Saturday, 27 August 2016
Submission on International treaty examination of the Paris Agreement
To the Committee Secretariat Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
I support the ratification of this agreement because it is the least we can do to address the issue of climate change. I do so with reservations regarding current policies and regulations impeding New Zealand’s ability to meet our obligations under the agreement. I wish to support the intent of the agreement and offer suggestions on action needed to meet and surpass the goals set in Paris 2015.
I represent a start-up urban development company but present my ideas mostly as a father determined to ensure the next generation is left a world worth living in.
I understand that it is traditional for agreements to be examined by this committee made up of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade but am surprised that Ministries of Business, Innovation and Employment, Primary Industries, Transport, Internal Affairs (Local Government Commission), and for the Environment are not specifically represented within the committee. These ministries bear the responsibility for the bulk of legislation that could be expected to induce the action required to meet New Zealand’s obligations under the agreement.
I trust my submission is directed to these ministries and their individual ministerial portfolios, and not set aside as being irrelevant to trade, defence and foreign affairs.
I agree with much of the findings laid out in the National Interest Analysis; however the emphasis is too much skewed towards adaptation rather than mitigation. Even though New Zealand is only responsible for 0.16% of global greenhouse gas production the agreement obligates us to be active in altering systems and processes to reduce and reverse the cause of climate change as well as adapting to its results. In my opinion, the analysis also does not place enough weight on the intangible economic benefit of resilient systems as opposed to the easily measured efficient systems.
As a New Zealander I feel ashamed that New Zealand has bought fraudulent carbon credits to meet our international obligations rather than to doing the morally correct thing.
I propose all of the fraudulent carbon credits New Zealand has bought to meet our current climate change obligations should be foregone. This will add to the incentives to innovate more, regulate smarter, and work harder to meet our obligations within country, rather than rely on an ability to buy credits further down the track. The National Interest Analysis mentions the risk in a strategy of buying carbon credits.
If we innovate to reduce our own emissions, the technology, systems and processes become part of an export opportunity as all signatories to the agreement are obliged to meet or exceed the same goals and become a market for our innovation.
With this in mind it is obvious that innovation in technology and regulation within the Energy sector under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is going to need another review. New Zealand has shown some bravery in the past with respect to energy regulation and will need to show more bravery to fully grasp the climate change benefits afforded by new technology. Distributed Energy production, micro grids, smart energy management are all areas currently curtailed by entrenched ideas and regulation. Approving large scale trials using reformulated but proven technology is critical to reducing our non-renewable electricity production to zero. Expansion of our zero carbon electricity capacity will allow for a faster conversion to electric vehicles further reducing our transport related contribution to climate change.
It is recognised energy storage costing less than $150USD per kW will have the economic effect of keeping carbon underground and out of our atmosphere and oceans. There is a storage system, utilising Vanadium Redox flow technology that meets this economic criteria whilst exceeding much of the functional criteria. Coincidentally Glenbrook Steel Mill produces slag as a result of smelting of west coast iron sand which is rich in Vanadium. Using this new technology each new residential development could, in combination with solar, produce and deliver more energy than they require for running their house and charging their vehicle. This type of storage allows surplus energy produced by a residential subdivision to help provide baseload energy for industry at the times industry needs it. Perfecting this storage system could open up consulting service and vanadium export opportunities all over the world.
Given the required urgency with respect to both housing issues and climate change issues in New Zealand it is reasonable to expect use of new technology trials in housing contributing positively to climate change issues. We should be killing two birds with one stone.
Having just contributed to both the Special Housing Accord and the Auckland Unitary Plan processes I am aware of the policy constraints and indeed the underlying policy formation framework which prohibits the risk taking that will be required to meet New Zealand’s obligations on the Paris Agreement.
This needs to be addressed by Internal Affairs under Local Government Commission work to ensure the capacity for isolated risk taking is inherent within the policy formation framework.
The recent adoption of the Auckland Unitary Plan recommendations which opens up more green-fields land for urban development has irked many observers on the premise that urban development is less ecologically sound and more detrimental to climate change issues. This need not be so and quite the reverse is possible. New Zealand has world leaders in the field of modular aquaponics units suitable for urban food production. In reality, residential food production done this way can produce more edible calories per hectare than grazing, and quite possibly provides a lesser carbon impact than the land’s former use. With support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry of Primary industries and the Local Government Commission this type of development can become the norm rather than simply a vision. If we get it right, we fight climate change and gain another export opportunity.
Currently I am involved in the planning process of a Watercare waste water treatment project. Reviewing the long list and short list options outlined in the resource consent, there is no consideration made of distributed systems. As they weren’t mooted as an alternative, we can’t know how they stack up either economically or with respect to climate change issues. The investment in a centralised approach is a commitment to very many decades, and yet technology is moving so fast that if distributed waste services prove to be the way of the future, we will have lost the opportunity, the money will have been spent, a sub-optimal solution a fait accompli. This planning process will be happening all over the country in many water infrastructure projects. We should at least be justifying the centralised approach, given that we know about new distributed technologies available now, and the forewarned technologies soon to be commercialised. We need to assess if the old ways stack up from the perspective of economics, energy efficiency, environment and specifically impact on climate, resilience, and the system’s ability to adapt to changes in climate or future externally imposed regulation if and when climate change issues get worse. Distributed water systems, potable and waste, may very well be shown to be simultaneously positive with respect to mitigation of climate change causes, and adaptive to the results of climate change, as longer more frequent droughts interspersed with shorter more intense rainfall causing floods are part of the current prediction model.
Again, isolated large scale development trials are essential. Policy must line up to make it not only possible but encouraged.
New Zealand is a good fifteen years behind on this type of thinking. We need to catch up to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement. When we are successful we will be regarded as a world leader in climate change issues and enhance our tourism initiatives by lending credibility to our Nations’ Branding Claim of being 100% Pure New Zealand.
Depending on the dates that this committee intends to hear submissions, I’d like to speak to the points I have made above.