Trying of course to avoid MEGO; "My Eyes Glaze Over", as we would rather be talking about this winter's planting plan than carbon trading. After much discussion we had two options.

One option was to say no we don't want a bar of carbon offsetting.

We were aware that the Tyndall Centre's Kevin Anderson has said that "offsets are worse than doing nothing".

Selling our units as "offsets" could imply that we accept that international Kyoto-style emissions trading and offsetting and schemes like the NZETS are sufficient responses to climate change. That clearly isn't the case. We would agree with James Hansen that the UNFCCC and Kyoto processes have not and will not achieve the magnitude of emissions reductions the science tells us is necessary.

We think the NZETS is a joke as it has no cap on the number of units given free to emitters and it allows unlimited use of cheap units from the much larger international carbon market.

The other option was acknowledge the problems with the NZETS, and come up with our own version of offsetting in negotiation with Kevin Hague. And that's what we did.

Why did we do this? Well, we know that Kevin's flying is not for a weekend of shopping in Melbourne, but part of the essential price of putting the Green message to the public. We support the Greens as the only party with good policy on climate change. The fact that the Green MPs offset their flying emissions does have real political value.

This struck home to me back in June this year when I went to a talk about the 'Rio+20' conference. Kennedy Graham described the conference's failure to address climate change as a double crisis, an environmental crisis and a crisis of international governance.

Neophyte Minister of the Environment Amy Adams defended business-as-usual and patronised Kennedy, saying he was too idealistic. Some one asked Adams if she offset her flying and what she did personally to reduce her emissions. She completely fluffed her answer. Moral victory to Kennedy who we know had offset his air travel to Rio.

What does this offsetting look like?

We cancel, not sell, our assigned amount units, in return for payment from Kevin. A sale means the unit can be resold many times before being used by an emitter in the NZETS to allow emissions. 'Cancelling' means the unit legally ceases to exist. It can never be used by an emitter. We could insist on a higher price per tonne of GHGs than the current NZ market price which has recently been less than the price of a cup of coffee. With Kevin we settled on $25 per tonne, which was the price discussed when the NZETS was being amended in 2009.

We also let our Golden Bay network know we are getting money for offsetting from Kevin Hague. The Project Rameka team had no problem and immediately came up with new trapping and planting projects for the money. As ever they exceeded expectations. They went out and bought the traps and installed them before any money had changed hands!

So far we have not agreed to provide any offsetting service to anyone but Kevin Hague. We have been asked a few times to offset discretionary personal overseas travel and we have said no. Flying that doesn't seem that essential doesn't tick all the boxes the same as our arrangement with Kevin Hague.

Since we started our offsetting arrangement with Kevin, the price of carbon has continued to decline and the NZETS has been made even more ineffective. The Government has permanently excluded agriculture from the NZETS and has extended the two-tonne-for-one-unit discount for emitters. Tim Groser remains welded to the idea of "lowest international cost".

As far as commercial carbon foresters are concerned, the NZETS has gone pear-shaped because of the price collapse.

Carbon foresters have seen the value of their forests decline by 90%. Pine seedling planting in nurseries has declined by millions and forest clearance for dairy conversions in the North Island looks like starting all over again.

Brian Fallow the Herald economics editor describes the NZETS and National's climate change policies as a shambles and a disgrace.

It appears the only people trading forest carbon in New Zealand that are happy at the moment are the Rameka Trustees and Kevin Hague.

We are happy as we are supporting the Greens, getting a realistic carbon price for our units and recycling the proceeds into more carbon-sequestering re-vegetation.

Kevin has said to us that he appreciates being able to go for a bike ride at Rameka where his flying is offset, and he also appreciates that we let him know what his money was spent on. He said to us "It felt real".

If only we could get the rest of New Zealand's climate change and emissions trading policies just as real in terms of being the right incentive at the right price to really reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

14 December 2012

Instant kiwi classic backyard Devil You Know butchering

Holy heck, Russell Brown just found this video on You-tube of some dudes in a backyard in Auckland "butchering" Dave Dobbyn's 'Devil you know'.

What did they do for an encore? Burn a couch?

09 December 2012

27 November 2012

Tim Groser shuts the stable door after the Mickey Mouse carbon credits have bolted

This week the Ministry for the Environment is consulting and seeking submissions on a proposal to ban some of the more 'Mickey Mouse' international carbon credits from the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme. Apparently this is because Climate Change Minister Tim Groser "wants to maintain the integrity of the ETS" (New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme).

Thats really too much brazen and intentional cognitive dissonance from Groser, especially since he said that only five days after he indefinitely excluded agriculture from the ETS and only four days after he announced New Zealand would not sign up for a second Kyoto Protocol round of binding greenhouse gas cuts.

I apologise if you had an extreme reaction to the close conjunction of the terms "Tim Groser", "emissions trading scheme" and "integrity". So...sorry if you just expurgated your coffee/beer/tea over your laptop or punched out your PC monitor.

