Robin Grieve: Climate change target is not what it seems

The NZ Government has committed to ensure net emissions in 2030 are 30 per cent below our gross emissions of 2005. Photo / Supplied
The NZ Government has committed to ensure net emissions in 2030 are 30 per cent below our gross emissions of 2005. Photo / Supplied

Robin Grieve is chairman of Pastural Farming Climate Research Inc, an organisation formed to promote livestock emissions of methane as being of a cyclical nature and not responsible for global warming.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett, in an article she wrote for the Herald headed "We're on the right climate change tack", has said New Zealand's first target under the Paris Agreement, to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, is both fair and ambitious.

For those who are concerned about global warming, a target to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below what they were in 2005 would be good news if it was true, but it is not.

The minister's statement misleads us.

Our Government has not committed to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below what they were in 2005, as the minister's statement suggests it has.

In fact, it has not even committed to reduce emissions at all. What it has committed us as a country to do, is to ensure our net emissions in 2030 are 30 per cent below our gross emissions of 2005.

Gross emissions are our total emissions of the theoretical carbon unit. Net emissions are gross emissions less forestry removals. Net and gross emissions are not the same thing, the Government is effectively setting a target with apples and meeting it with oranges.

Our net emissions today are, as it happens, 32 per cent lower than our gross emissions of 2005 so it may be that we don't need to reduce our emissions at all to meet our target.

We do have to stop them increasing, which is no little thing, and comes at a potential cost to us all of $36 billion over 10 years to 2030.

If the cost is as predicted the consequence will be that each Kiwi family will be $32,000 poorer in 2030 than they would have been had it not been for Paula Bennett committing us to the Paris agreement.

The Minister's statement in the Herald is the same used on Government websites and publications as well as by the media who report them. They all omit essential clarifiers, such as whether the emissions to be reduced are gross or net emissions and whether the 2005 target level is our level of gross emissions, net emissions or our orange crop.

It is a world where you can reduce emissions and increase them at the same time.

Without these clarifiers the statements have no meaning. The result of the confusion is that readers have to make assumptions, and the most reasonable assumption is that the emissions Bennett refers to for her 2005 target level are the same emissions she is going to meet the target with, which of course Is not true.

The minister gets away with this deception because the climate change world and its unique form of carbon accounting is plagued with enough complexity and fabrication that most don't understand it.

Carbon itself is not even real, it is only a theoretical unit with values determined more by politics than science.

It is a world that gets curiouser and curiouser the more you study it; nothing is as it seems. It is oxymoronic with lashings of technical reality coupled with childlike make believe.

It is a world where you can reduce emissions and increase them at the same time. The most obvious example being the fact that New Zealand has had carbon reduction targets since the Kyoto Protocol and we have met every one, while at the same time our emissions, both gross and net, increase year on year.

Alice in Wonderland would be at home in Bennett's climate change world because it was Alice who said; "If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"

Perhaps Alice in Wonderland is the only person who could read Bennett's statement and conclude that committing to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels is the same thing as not reducing them at all, because it is. You see?

- NZ Herald

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