New Zealand Ratification of Paris Agreement

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.

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When Ice Sheets Melt


The Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is part of the continental ice sheet covering West Antarctica on the side of the Trans-antarctic Mountains in the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by the Ronne Ice Shelf on the North, by the Ross Ice Shelf on the Southeast, and outlet glaciers that drain into the Amundsen Sea on the Southwest. A remnant of the ice age, it is larger than Mexico and makes up 10 percent of the estimated 25.4 million cubic kilometers Antarctic ice sheet. Should it break up due to global warming, which is feared could happen sooner than anticipated, the sea level could rise by 12 feet or more.

The Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is just one region. Ice in other regions could melt too and over time the world’s coastlines will be submerged in water along with many great cities old and new. During a climatic period around 125,000 years ago, the sea level had risen to 20 to 30 feet higher compared to today’s sea level.

For half a century, scientists have been monitoring the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and had assumed that the worst effects of climate change would be realized over a span of hundreds, and even thousands of years. But new research suggests that the ice is melting at a lot faster rate than anticipated. According to a study published on March by the journal, Nature, continued high emissions of greenhouse gases would cause the disintegration of the ice sheets within decades. This would in turn cause the sea level to rise up to 3 feet by the end of this century. Beyond 2100, the situation would grow far worse as the sea could rise more than a pace of a foot per decade by the middle of the 22nd century.

While it might be possible that the actual situation could turn out far less catastrophic than anticipated, the fact that this disaster scenario has been brought to light strongly suggests that if proper measures to decelerate climate change are not put into place and strictly observed, then humanity will suffer immeasurable loss and damage. The melting of sea ice and the consequential rise in sea levels is just but one among many disaster scenarios resulting from climate change.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


In 1988, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) set up the an intergovernmental body tasked to evaluate the nature and implications of climate change to the environment, society and the economy.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), gathers from around the globe scientific, technical and socio-economic data significant to understanding climate change. However, it does not conduct research nor does it monitor climate related information. Instead, thousands of scientists from different parts of the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. To determine which information may be considered and approved, participating governments gather and discuss the collected information to reflect varied views and expertise. Currently, 195 countries are members of the IPCC.

So, what is the relevance of the IPCC?

Assessments by the IPCC provide participating governments scientific basis for developing climate-related policies. These assessments do not tell policymakers what to do exactly. Instead, they discuss possible scenarios or circumstances of future climate changes based on various situations, the dangers resulting from climate change and implications of actions that would most likely be undertaken as a response to the supposed danger of a possible scenario.

But who exactly puts together all the IPCC work? And who is in charge of communicating and coordinating with the various governments?

UNEP and WMO established the Secretariat to coordinate all the work and liaise with all members. It is a committee based at the WMO headquarters in Geneva.

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2016: Temperatures Rising

The World Meteorological Organization report on March 2016 has confirmed that 2015 was the hottest year on record. The average global temperature was 1.37°F (0.76°C) above the average from 1961-1990. The report is based on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.K. Met Office, and NASA.

Moreover, NOAA data indicate an unprecedented spike in global carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere with a whopping 3.05 parts per million growth rate. It’s the fourth year in a row that the atmospheric carbon dioxide rose over 2 parts per million.

Another indication of climate change is the depressed sea ice levels. The Artic sea ice has hit a record low winter maximum extent and saw its fourth lowest summer minimum extent. The weather has also reached extremes with some parts of Asia experiencing major heat waves while much of the Pacific had a flurry of storm activity.

But what is perhaps most alarming are further reports that show the startlingly high temperatures has continued well into the first half of 2016 with no signs of a slowdown. Temperatures from April 2015 through June 2016 were record high. NASA’s records show that from January to June 2016 were the warmest respective months in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880. The worrying data that just keeps getting worse has, in fact, prompted scientists to declare a “climate emergency.” And if the past 14 months is anything to go by, 2016 could well be in the running to beat 2015 as for the hottest year record.


World leaders and organizations are trying to make progress in addressing the concurrent climate issue and consequential crises like drought, food and water shortages, and deaths. They gathered in record numbers at the United Nations on April 22, 2016, Earth Day, to sign the Paris Agreement, which stipulates that over 195 countries agree to take action, commit to and work together in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature to about 1.5°C and never above 2°C.

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Is the Current Climate Change Man-Made?