Okay, assuming you have cleaned up, I better give you the context for Groser's irony in claiming to be concerned about the integrity of an emissions trading scheme where emission units trade for less than $3 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent gas.

Here is the quote from Groser about the consultation.

"The Government has considered whether Emission Reduction Units (ERUs) from HFC-23 and N2O destruction projects, and Certified Emission Reduction Units (CERs) and ERUs from large-scale hydroelectricity projects should be ineligible in the ETS. There are legitimate questions about these types of international units and the Government wants to maintain the integrity of the ETS".

Whoop Dee Doo

This consultation is asking the wrong question. It is ignoring the "elephant in the room" for the NZETS, the rock-bottom price of the international emissions units. Fiddling and faffing about over the specific attributes of some subset of the allowable international units, when all the international units are under-priced and over-supplied, is just shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

We have already been through one futile cycle of banning a few dodgy international units with Groser's predecessor Nick Smith. And that didn't make the slightest bit of difference to the NZ price.

Just before Christmas 2011, Nick Smith authorised the Ministry for the Environment to ban certified emissions reduction units (CERs) from the UN Clean Development Mechanism projects destroying HFC-23 and N2O from the NZETS. There is no doubt that the gas-destruction CER units did not represent real removal of greenhouse gases and that the awarding of CERs was incentivising the deliberate extra production of HFC-23 and N2O.

According to Wikipedia at September 2012 about 418 million CERs had been issued for HFC-23 destruction and about 214 million CERs had been issued for N2O destruction. So in theory that took 632 million CER units out of the picture for the NZ market.

However, as of today there are 1,061,399,151 issued CERs. So with 60% of the CERS banned from the NZETS, there were still 429 million (1061m - 632m) that could still be imported to NZ.

In terms of influencing the carbon price in world's worst ETS and in the world's smallest and most open carbon market (where 2011 demand from emitters was 16 million units), it makes no difference whether quantity of available CERS is 429 million units, 1 billion units or 10 billion units. The international price will still set the domestic NZ price.

Another day, another potentially eyes-glazing-over carbon credit three letter acronym; the E.R.U. These Emissions Reduction Units, are units from UN Joint Implementation projects located in Kyoto Protocol Annex 1 countries. It's similar to the less-developed countries Clean Development Mechanism, except that Joint Implementation projects tend to be in the Former Soviet Union countries.

As of today about 250 million units have been issued. About 80 million ERUs (or 32 percent) are for HFC-23 and N2O destruction. So if these gas ERUs were banned from the NZETS, there would still be 172 million under-priced ERUs able to satiate New Zealand's demand for international units.

The number of CERs issued to large hydroelectricity projects CERS at 1 November was 108 million, or 10% of the 1.061 billion CERs total. Again, this proposed ban would make no real difference to the international over-supply or to the NZ price.

Submissions can be made until 5.00pm this Friday 30 November 2012 and can be can be emailed to climatechange@mfe.govt.nz or posted to Ministry for the Environment, PO Box 10362, Wellington 6143.

I have not drafted my submission but it will roughly say: the proposal is slamming the stable door after the horse has bolted, and that it ignores the 'elephant in the room' - the flawed design of the NZETS which imports the collapsed international carbon price into the New Zealand carbon price. And conclude that NZ should move to a all-sectors no-exceptions no-offsets carbon tax ASAP.

The outcome of the consultation will of course be to adopt the partial ban.

17 November 2012

New York Times on the 100% Pure NZ Myth

If you read nothing else online today, read this feature in the New York Times.

New Zealand’s Green Tourism Push Clashes With Realities

Mike Joy and Eugenie Sage are quoted on water quality problems


According to new research, New Zealand is, per capita, 18th worst out of 189 nations when it came to preserving its natural surroundings.

"Dr. Joy said that for a country purporting to be so pure, New Zealand seemed to be failing by many international environmental benchmarks."
Last month, the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment released a survey showing that more than half of the country’s freshwater recreational sites were unsafe to swim in. Fecal contamination of waterways, caused largely by dairy farming — the source of 13.9 billion New Zealand dollars, or $10 billion, in annual exports, nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s total — was widespread.

16 November 2012

How a public relations practitioner sees the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme

How would a Public Relations professional explain the Government's last amendments to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme?

Mark Blackham of BlacklandPR enlightens us.

ETS tweaks for easier business

The Government has kept up a steady spate of changes to ease the costs of doing business in New Zealand. This week it made the previously announced changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The law change delays the introduction of some industries into the regime and gives agriculture an indefinite reprieve from entry.

These changes were its response to the ETS Review last year. The changes are a reminder that long-term persistent lobbying of Government pays dividends.

Let me just highlight that last bit.

The changes are a reminder that long-term persistent lobbying of Government pays dividends.

Says it all, doesn't it?

