Archive | Climate change

Bennett progresses climate change talks with China

Deputy Prime Minister & Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said on Friday China & New Zealand had experience & expertise to share about responding to climate change.

“China is a key player in the global response to climate change, and the implementation of China’s commitments under the Paris agreement will be critical for its success,” she said.

Chinese official Zhang Yong & NZ Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett.

Mrs Bennett was speaking after meeting China’s top official for climate change, Zhang Yong, vice-chair of the National Development & Reform Commission, in Wellington for the first ministerial dialogue under the NZ-China climate change co-operation arrangement memorandum, signed by the 2 countries’ leaders in 2014.

Mrs Bennett said: “Mr Zhang’s extended visit to New Zealand so soon after the Paris agreement entering into force underscores New Zealand’s standing within the international climate change community and the prospects for greater bilateral co-operation.”

She said the dialogue built on positive discussions she had last November with senior Chinese representatives at the COP 22 climate change negotiations in Marrakech.

During his stay, Mr Zhang is meeting Auckland Council, visiting the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in Palmerston North, the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua and Te Mihi geothermal power station north of Taupo.

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Tracking ideas Sun3Apr16 – Red Hook, city travel

Red Hook’s path to an unswampy future
Getting around the best way you can

Tracking ideas is a Bob Dey Property Report section devoted to ideas on property questions such as urban strategies & design, many from overseas but with relevance to Auckland.

Red Hook’s path to an unswampy future

This item is local as a study in how New York neighbourhood Red Hook is starting to deal with bad weather – the kind that brought Hurricane Sandy in 2012, might revisit with another hurricane or might swamp, through rising seas, what used to be a swamp.

I also throw in – in case the New Yorkers want some more constructive ideas – some of the change occurring in Auckland.

Chemical company BASF organised a case study last year on low-lying Red Hook, Creator Space New York City, but also wanted to find solutions relevant to coastal cities globally.

Hurricane Sandy put much of Red Hook under water and set back years of redevelopment. The questions arising at the BASF event included: “How can we preserve Red Hook’s unique character & quality of life while also promoting its economic growth and safeguarding it against future floods? How can measures taken in Red Hook serve as a model for other cities?”

Ideas included green corridors, a coastal park, establish “a centre for job training & human services”, rethink the district’s public housing, and inspire change with a model city block.

The most glaring omission is this: Make it a place you want to be.

This one idea, I think, is the crucial one changing Auckland (downtown so far, but it’ll spread), and one which I think many critics of Auckland Council’s role in organising change don’t understand. The visible signs are streets that are friendly to walk, an atmosphere that’s receptive to inner-city residents, shops that are intended for city residents and the business & education communities, precincts that are becoming communities.

Another question, as much for Auckland as for Red Hook, is who the “you” above is. Do you remake a neighbourhood for existing residents or reshape for new ones?

A cover photo on the BASF study prompted me to look more closely at what I thought were wharves lined with cars – ha! the South Brooklyn marine terminal, just like Auckland – and I landed on a story about the disappearance of waterfront jobs from New York’s smallest container terminal, which a century ago was the busiest freight terminal in the world, so far not displaced by anything else.

In a way, that aerial view of the Red Hook wharves offers Aucklanders an idea of what might occur here with wharf extensions – or what might be a future if reclamation was reversed.

Links:
Planetizen, 29 March 2016: Saving coastal cities from climate change
BASF: Co-creating solutions for urban neighbourhoods in coastal cities: A look at Red Hook
Jordan Fraade in Next City, 26 May 2015: There’s money hiding in New York City’s waterfronts

Getting around the best way you can

City travel is changing everywhere. On a VerdeXchange panel in California, Lyft transport policy manager Emily Castor said: “The more viable it is for people to live here without owning a car, the more likely it is that they’re going to use Lyft frequently in combination with transit & other modes. We need to look at how we can create this robust ecosystem together.”

Links:
Planetizen, 29 March 2016: Creating an urban mobility ecosystem helps public & private actors
The Planning Report, 16 March 2016, edited discussion: Public & private pros opine on how ‘choice’ impacts urban transport

Attribution: Planetizen, The Planning Report, BASF, Next City

Regular leads: Planetizen

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Ministry releases aids for ETS review submitters

The Ministry for the Environment has released 2 technical documents to help submitters on the second phase of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) review. Submissions close on Saturday 30 April.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said today: “If New Zealand is going to take the next steps to tackle climate change, we’re going to have to see more investment in tree planting and big emitters making a greater contribution to our efforts.

