Australian news, and some related international items

IN New Zealand, both sides of politics agree on action against climate change

‘Jaw dropping’: New Zealand offers lessons in tackling climate change, By Peter Hannam, Brisbane Times, 13 October 2018 Scott Simpson, New Zealand’s National Party environment spokesman, stunned a trans-Tasman investment meeting last week by stating that climate action was “too important to be playing politics with”.

Or rather, it was the Australian delegates who were shocked, so used are they to the toxic debates in Canberra.

“It made my jaw drop, that’s for sure,” said Emma Herd, chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change.

Also well-received was Mr Simpson’s comment that it was vital “for all of us and our grandchildren that we have a [climate action] framework that is enduring”, coming as it did soon after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had issued its latest report warning about the perils of even another half degree of warming.

That Mr Simpson hails from the centre-right opposition party roughly equivalent to our Liberal-National coalition only underscored the contrast between the nations.

New Zealand’s major parties, busy trying to thrash out a Zero Carbon Bill by year’s end, are dismayed by the absence of similar bipartisanship across the Tasman, James Shaw, climate change minister in the Labor-led government told Fairfax Media.

“We do tend to look at what’s going on in Australia politics, in particular in relation to climate policies, and we think, ‘We cannot afford to let this happen in New Zealand’,” Mr Shaw said. “It seems like a pretty strong lesson in what not to do.”……..

In government, the National Party signed up to the Paris climate accord and introduced an emissions trading scheme.

To remove the politics from the negotiations, all sides agreed to take advice on New Zealand’s targets from an independent climate commission. (Australia has a Climate Change Authority but all the original board members have been replaced since it was set up by the Gillard government and its role as an advocate for action has largely disappeared.)……

Mr Shaw (of the ruling Coalition ) said the Opposition could have exploited a potentially divisive policy – agriculture contributes half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions – but didn’t.

“They are playing an absolute straight bat,” he said. “There’s a genuine best effort to get a consensus outcome.”

New Zealanders, like Australians, have endured an increasing spate of extreme weather events, which the government attributes in part to climate change. These include a record hot year in 2016, droughts and a major forest fire last year.

“We’ve definitely had a lot more extreme rainfall events,” Nava Fedaeff, a climate scientist with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), said. These include damaging ex-tropical cyclones hitting the nation, with the average jumping from less than one a year to three over the last summer season.

Farmers, who have in the past objected fiercely to taxes on methane, appear more ready to accept the need to act. DairyNZ, for instance, has welcomed the prospect of emissions targets enshrined in legislation to give the sector “much needed certainty”.

Trish Rankin, a dairy farmer managing 440 cows for a Maori-owned co-operative near Hawera in the Taranaki region of the North Island, said climate action “needs to be apolitical – it needs to be able to last over time”.

Ms Rankin said New Zealand farmers realise their social licence depends on them being good custodians of the land, and the principle extends to curbing emissions. Open consultations with experts have also helped.

“If you know they are listening to you, you’re more likely to listen to them,” she said.

Convergence ahead?

Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, notes New Zealand’s existing climate policies are insufficient, but the nation appears to be “moving to a much better space”.

Steps already taken include the ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration, and in prospect are five-year interim emissions targets and a more ambitious emissions trading scheme……..

New Zealand’s climate minister, Mr Shaw, says farmers – unlike Australian coal companies – have options.

“People are still going to want to eat in 30 years’ time, so the question is what do you produce and how do you produce it – not whether or not you’re going to produce food,” he said.

“But in 30 years’ time, you can pretty much guarantee no one in the world is going to use coal for anything.”

October 15, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international

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