09 November 2012

Will the last business lobbyist to leave please turn out the light at the end of the tunnel to an effective NZ emissions trading scheme?

Bruce Crandall's UH-1D In this post Mr February channels his inner General Westmoreland and his Vietnam flashbacks to look at National's latest change to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZETS). Parliament has just (8 November) passed amendments that indefinitely defer any greenhouse gas obligations for agriculture and indefinitely discount obligations to industries.This is a 'last helicopters off the Saigon hotel roof' point in the sad history of the always-doomed-to-fail New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.

According to cultural folklore the humiliating end of American engagement in the Vietnam war was foreshadowed by graffiti;

Will the last person out of the tunnel please turn out the light?

Or, alternatively

Would the last Marine to leave Vietnam please turn out the light at the end of the tunnel?

This was in frank contrast to the early (with hindsight, unjustified) optimism of General Westmoreland, who had said in 1968 that he could see the light at the end of the tunnel of the war in Vietnam.

So why am I writing about graffiti from a war that ended 37 years ago? Well, to make a 'bonkers' analogy with the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, of course! Getting the NZETS established was of course more or less a civil war, and when the Labour Government in its final days in office in late 2008 finally coalesced a coalition of compromise to pass the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading) Amendment Act 2008, it seemed there was 'light at the end of the tunnel' in terms of reducing GHG emissions.

However, with the adoption last night (8 November) of National's latest emitter-inspired fiddle; the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Act, I believe we can now just be honest with ourselves and see the latest amendments to the NZETS as the last helicopter off the hotel roof and the last act of the NZ emissions trading approach, which was futile from the beginning.

I have posted before about the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, noting that the amendments will;

  1. indefinitely exclude emissions from pastoral agriculture from the NZETS, instead of including them from 2015, which was already a delay from 2013.
  2. extend indefinitely the discount to industries, the 'surrender one unit for two tonnes' of emissions (half price!) that was to end this year (“maintain the 1-for-2 surrender obligation after 2012, without specifying an end date in legislation”)
  3. extend indefinitely the price cap, (“maintain the $25-a-unit fixed price option after 2012, without specifying an end date in legislation”)

And I have previously posted that the worst aspect of the NZETS is not the corporate welfare in the form of excessive free allocation to industries.

For me the worst aspect of the NZETS is it's absolute exposure to the international carbon markets which has the effect of knee-capping the NZ carbon price down to the rock-bottom international carbon price. Today (9 November), the highest offer for a NZU for a tonne of CO2-e is $2.55 (See today's price chart from OMF Ltd).

NZU price per tonne 9 November 2012

So I concluded I agree with Jeanette Fitzsimons that the NZETS is so bad at reducing GHG emissions, it no longer matters what amendments are made to it.

That is why I think that the light at the end of the NZETS tunnel was always going to be eventually turned out. The final bit of the Vietnam analogy is who was going to turn out the light. I give that role to the professional big emitter's lobby groups, led by Business New Zealand and its astro-turf subsidiary the Greenhouse Policy Coalition.

Nicky Hager in his Bruce Jesson lecture, describes how lobbyists such as Business NZ and the Greenhouse Gas Coalition have manipulated the under-resourced media to give prominence to ideas pushed by their clients;

"...the public spaces are cluttered with paid spokespeople and commercial agendas" whose technique is to establish "usefully biased ideas" by creating “some common lines that become the ‘mantra’” and then, 'keep repeating it endlessly' " so that "the angle, timing and quotes (in the media), do not come from journalists’ observations or journalists’ questions, but from the calculated efforts of PR and marketing people", and, as a consequence, the political debate is dominated by "endless hectoring from the business lobby groups"

The media 'mantra' pushed by the lobbyists is that if the NZETS establishes an effective carbon price on emitters, then jobs and exports and GDP will be lost (See GPCNZ 2008 and Business NZ 2012). Over the years of the debate over the NZETS, we have been endlessly hectored by business lobbyists that business trade competitiveness will be affected by the NZETS. Ministers Nick Smith and Tim Groser have long ago joined in and 'costs on businesses' is now routinely given as the reason for the lack of any real bite in the NZETS.

The endless hectoring that the "NZETS will affect exports and jobs" has been so successful that the big emitters wound up the the Greenhouse Policy Coalition back in March 2012. I guess they had a helicopter to catch, after they turned out that light in the tunnel.

07 November 2012

Why no prosecution of the Pike River Coal Ltd Directors?

I was not going to comment on the Report of the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Disaster but I here I go.

Duncan Garner of TV3 describes the Pike River Coal disaster as corporate, Government and departmental manslaughter

John Armstrong of the Herald says the Royal Comission gave the Department of Labour (the former department responsible for employment health and safety a right royal bollocking.

Fairfax says the report is a damning indictment and that cost cutting trumped health and safety.

The Royal Commission concludes that the board of directors completely failed in their governance role over the Pike River Coal Mine Limited. The Commission rejected Board Chair John Dow's testimony that "no safety concerns were reported to me". I can't argue with that.