Anthropogenic climate change refers to the major warming trend the Earth is currently experiencing due to human activities. The burning of fossil fuels the use of automobiles and machines in factories, the slash and burn practice in agriculture and the use of various chemicals add to the greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere and those naturally produced on the planet’s surface.

But are we really to blame for the global warming and climate change? Not many really believe that human activities over the last hundred years have caused the surface temperatures to rise. Many anthropogenic climate change skeptics believe that climate change is a natural process.


Indeed, the planet naturally is capable of causing changes in climate primarily due to how it everything within it reacts to various influences. It is these complex integrated systems and processes that probably made Earth life-sustaining in the first place. Over the last 4.6 billion years the Earth’s climate has undergone several cycles of freezing and melting.  Long before humans ever came to being, the Earth’s climate has changed dramatically due to natural process including the movement of the Earth’s crust, plant and animal respiration, volcanic activities, and solar irradiance.

However, various evidences points that there have been unusual spikes in the emissions of greenhouse gases from the Earth’s surface. That basically means that other than the naturally occurring greenhouse gases, there are other sources. Various data collected by various agencies show that post-industrialization and post-war, there have been a steady rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 1750 was 280 parts per million (ppm) and has risen up to 379ppm by 2005. In comparison, over the past 8, 000 years and just before 1750, the atmospheric CO2 increased only by 20ppm. Moreover, at the conclusion of the most recent ice age there was an estimated 80ppm increase.

Humanity have been working towards understanding life and the universe and have learned what the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of. Humanity has understood the systems and processes that naturally occur on this planet, humanity now knows how weather becomes and what drive changes in the weather or climate, humanity knows what gases are used and emitted by machines, humanity knows how biology impacts everything else. Humanity knows the implications of human activities on the planet. Will humanity own up to the fact that the current warming trend is caused by the general human population?

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What’s Behind the Current Global Warming Trend?

Considering that the Greenhouse Effect is consequential to life and is essential to how the planet remains habitable, then why has it been positioned in a seemingly bad light? Is it due to the current global warming trend, hastening the progress of climate change?

There is an ongoing debate whether climate change really is happening, and who’s to blame for this. Like with everything else, people just can’t agree and have different views, beliefs and data to prove their point. One set of data that has caused quite a stir reveals how the Earth’s average surface temperature has risen between 0.4 and 0.8 °C over the past 100 years. The increase in temperature has been attributed to human activities. According to scientific data, there has been a sudden and alarmingly consistent rise in carbon dioxide emissions since the 1950s, an era known as the postwar boom.


Massive gas emissions due to industrialization has largely contributed to the increased levels of carbon dioxide. Add to that the diminishing forests and vegetation that would have greatly helped out in managing the rising levels of carbon dioxide.  The increased level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by human activities has tipped the balance.

The massive amount of greenhouse gases emitted from the earth’s surface by humans has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which means that more radiation is being absorbed, retained and emitted by the atmosphere back down to the surface, further increasing the surface temperature.

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Understanding Climate Change

How’s the weather in your part of the world? Cold, sunny, windy, warm, dry, or freezing?


Weather, simply, is the daily state of the atmosphere of a region in terms of temperature, atmospheric pressure and particle count, wind, precipitation, humidity, and other meteorological variables. Climate, on the other hand, is the statistics of the prevailing weather conditions over extended periods.

The Earth’s climate system is generated by the cyclical interactions of the planet’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere, driven by the energy from the sun. Due to the shape and tilt of the planet, the distribution of solar energy differs in various parts of the globe, leading to differences in temperature. While some of the heat bounces off to space, what remains within is distributed throughout the planet.

The differences in heat distribution and the transference of heat give rise to the weather we experience. Fluctuations in the amount of heat in the climate system then result to changing weather patterns. Now the amount of heat in the climate system depends on the amount of trapped energy resulting from the planet’s greenhouse effect.

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How Does Greenhouse Effect Work?

Earth is constantly bombarded by the sun’s radiation, also known as solar energy. The sun emits energy at wavelengths within the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared bands.

how-greenhouse-effect-worksThe Earth’s atmosphere is made up of gases namely, nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, neon, krypton, xenon, iodine, ammonia, and water vapor.  The properties, behavior and quantity of these gases vary, but collectively, they act like a blanket that protects and keeps the Earth warm enough to promote and support life.