“The ETS is a key tool to drive these changes, and this second phase of the review will ensure it is fit for purpose to help New Zealand achieve its ambitious 2030 target.”

Links:
Forestry technical note
Operational matters technical note

Attribution: Ministerial release, ministry website.

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Government issues 3 papers, and council to debate response on emissions trading

The Ministry for the Environment has released 3 technical documents on removing the emissions trading scheme 1-for-2 transitional measure at various carbon prices, and managing the costs of removing that transitional measure.

Auckland Council has produced a draft submission on the Government proposals which will debated by the council’s Auckland development committee on Thursday.

Submissions for priority issues close with the ministry on Friday 19 February.

In the first report, the NZ Institute of Economic Research modelled the economic impact of removing the transitional measure, where emitters pay the cost of one unit for 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Canterbury University’s School of Forestry produced the second report, outlining different ways the forestry sector might respond to various carbon prices.

The Ministry for the Environment produced the third report, with quality assurance by Martin Jenkins. It’s an evaluation of the scheme’s performance against its short-, medium- & long-term outcomes to develop a greater understanding of its impacts.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said on Friday: “Following on from the Paris agreement on climate change, the Government is focusing on ensuring our domestic settings are in the right place to help New Zealand meet our 2030 target. The ETS is one of our most effective tools to tackle climate change domestically and we are keen to hear a broad range of views about its effectiveness & impact.”

Auckland Council’s proposed submission says the council is responsible for a region that produces 27% of New Zealand’s gross greenhouse gas emissions. It wants the agricultural sector included within the scheme’s scope “to remove an unfair cost burden on other sectors of the economy”. The council says this is the third review of the scheme in the 7 years since it was introduced, and the final form needs to provide certainty: “Ongoing changes weaken Auckland businesses’ ability to effectively plan for the future.”

The council’s answer is full submission from 2017, not one for 2, “so polluters take full responsibility for their emissions”.

The council has also linked this response to a review by the Electricity Authority on implications of evolving technologies for pricing of distribution services (consultation closes Monday 4 April). The council says the 2 consultation processes need to be co-ordinated, so outcomes sought by the Electricity Authority don’t undermine the objective of the emissions trading scheme review.

Links:
NZIER, Economic impacts
Forestry School, Afforestation responses
Ministry for the Environment, Evaluation report
Auckland Council committee agenda, proposed submission
Electricity Authority, consultation on default distribution agreement

Attribution: Ministerial release, ministry, council agenda

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Council to join C40 global climate change network after tight vote

I asked on Monday: “Why would a city that’s proven incapable of explaining its scientific ingenuity want to join an international organisation which demands innovation as an entry card?”

But, in my usual attempt to be in a multitude of places at once, I didn’t hang around at yesterday’s meeting of Auckland Council’s Auckland development committee to see how the debate would go on the council’s membership of the international C40 Cities climate leadership group.

A vote on membership was deferred in March when it looked like it might be defeated, and yesterday it was carried on a 9-7 vote.

C40 is a network of cities around the world working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions & climate risks. Membership would enhance knowledge-sharing & research.

Earlier stories:
12 October 2015: Why aim high when we’re just fine on low?
16 March 2015: Council holds off joining international climate group C40

Attribution: Council committee agenda, council release.

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Why aim high when we’re just fine on low?

Why would a city that’s proven incapable of explaining its scientific ingenuity want to join an international organisation which demands innovation as an entry card?

New Zealand has a minister of economic development, science & innovation among other things, Steven Joyce, who is determinedly pushing for New Zealanders to rise above being a nation of commodity traders. And Auckland Council’s founding planning statement, the Auckland Plan, is filled with aspirations to treat the environment better.

Whether it be from climate change or other scientifically mappable causes, large chunks of Auckland’s coastline are being scoured out. As a centre of bubbling property values, it would be handy for Auckland to have some idea about how much of this increasingly expensive land will remain above the tide in 10 or a hundred years.