So why didn't the Department of Labour 'lay an information' (thats the term in most NZ legislation for 'indict') for a prosecution against the Directors when they filed the informations against Peter Whittal, Pike River Coal Limited (in receivership) and the subcontracting drilling company?

The Health Safety and Employment Act 1992 defines the unsafe workplace offences in Section 49 and Section 50.

The HS & E Act offences are criminal offences as a prison sentence is one of the possible consequences of conviction under Section 49(3)(a).

The two sections state explicitly that 'any person' can be prosecuted. 'Any person' includes directors of companies. Like the Resource Management Act, the offences are 'strict liability'; intention does not have to be proven. Lack of reasonable action to prevent reasonably foreseeable accidents makes the directors worth prosecuting.

However, it's too late now to prosecute the directors. There is a statutory time limit for laying informations/prosecuting in Section 54B and it's six months from the date of the event. That is now a long time ago.

So John "See no evil hear no evil" Dow and his fellow directors are off the hook from any criminal prosecution under the Health Safety and Employment Act.

So that is another major failure of the Department of Labour that has not been reported on in the media flurry so far.

06 November 2012

New James Hansen talk from 10 October

Here is a new talk by James Hansen on climate change and tipping points. It has been uploaded by Cornell University.

Dr. James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute addresses 75 international union leaders about the urgency of the climate crisis. The presentation was given in NYC on 10/10/12, and was part of the Energy Emergency, Energy Transition round table convened by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute (GLI), a program of the Worker Institute at Cornell, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

02 November 2012

And when I awoke I was alone the exporter had flown Norwegian Wood isn't it good

The Mighty River Power 100MW geothermal power plant at Tasman Mill, Kawerua, NZ Norwegian Wood and newsprint transnational Norske Skog Tasman (NZ) Ltd 'exports itself'. Mr February looks at the flight of another manufacturer and CO2 emitter and exporter as it lays off staff and reduces production. Wasn't the very generous free allocation of units in the NZETS meant to keep exporters like Norske Skog Tasman in New Zealand? Or have we just removed the price signal from exporters for no valid reason and stuffed the NZETS?

The other week Gareth tweeted about a good article in the Herald by Chris Barton.

Chris Barton reported that the Norwegian-owned newsprint-maker and transnational Norske Skog Tasman NZ had joined the ranks of export businesses like Rio Tinto Alcan NZ/NZ Aluminium Smelters who are exporting jobs off shore.

Norske Skog is shutting down one of two newsprint machines at the Tasman Mill, in Kawerau, due to lowered demand for newsprint.

At the same time Norske Skog is building a new $A84 million plant in Tasmania with some substantial help from the Australian Federal government (A$28 million grant) and State government (A$13 million loan).

Chris Barton noted some strong questions asked of the Government such as "what is being done for jobs"? And strong criticisms of the Government's naive "market will take care of everything" approach.

Chris Barton mentioned the NZ emissions trading scheme (NZETS) only briefly in passing, as he noted the rock-bottom NZ carbon price and the poor despairing carbon foresters.

So that prompted me to look at how Norske Skog Tasman NZ fits into the NZETS. What are the greenhouse gas emissions of the Norske Skog Tasman pulp mill? Is Norske Skog Tasman regulated by the NZETS? Have they ended up with a large free allocation of emission units (like NZ Aluminium Smelters Ltd) ostensibly to protect their international competitiveness and to keep the jobs in NZ?

Norske Skog Tasman uses geothermal steam from the Kawerau geothermal field for heating and electricity generation in its newsprint mill. Geothermal steam naturally contains carbon dioxide and methane which are released when the heat energy is transformed.

The use of geothermal steam for energy is covered by the NZETS as an energy sector emission. So Norske Skog Tasman must report its greenhouse gas emissions and obtain and surrender emissions units.

There is a specific emissions factor in the Climate Change (Stationary Energy and Industrial Processes) Regulations 2009 for Kauwerau's geothermal steam. The factor is 0.0275 tonnes CO2-2 per tonne of geothermal steam used.

Norske Skog Tasman's production of newsprint is included as an emissions-intensive trade-exposed activity eligible for a free allocation of 0.4911 emission units per tonne of uncoated newsprint, at the highest level of assistance; 90%.

So far, so much like NZ Aluminum Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ.

Let's start with a 'back of envelope' calculation of the units Norske Skog Tasman should surrender (the NZETS gross carbon price).

According to the Kawerau Geothermal Field Background Study, Mighty River Power supplies 285 tonnes of geothermal steam per hour to Norske Skog Tasman, who on-sell 26 tonnes to Carter Holt Harvey Wood Products. So net use is 259 tonnes per hour.

