Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says logistics is why she is not attending the UN Conference on climate change, COP27. Instead, she is going to Apec and the East Asia Summit later this month.
I am flying to Sharm El Sheikh tonight. The logistics are straightforward. I can give the PM the name of my travel agent.
I am not a participant. An assembly of over 100 world leaders including the President of the United States will attend the historic event. The future of the planet is being decided. I love politics. I have to see it. Plus I have been invited to a wedding.
Ardern is a celebrity. If she did go she could make a difference. Once she claimed climate change is “my generation’s nuclear-free moment”.
Global warming is the “tragedy of the commons” that we learnt in economics. When every farmer can graze as many goats as he likes on the commons, no one farmer’s actions can prevent overgrazing. Others will just add more goats. To save the commons by preventing overgrazing, all farmers need to reduce their herds.
To stop global warming an international agreement is essential.
Climate change is incredibly challenging.
All countries are affected. A few countries have produced the most warming. All countries must make painful adjustments. Contrary to the claims that these UN conferences are just greenwashing, remarkable progress has been made. Every nation except Iran has made a commitment.
While the Paris agreement needs improvement, if nations meet their commitments, it would reduce global warming. Too few are meeting their pledges.
The International Climate Action Tracker lists eight nations as being “highly insufficient”: Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, Switzerland, Vietnam and New Zealand. If Ardern thinks staying away is the way to avoid criticism she should remember the proverb “he who is absent is always in the wrong”.
Ardern’s contribution to COP27 could have been powerful. She could say some truths and be listened to.
Many activist groups that are anti-technology and anti-capitalist are part of the problem. To reduce global warming we need technology and markets.
Ardern could have said, “how does it reduce global warming for the world’s lowest emitting dairy producer to reduce its herd so that higher emitters like India can increase their cow numbers? We are not going to do it”.
Ardern could have used the conference to pledge to lift New Zealand’s irrational ban on genetic engineering. With genetics we can have even lower emitting agriculture. She could point out the biggest emitter of methane is not agriculture but oil and gas fields. The technology to capture methane from oil wells already exists.
Ardern could silence critics by pledging to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme.
By cross-party agreement, the New Zealand Parliament has established a legal framework that will result in the country meeting zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Emissions Trading Act. In New Zealand it is illegal to emit carbon without an emission credit. Carbon is bought at source.
Those who remove carbon like forestry can earn tradable carbon credits. The number of carbon credits will reduce until we reach net zero by 2050. The hole in the scheme is that export industries such as agriculture have had to be granted an exemption.
New Zealand is trying to have a “one nation” climate policy. New Zealand industries can only buy New Zealand carbon credits. Carbon saved overseas is just as effective as carbon saved domestically. Our one-nation policy means a New Zealand carbon credit costs about $87. An equivalent carbon credit in China costs around $13 (US$8).
New Zealand having net zero emissions cannot change the climate. It is called global warming for a reason. To change our climate we must have global net zero emissions.
Ardern should be going to COP27 to announce the emissions trading scheme is being extended to cover all industries, including farming, and all industries will in future be able to buy globally certified carbon credits.
It will no longer be economic for corporations to buy up New Zealand’s prime agricultural land to convert into forestry to earn artificially expensive carbon credits.
She could say she was at the COP27 to negotiate to buy carbon credits from countries like the Solomon Islands that agree to regrow their tropical forests. Tropical forests are four times more efficient at absorbing carbon than temperate forests. It would be a win for both countries and the planet.
She should say that a carbon-free future will be an electric future. The carbon-free source of enough electricity for an electric future is nuclear. Ardern should pledge to lift New Zealand’s 40-year ban on nuclear energy.
Now that would be a presentation that would help save the earth.