On the Earth’s surface, here we find bodies of water such as oceans and lakes, land masses including volcanoes, and ice located at polar regions as well as snow on high altitude land areas and tepid latitudes. It is basically the habitable zone where all living creatures thrive, and the end receiver of solar energy.


Now, the sun’s light, heat and UV continually strikes the Earth, but the Earth somehow is able manage the amount of radiation via its ability to absorb and radiate said radiation, a process known as Greenhouse effect. How this works is analogous to how greenhouses stay warm for growing plants in parts where temperatures reach below zero, albeit through a different physical process.

When solar radiation enters the atmosphere, about a third that reaches the outer atmosphere immediately bounces off back to space. The remaining two-thirds of the solar energy is absorbed by the Earth’s surface and a portion of it by the atmosphere, and then the excess energy is radiate back out only at much longer wavelengths, generally in the infrared or thermal spectrum, since the Earth is much cooler than the sun. Ultraviolet and visible light are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, only UV radiation has shorter wavelength and a higher energy level than visible light.

While a portion escapes out to space, much of the infrared radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere. The gases within the atmosphere are able to hold and at the same time emit the energy in all directions, including back down to the surface, warming the planet.  Without this cloak of gases, the average surface temperature would be lower than the freezing point of water. The Greenhouse Effect is how the planet achieves a certain radiative equilibrium essential to life.


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Greenhouse Effect, What it Is


How is it that while our population here on Earth keeps growing and a lot of commotion is going about, other planets are seemingly quiet with no signs of life? So far, we have yet to discover another planet much like ours. Other planets are either scorching hot or freezing cold due to their general makeup and proximity to the sun.

Earth, on the other hand, sits at a comfortable distance from the sun, and it has unique mechanism or process that makes its surface temperature relatively stable and conducive to life- the greenhouse effect. But how is greenhouse effect a good thing when it is causing global warming?

In actuality, warming the planet is why it is helpful. Without the it, Earth will just be another bitterly cold lifeless planet. However, the Greenhous Effect is pretty much getting a bad rep due to the current global warming trend that is causing havoc and alarm in various parts of the globe. But in reality it is with this process that lifeforms exist on Earth.

Solar radiation is a double-edged sword in that it promotes life and at the same time, it can take away life. Living organisms need the suns radiation one way or another, whether directly or indirectly, to survive and proliferate. But large amounts of direct solar radiation is lethal. And this is where greenhouse effect comes in the hero.

Approximately 30 percent of incoming solar radiation that hits the Earth bounces off reflective surfaces like ice, snow, sand, and clouds back to space. The remaining 70 percent is absorbed by the oceans, the land, the atmosphere, plants and other things. A portion of the absorbed energy on the Earth’s surface is eventually released otherwise, the planet would be a boiling casserole. In a nutshell, the Greenhouse Effect is the balancing act between the Earth’s surface and atmosphere in absorbing and radiating the sun’s energy, resulting to a habitable environment.

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What Goes Around Comes Around: Can Civilization Survive Global Warming?

With the unusually warmer climes and extreme weather experienced in various parts of the world today, talks of global warming and climate change commonly come up in conversations, discussions, and debates. But how involved, concerned, or ignorant are we as individuals in this matter?


Humanity has undoubtedly achieved so much over the past century with industrialization and new technology paving the way for progress by leaps and bounds. But the implications of said progress to this planet we call home seem to have been quite negative, which subsequently could put humanity at risk. Don’t you think?

Based on NASA’s 134-year record, fifteen out of the 16 hottest years took place since year 2000. And just recently, temperatures have spiked in various locations. For instance, Klawock Airport in Southeast Alaska recorded a 21.6 degrees Celsius (71 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature in march 2016, the hottest in the region. Then about 2 months later, temperatures in Phalodi, India shot up to a record breaking 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

The average global temperature has risen at the most rapid rate in recorded history since about 50 years ago. What, with the amount of pollution churned out the world over and to that that reducing coverage of forests and vegetation due commercial and illegal logging, agriculture, urbanization and industrialization, how can Earth possible recover from the current global warming trend?

The questions is, what have we collectively and actively done to prevent or even prepare for the worst case scenario. Are we being realistic and making the necessary measures to safeguard the future of the planet and humanity? According to experts, unless we limit and control global-warming emissions and participate actively in preserving and restoring forest resources, temperatures will continue to rise, which could mean heat waves, extreme weather, drought, flooding, famine and uncountable disasters.

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