Assuming 24/7 production, the annual use is 259 * 24 * 365 = 2,268,840 tonnes of steam per annum. And 2,268,840 * 0.0275 = 62,393.1 tonnes CO2-e. So in a typical year, Norske Skog Tasman should be surrendering very roughly about 62,000 emission units under the NZETS.

How many free emission units were allocated to Norske Skog Tasman? In both 2010 and 2011, Norske Skog Tasman received the fifth largest free allocation of units (after the Smelter, NZ Steel, Methanex and Fletcher Concrete). In 2010, Norske Skog Tasman received 122,826 New Zealand Units (NZUs) for the six-month 2010 NZETS compliance period. In 2011 Norske Skog Tasman received 237,752 NZUs.

Assuming 24/7 production in 2011, Norske Skog Tasman was allocated 381% more units than it needed to surrender (237752/62393.1 * 100 = 381.0550). Thats a way more excessive free allocation than NZ Aluminium Smelters!

However, I might not have the right numbers. My calculation may be wrong. Why don't I ask the Environmental Protection Authority under the Official Information Act for the exact number of units surrendered by Norske Skog Tasman. Watch this space.

Alternatively lets look at Norske Skog Tasman's annual financial statements (PDF) for the 2011 calendar year.

Note 24 helpfully records that Norske Skog Tasman received 119,646 units in 2010 and 241,825 units in 2011. They surrendered only 10,754 units and sold 160,000 units, and had 190,717 units left at 31 December 2011.

The accounts show that in 2011 Norske Skog Tasman was allocated 22 times more units than it needed (241,825/10,754 = 22.49). The units allocated to protect jobs and export competitiveness, were not 90% of units surrendered. They were not 100% of units surrendered. The units allocated exceeded the units surrendered by a factor of 22!.

I can still here an echo of voice saying "You have left out the electricity allocation factor! You are wrong wrong wrong!" Well, yes, the industrial free allocation factor of 0.49 units per tonne of newsprint allegedly includes compensation for NZETS-related electricity price increases our manufacturing emitter is subject to. This rationale and the factor of 0.49 units per tonne were approved in this Cabinet paper. However, the cabinet paper provides no explanation of how the factor of 0.49 units per tonne of newsprint was calculated.

The electricity allocation factor has also been the subject of a consulation process and there is an emitters contact group for it as well.

However I think the idea that manufacturing emitters need compensation for NZETS-related electricity price increases is a smoke-screen. Norske Skog Tasman has not had its electricity price increased by the NZETS.

According to the Kawerau Geothermal Field Background Study (PDF), Norske Skog Tasman and Mighty River Power (MRP) have "..a power purchase agreement whereby NST (Norske Skog Tasman) contracted to take a majority of MRPs generation. Due to the fact that MRPs plant is grid tied, this is effectively a financial agreement offering NST price certainty and MRP a customer contracted to take the majority of supply."

The Tasman Mill is not just a plant connected to the grid. It was built to use geothermal power, just as Tiwai Point Smelter was built to use Lake Manapouri's hydro power. The Tasman Mill is joined at the hip to the Kawerau geothermal field. The newest Mighty River Kawerau geothermal generation plant was built on the Tasman Mill site. Norske Skog is buying geothermal steam from Mighty River Power and paying MRP as if it was electricity via a financial derivative contract.

To conclude the free allocation part of the analysis; in the example of Norske Skog Tasman, the NZETS free unit allocations are not just a discount of the full NZETS carbon price, the allocations are a transfer of substantial corporate welfare. The units allocated exceed the units they have to surrender by an estimated factor of 22.

And in terms of protecting the international competitiveness of Norske Skog Tasman and keeping jobs in New Zealand, the free allocations have not made the slightest difference. Thats in spite of National Party scaremongering back in 2008 that the NZETS would cause the mill to close. And Catherine Beard of Business New Zealand (formerly boss of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition) still scaremongering in October 2012 that any real cap in the NZETS will cause more job losses Talk about slamming the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Lets look at the real factors affecting whether a commodity manufacturer stays in New Zealand.

If you are a transnational like Norske Skog, you always have the choice of playing off more than one jurisdiction. The country with the smaller economy, like New Zealand, can't match the money of a larger economy like Australia. If Norske Skog had not purchased the Tasman Mill from Fletcher Challenge in 2000, this 'regulatory arbitrage' would not be possible.

Corporate aquisitions that seemed a good idea before the Global Financial Crisis, look much more risky after the Global Financial Crisis. Norske Skog paid $NZ5 billion for Fletcher Challenge's paper and pulp assets. In 2011, Norske Skog was faced with falling international demand and prices and it was considering selling some assets to avoid default on its debt.

Incidentally, Rio Tinto Alcan shares most of these international commodity trader issues; the over-priced debt-funded purchase of Alcan and Comalco by Rio Tinto before the GFC, the Rio Tinto's plan to sell Pacific Aluminium (including NZ Aluminium Smelters Ltd), the low demand for aluminium from the stagnant economies of the Eurozone and the USA and the price and supply competition from Chinese smelters in the huge and growing Chinese market.