All these are reasons for Auckland to be a centre of inquiry into climate, sea & atmospheric change.

And, if that’s the case, Auckland Council’s membership of the international C40 Cities climate leadership group should be a given. But it’s not.

The proposal for membership was put to the council’s Auckland development committee in March, but a decision was deferred when it looked as though a majority was going to reject the invitation. Cllr Christine Fletcher said on that occasion the report supporting membership of C40 was silent on the costs: “I think the business case hasn’t been well put. I would certainly like a lot more business information and it hasn’t been put forward today.”

Chief sustainability officer John Mauro returns this Thursday with another shot at membership, but with little more to convince doubters of its value.

C40 membership is free and direct costs are low, but to rise from observer to innovation status after the first year Auckland would need to produce some innovative research.

In his background report for Thursday’s meeting, Mr Mauro has pointed to likely accelerated implementation of the low carbon Auckland action plan as a benefit.

This was likely to mean easier identification of future emissions reductions, and associated cost savings, he said. “For instance, over the past 4 years, Auckland Council has saved or avoided at least $1.5-$2 million/year from reduced energy, waste & water use. While the council will be continuously seeking savings & emissions reductions, they will become more challenging to identify & implement in the future.”

Over the 7 years to 2018, he saw council savings of $12.7 million from sustainability measures. From there, Mr Mauro moved on to the potentially big positive: “Sharing best practice & innovation ideas with C40 cities will assist in identifying & achieving such savings which, consequently, have corresponding emissions reductions benefits.

“Strategically aligned international partnerships like C40 can be useful tools to drive implementation of the Auckland Plan & low carbon Auckland.”

Among specific benefits he saw for Auckland: “Access & collaborate with a global network of technical advisors with expertise to design & implement climate programmes & high-impact projects. Access a vast array of research with potential for peer-to-peer exchanges……

“Membership is meant to unlock ideas, innovation & best practice that lead to emissions reductions & cost savings to the council.”

Unlock ideas? That should have been top priority for the super-city council when it was formed in 2010, but to do so requires advanced thinking on things like providing infrastructure more imaginatively & efficiently across old boundaries. There is some evidence of advanced thinking, but it hasn’t been paramount.

The legacy Auckland City Council had a fine example of this 10 years ago, when boffin & one-term councillor Richard Simpson tried to explain some of the benefits of bringing the Digital Earth summit to Auckland – not just as a one-off, but if Auckland seized the opportunity and made itself a centre of expertise & foresight.

Mr Simpson co-founded New Zealand’s first 3D computer graphics firm, Cadabra, and expanded the business internationally. In 2012, he co-authored the world’s first manifesto of the digital earth, virtual nations, data cities movement to apply post-Google Earth (environmental simulation) technologies to the challenges of planning & managing the Earth’s resources to accelerate climate change solutions.

But 2½ years ago he left Auckland to become chief executive of SIBA (the Spatial Industries Business Association) in Queensland.

He says of that organisation: “Our members are significant producers, managers, innovators, users & adopters of spatial information & technologies. They are pioneers, providing inventive, value-added services to governments, business & industry and they range in size from large local & international companies & organisations to small- to medium-sized enterprises, many with 10 employees or less.”

In a presentation in 2005, he said the challenge for New Zealand was “to be a benchmark for sustainable practices”. From the 2006 Digital Earth summit, alone, he said some of the world’s top thinkers would go to speak at Auckland’s tertiary institutions, while the add-ons of future summits plus an international centre would brand the city as a place of foresight: “It could be a Club of Rome or a Davos (both economic summits) and brand Auckland. This is the extreme of technology, a mega-project.”

Auckland opted for the one-off.

Earlier stories:
16 March 2015: Council holds off joining international climate group C40
6 July 2005: Simpson the boffin councillor sets path for Auckland to become high-flying technology conference site, with a benchmarking brand

Attribution: Council agenda.

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Council holds off joining international climate group C40

Grand plans & a place on the world stage, versus knuckling down & looking after core business: That’s how the majority on an Auckland Council committee argued against joining the international C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group last week.

It’s for cities of 3 million-plus and Auckland’s only half that minimum size, but Auckland mayor Len Brown said he was invited to apply for membership at the world cities summit in Singapore last year.