Imagine a fictional conversation between John Key and the CEO of Norske Skog.

"So, Yon, you don't mind if I call you Yon? For the Tasman Mill, you kiwis are all online, the demand for newsprint is down. You give me quarter of million of these NZ units that are worth $NZ3 each. No other ETS accepts them. Thats pretty low quality carbon credit, Yon. Now, Yulia Gillard, she gives us $A28 million for new plant at the Boyer mill in Tasmania. Can you match that, Yon? Can you?"

That is the bottom-line, isn't it? New Zealand could never have matched $A28 million, either as a direct grant, or through manipulation of the NZETS free allocation provisions.

To me, the Norske Skog Tasman job losses are a good demonstration of how futile it was to have an NZETS designed mainly to completely avoid any carbon price on transnational exporters. The carbon price has not just been reduced or discounted to Norske Skog, the sign has been reversed so that its an off-balance sheet transfer of corporate welfare to them in the form of emission units. Such transfers are no doubt sought by local managers who are rent-seeking, but they will be irrelevant to the international commodity trade movements that will ultimately determine whether these transnationals stay or go.

26 October 2012

How to write a submission on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012

Or part two of A mining stealth bomber attack on six tenths of the conservation estate

Here is my submission.

You could also check out Forest and Bird or the Green Party for their suggestions on submissions.

Submission on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012

I oppose this bill in it's entirety.

I especially oppose:

1) changing the purpose of the CMA is to "promote prospecting for, exploration for, and mining of Crown owned minerals for the benefit of New Zealand"

I consider the present wording of the CMA to be suitable and consistent with providing an impartial and economically efficient regulatory framework for minerals. If a purpose is to be adopted, it should be 'promoting sustainable management of resources', consistent with the RMA and EEZ legislation.

2) changing the Minister's function to include "(a) to attract permit applications".

This function looks like it has been copied from an insurance salespersons job description. Attracting applications is not the role of the Minister as an impartial statutory decision-maker. It is to impartially and fairly apply the law to applications. The new role suggests that the Minister will be partial rather than impartial towards applications that he/she has "attracted". It is also economically inefficient for the Minister to be "picking winners" which is what an attracting applications role suggests. The economically most efficient approach is complete impartiality of the Minister and the Ministry towards all applications.

3) Clause 31(6) which would add an economic benefits test when Crown land access is decided by the relevant Minister to section 61(2) of the CMA.

I am very opposed to this amendment. The consequence will be to undermine the legal conservation status of the 60% of the conservation estate which is not listed in Schedule 4 of the CMA. If passed, the conservation status will be effectively voided as soon as the two Ministers will decide on the grounds of the economics benefits that mining may proceed.

4) Clause 32 which would make conservation access decisions joint decisions of the Minister of Energy and Conservation.

I am very opposed to this amendment.

The consequence will be to undermine the legal conservation status of the 60% of the conservation estate which is not listed in Schedule 4 of the CMA. If passed, the Minister of Energy is unlikely to be neutral and objective. The present Government and its Ministers are unashamedly prioritising economic development over environmental issues.

For example, Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce has deliberately breached the 'sub judice' rule in his enthusiasm to promote the cause of miner Bathurst Resources in undecided resource consent appeals for the proposed Denniston Escarpment Mine on conservation land (Steven Joyce, 25 September, 2012, 'Minister calls on Bathurst objectors to pull appeals', New Zealand Goverment Media Release http://beehive.govt.nz/release/minister-calls-bathurst-objectors-pull-appeals").

The Minister of Energy Phil Heatley suggested changing the RMA to favour Bathurst in an interview with TV3 (TV3, 28 July 2012, 'Taranaki model for oil & gas exploration – Heatley', http://www.3news.co.nz/Taranaki-model-for-oil--gas-exploration--Heatley/tabid/1356/articleID/262986/Default.aspx).

So I have no confidence that these Ministers can impartially and objectively weigh conservation and economic factors. If the two changes to mining access decisions are implemented, you might as well remove the conservation status of 60% of New Zealand's conservation areas and reclassify them as 'Crown land open for mining', for that is the Government's clear intention in respect of mining. This is completely unacceptable.

The status quo in the CMA should not be changed.

5) I am opposed to changes in how areas are added to Schedule 4 of the CMA. It should remain on the recommendation of the Minister of Conservation. Cabinet and the Minister and the Ministry of Energy and Resources should have no role.

6) I am opposed to the replacement of Schedule 4 and the transfer of it to the Conservation and other acts.

A mining stealth bomber attack on six tenths of the conservation estate

Or How to write a submission on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012 (the "CMPCB" for short)

Submissions can be made on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012 until midnight, 2 November 2012. This public service notice was brought to you by Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page.

The Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land bill sounds completely eye-wateringly BORING, doesn't it? Yet this bill, if it is passed in it's current form, will have the same effect as re-classifying some 60% of New Zealand's conservation areas from protection to exploitation. The bill is really a sneaky mining stealth attack on conservation areas, after the Government's failure with it's Schedule 4 frontal assault back in 2010.

The Schedule 4 debate in 2010 was over a Government proposal for more mining in some 8,000 hectares of conservation land. The particular conservation areas were all listed in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.

Were you surprised to find out that only some 40% of New Zealand's conservation areas have absolute protection from mining? And that protection was not because of the National Parks Act or the Conservation Act. It was through a section of the Crown Minerals Act and a schedule listing of National Parks and other areas in 'Schedule 4' of the Crown Minerals Act - the Act that provides for extraction of minerals.

In March 2010, Gerry Brownlee proposed (on behalf of the 'National Growth Agenda' and the minerals and mining industries) to remove some conservation areas from this Schedule 4. The legal status - conservation park, reserve, or national park - would not change. But the areas would then be legally open for mining access via the Minister of Conservation's approval given under the Crown Minerals Act.

Which is the (rat shit) status quo for the 60% of conservation areas managed by the Department of Conservation (including all conservation stewardship areas)

A mining company can apply at anytime to the Minister of Conservation (currently Kate Wilkinson) for mining access. The Minister cannot accept an application for access to areas listed on Schedule 4. But all other conservation areas, 60% of the total, are fair game. Ostensibly the Minister, in deciding on mining access, must only consider conservation objectives, plans, policies, effects and mitigation and "other matters" (S 61B of the CMA 1991). However, my prime example of how this works in practice is the Labour Government's Chris Carter approving the Pike River Coal Mine in 2004.

After 40,000 people marched down Queens Street in protest and 37,000 people submitted against the idea, the Government said it was backing down and no areas would be removed from Schedule 4 list.

However, the Government thinks that the 2010 Schedule 4 debate is long enough ago to re-interpret the wishes of the thousands of marchers and submitters as supporting a quicker faster streamlined and simplified easier-for-miners access to the other 60% of conservation areas. That is what the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill is all about.

The main way the bill makes it easier for miners is to stop having the Minister of Conservation making the mine access by decision herself. And to stop the decision being mainly on conservation grounds. Instead the bill proposes that mining access will be a joint decision of the Ministers of Energy and Conservation. And the joint decision is to be guided by a new economic benefit test, as well as the land-holding objectives.

How might this change pan out? National always say they are into striking a 'balance' between economic and environmental objectives. And the conservation objectives are still there. To that I say "Get real!"

National and their Ministers are plainly biased towards development. For example, Steven Joyce used a Government press release and a TV ONE Breakfast appearance to breach the 'sub judice' rule when he strongly took the side of miner Bathurst Resources over the Escarpment Mine consents court cases.

Alternatively, lets look and listen to the present Minister of Energy, Craig Heatley on TV3 being egged on by Rachel Smalley, Alex Tarrant John Hartevelt to again take the side of Bathurst Resources. Smalley seems to be choking up when she says "Does the Resource Management Act essentially allow environmentalists to delay delay delay something like this going forward?"

This proposal sucks so much. We charge the Minister of Conservation and the Department of Conservation with managing these areas for their conservation and protection under an act called the Conservation Act (as well as a few other acts). The whole point of conservation areas is that they are legally protected from economic development because it usually harms the native plants and animals and their habitats and landforms. They are to come first. Thats what conservation means. With mining, the native plants and animals and their habitats and landforms are completely destroyed. There is no economic activity as absolutely in conflict with the conservation of nature as mining.

So what is the point of having the majority of conservation areas legally protected for conservation purposes when that protection allows mining to be permitted on the grounds of economic benefit, as jointly assessed by the 'Minister of Mines'?

So I suggest you make a submission opposing this bill via Parliament's website

20 October 2012

Cry, cry for you

Mazzy Star and Hope Sandoval

Cry, cry for you
Just like you knew I wouldn't do
Cry, cry for you
Just like a song in the last light

Should I leave it all away
Not like the kindness that you gave
That's why it never seems the same
Behind your eyes

I stood behind when no one asked me
And took you home after the fight
I drove my car into city lights
Drove down the road that I am on

Cry, cry for you
That's what you think I want to be
Cry, cry for you
An empty heart that sees me through

Cry, cry for you
Just like you knew I wouldn't do
Cry cry for you
Just like a song in the last light

Cry, cry for you
Just like you knew I wouldn't do

18 October 2012

Brother can you spare $3.10 for a flat white or a tonne of carbon dioxide?

In which I have a rant about people begging on Lambton Quay, the fact that the spot price for a tonne of carbon dioxide is the same as for a flat white and the uselessness of the report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

Have you heard the old Tin Pan Alley song "Brother can you spare a dime?" The experience of poverty and the Depression in America summed up in a popular song. The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg, and the music by Jay Gorney in 1931. The version by Al Jolson is very well known, but I like this version by Charlie Palloy and his Orchestra.