Mr Brown told the council’s Auckland development committee – a committee tasked with overseeing some of the council’s positions on the unitary plan and with leading on a wide range of urban issues – it was an opportunity to take on best practice in global cities and to share its own best practice. Simply, he said: “This would be very helpful to us.”

Nobody mentioned it, but the way Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter waterfront has developed has a great deal to do with international expertise, boosted by visits from many experts from coastal cities around the world, who came to both teach & learn.

Most intensification around Auckland is developer-led – the developer chooses a site and builds an apartment structure, for instance. For the first apartment & retail development, and also the proposed hotel in the Wynyard Quarter, Waterfront Auckland has brought in a Sydney-based Kiwi, retail planning specialist Mike Cullen, to work with developers on “how we get the place to work” – a distinctly different approach from the norm.

That doesn’t mean Auckland should join every international organisation going, and Auckland Council’s chief sustainability officer, John Mauro, who presented the C40 membership proposal, discovered a strong body of opinion on the development committee against adding this one.

C40 is a global network taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions & climate risks. Cllr Wayne Walker – a longtime campaigner on climate risk to our coasts and chairman of the council’s environment, climate change & natural heritage committee – said joining C40 “is an absolute no-brainer. The amount these other cities have to offer us is phenomenal, around solar, waste, across everything. We stand to benefit immensely, and the interchange of information across businesses is excellent.”

He said other New Zealand cities would be able to lever off the Auckland membership, helping them to adapt to meet climate change, and membership would be free (albeit with obligations).

Cllr Walker argued that C40 was about core business, and making it more efficient in services such as water, wastewater, transport, procurement & planning. He said many business leaders wanted the benefits of projects the council was undertaking such as its low-carbon strategy. But, he told detractors, “If you want to stick your head in the sand and don’t want Auckland to go forward, then don’t join an alliance like this.”

Cllr Penny Webster was opposed: “I can’t support it. I understand there’s no joining fee, but these things always cost more. I hear people say ‘We want to stick to core issues’. People living in dust bowls, people living in disaffected cities, it’s important we do do international stuff, but at this point we don’t need it.”

Cllr George Wood noted that Auckland Council had joined ICLEI (ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives): “Cllr Walker went to this conference in Rio in 2012 and said it was the best conference ever. If we start building a number of these international relationships we’re going to be laughed at by our ratepayers. I don’t really think we should be getting into more organisations that have got the same objectives and do the same things as ICLEI. They’ve done a good job for us.”

Cllr Cameron Brewer suggested: “Perhaps the best time to defer this to would be about September 2016 [council election time].” He said people viewed councillors as financial stewards, and an AA survey said the council needed to get its financial affairs in order: “This will only add to that perception. I know we’re saying this is no extra costs on ratepayers, but it is not perceived as that from the public. They are seeing lost opportunities & projects.

“I’m not saying there isn’t a place for this, but we’ve got to turn on the tin air … not make these decisions without repercussions, but I think it’s a decision for the next administration to make. At the moment I think it’s going to give us a hiding to nowhere. In fact I’m surprised it’s on the agenda.

I’m always concerned about these people who fly off on jumbo jets to save the planet. As Cllr Quax reminded me, there are things called webinars.”

Cllr Dick Quax commented: “I always thought we had central government to do things like that. It surprises me we don’t appear to be listening to people. People say stick to your knitting. I don’t think this is what ratepayers would want to wake up tomorrow and see on the front page of the Herald, councillors are swanning off on another junket to save the world.”

Cllr Denise Krum added to the opposition: “Cllr Brewer nailed it when he said this had merit, but we don’t have the political capital at the moment. It’s the cost:benefit analysis for something down the track. I think its time might come later.”

Deputy mayor & committee chairwoman Penny Hulse said joining C40 “might not involve councillors swanning anywhere”. She said it was not all about Aucklanders jetting around the world, but could involve bringing overseas businessmen here to show them the best things Auckland was doing.”

Cllr Christine Fletcher knew the mayor placed value on building relationships, but said the report supporting membership of C40 was silent on the costs: “I think the business case hasn’t been well put. I would certainly like a lot more business information and it hasn’t been put forward today.”

She proposed the proposal be withdrawn for more work to be done on it, and the committee agreed.

Attribution: Council debate & agenda.

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Mercer to evaluate climate change impacts on investment

Mercer LLC has initiated a study using “several plausible climate scenarios with distinctive economic & market impacts” to model climate change effects on investment out to 2030 & 2050.

The NZ Superannuation Fund is one of the international investment partners supporting the study. Chief executive Adrian Orr said: “As a long-term, intergenerational investor, we need to understand the investment risks & opportunities associated with climate change. This project will help us calibrate our investment strategies accordingly.”

The study results will be published in the first quarter of next year. The study will relate the climate scenarios to the risk & return characteristics of key asset classes, regions & sectors.

Jane Ambachtsheer, who heads Mercer’s global responsible investment team, said on Monday: “In this study, we are helping investors identify ways to hedge against climate risks as we transition to a lower carbon economy. New data points & scientific evidence are now available, including the topical subject of the potential risk posed by so-called ‘stranded’ carbon assets.”

The project will be delivered through collaboration between Mercer & 2 other divisions of Marsh & McLennan Companies, NERA Economic Consulting & Guy Carpenter.

Attribution: Company & NZ Super Fund releases.

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Smith sees strong case for more Southern Ocean climate change research

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said on a visit to the remote sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands on Wednesday there was a strong case to increase climate change research there.

Mr Smith inspected the site of a proposed new research station on the east coast of the main Auckland Island, 465km south of Bluff, to be named after the late Sir Peter Blake.

The $3 million Blake station will consist of a new floating jetty at the head of Smiths Harbour, 2 accommodation blocks for long-term stays, one block for short-term stays for up to 14 people, a block for 2 wet labs and a boat shed.

Mr Smith said: “There is a strong case for increased climate change research on these remote New Zealand islands. This proposed station would fill a gap in the global network of stations monitoring climate change. This is particularly important as the sub-Antarctic islands are within the latitudes where the change in climate is expected to be seen most rapidly, and the main Auckland Island has been identified as the best area for studying deep-sea currents in the southern ocean.

“This proposed research station fits within the Government’s Deep south science challenge, which aims to increase the understanding of the role of Antarctica & the Southern Ocean in determining our climate & our future environment.”

The consortium proposing the new station includes NIWA (the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research), the NZ Antarctic Research Institute, Otago University & Victoria University of Wellington.

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Unedited full climate change report goes online

The unedited version of the full IPCC fifth assessment report went online last night, 3 days after broad assertions were published via a media statement and a summary for policymakers.

There has been plenty of comment internationally based on those initial headline documents, and unchanged position-taking is apparent.

I had hoped to see some differentiation between natural & human-induced causes of dangerous climate change, that a non-scientist might infer: There are things we/I cause, there are things we/I might do to alleviate damage.

From a read which varied from line-by-line to cursory through the 127-page technical summary (the switch from words to tables is at page 75, followed by charts), I was unconvinced of my damaging role. I haven’t ventured into the 14 chapters which follow.

Much of the report seems extremely conservative, wary of a false step after opponents took great glee in decrying past reports by focusing on errors, inaccuracies or misunderstood points.

Take a point like this, on carbon & ocean acidification: “It is very likely that oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 results in gradual acidification of the ocean. The pH [measure of acidity] of seawater has decreased by 0.1 since the beginning of the industrial era, corresponding to a 26% increase in hydrogen ion concentration. The observed pH trends range between –0.0014 & –0.0024/year in surface waters. In the ocean interior, natural physical & biological processes, as well as uptake of anthropogenic CO2 can cause changes in pH over decadal & longer time scales.” References to chapter 3.8 follow.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) posted the full Working Group 1 contribution to its fifth assessment report in an unedited version, following the release of its summary for policymakers on Friday night. The panel said this final draft was accepted but not approved in detail by the working group & the panel last Thursday. It consists of the full scientific & technical assessment undertaken by the working group

The primary purpose of the technical summary is to provide the link between the complete assessment of the multiple lines of independent evidence presented in the 14 chapters of the main report and the highly condensed summary prepared as the summary for policymakers.

Links: Technical summary
IPCC fifth assessment report

Attribution: IPCC.

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