I usually start most weekdays getting off a bus on Lambton Quay. From the bus stop I walk along to work looking forward to the first coffee of the day.

I usually note how many people are begging. There are usually a few people begging on Lambton Quay. Who says New Zealand is not in a depression? Not Paul Krugman. 'Brother can you spare a dime' is alive and well.

Except it's sad cardboard signs saying 'Homeless and need help'. Also its at least $3 to $4 for a coffee, not a dime. Not for a long time.

The other price that is less than the cost of a flat white is the spot price of carbon dioxide in New Zealand. The brokerage firm OMF reports spot prices each day at CommTrade Carbon. Guess what? The last trade of a New Zealand Unit (a tonne of carbon dioxide) was $3.10.

OMF also have a chart. It shows the collapse of the international carbon market reflected in our own plucky little battler NZ emissions trading scheme. Can any sane person look at this chart and reach any other conclusion than the NZ emissions trading scheme has completely failed?

OMF originally committed the chart sin of not starting the vertical (price) axis at $0. However, reality has intruded. As the New Zealand Unit (NZU) price has relentlessly approached $0, they keep having to move the bottom of their chart closer to zero. That would almost be a small bit of humour in a pretty sad story. If it wasn't the empirical nail in the coffin of pricing greenhouse gas emissions via a NZ emissions trading scheme.

If the $3.10/tonne NZU price is the nail in the coffin, the death notice must be the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, which today released its report Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

That's the National Government's bill to further weaken the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. You know, indefinitely delay the entry of agriculture, make the half-price "two-for-one" transition permanent.

If you can quickly recover your will to live after digesting 30 pages of bureaucratic and political policy denial and excuse-making, download and read the 117-page report.

Otherwise, just read Patrick Smellie's column "No restrictions on foreign-sourced carbon credits confirmed"

"The Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Bill was reported back to parliament by the finance and expenditure select committee with only technical amendments, and a decision that capping the use of foreign credits would compromise the emissions trading scheme principle of "least cost of compliance".

The policy has seen major emitters such as oil and electricity companies snap up some of the lowest cost carbon units available on global markets, where prices have slumped to as little as $2 a tonne.

New Zealand Units, issued by the government, continue to be worth slightly more, at around $3 a tonne, but well below the $25 a tonne maximum price put on carbon when the ETS was introduced in 2009."

Or just read the press release from Peter Hardstaff, Climate Change Programme Manager at WWF-New Zealand.

“This is another nail in the coffin for New Zealand’s credibility on climate change and suggests the government has no intention of trying to set this country’s emissions on a downward path. Other parties in the UN climate talks will rightly see New Zealand’s claims to be doing something to reduce emissions as all spin and no substance."

What a complete freaking shambles!

They used to tell me I was building a dream,
and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear,
I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream,
with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

10 October 2012

A letter to the PM on Steven Joyce undermining the sub judice rule part 2

I got a reply today from the Prime Minister's office. That is to the letter I wrote asking him to remind the Hon Steven Joyce about the sub judice rule, after Joyce used a NZ Government press release and a TV1 'Breakfast' appearance, promoting coal miner Bathurst Resources in its court cases over the resource consents needed to operate an opencast coal mine in a conservation area on the Denniston Plateau south of Solid Energy's Stockton Mine.

Dear Mr Johnson

On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge your email of 27 September 2012. Please be assured your comments have been noted.

As the issue you have raised falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development, Hon Steven Joyce, your email has been forwarded to his office for consideration.

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Prime Minister.

Regards [name removed]

Executive Assistant | Office of the Prime Minister Private Bag 18041 | Parliament Buildings | Wellington 6160 | New Zealand

I felt like replying that if I wanted to write to Steven Joyce, I would have addressed the letter to him. There was a specific reason to write to the Prime Minister. It is because he is responsible under the Cabinet Manual for holding his Minister's accountable. So I replied as follows.

Dear [name removed]

Thank you for your email where you advise that the matter I raised (on 27 September 2012) falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development, the Hon Steven Joyce and that my letter has been forwarded to his office for consideration.

However, I was not writing about either mining or economic development 'per se'. I was writing specifically and deliberately to the Prime Minister about what appeared to me to be a breach of the 'sub judice' rule by the Hon Steven Joyce.

I decided to write to the Prime Minister because of section 2.53 of the Cabinet Manual which states that the Prime Minister has the role of holding Ministers accountable for upholding the highest ethical standards, which I would presume meant requiring Ministers to observe the 'sub judice' rule.

Therefore I am not interested in a reply from the Hon Steven Joyce. At the moment I do not feel at all assured that my comments have been noted. I will consider my comments have been noted if I receive a considered reply addressing the sub judice issue and the Minister's duty to the Prime Minister to observe the highest ethical standards.

I wonder what response I will get to that!