Carbon Bill a rational act

The laws of science govern our world indifferent to passing parades of politicians, immune to oratory. The numbered laws of thermodynamics, Kirchoff's law of thermal radiation - these will always have the final say, regardless of a Speaker's prejudices.

The laws we make for ourselves as a society are not always as mindful of this reality as they might be. But occasionally the two coalesce. The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, unveiled last week, is an example.

It acknowledges the reality of the physical processes driving climate change and puts in place a mechanism for the country to address processes and behaviours that contribute to it.

There is good science behind it.

In New Zealand, the job of living up to our commitments under the Paris Agreement is made slightly more complicated by the unusual mix of greenhouse gases we emit, for a developed country anyway.

It is important not to overplay this. All countries face particular issues in cutting emissions, and we are in the privileged position of having a relatively low-carbon electricity system.

Nevertheless, the large part methane plays in our emissions profile has been a complicating factor.

The new Bill suggests a workable solution, applying recent research on understanding the different lifecycles of ''short-lived'' gases such as methane, and ''long-lived'' gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, to set reduction targets.

There have been objections to the targets for methane in the Bill from both those who think they lack ambition and those who regard them as ruinous. Perhaps an indication they are about right.

It can be expected that the process proposed by the Bill, with five-yearly carbon budgets set by an independent Climate Change Commission, made up of those with relevant expertise, will continue to stick close to the science. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in October last year, indicated little latitude remains in terms of making the emissions reductions required to keep global temperature increase to below 1.5degC.

While the Bill does not afford the commission decision-making powers, that was always going to be the case. Governments jealously preserve that right. It has also been noted that there is little in the way of sanction in the Bill for governments that do not meet carbon budget targets. However, it can be expected there will be diminishing patience in the electorate for more procrastination. The speculative climate change science of decades past has become the reality of today, in the shape of record temperatures, rising seas, sharpening storms, fires and droughts.

We have witnessed the failure of the Kyoto Protocol to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and the Climate Change Response Act of 2002, that the proposed new Bill will amend, oversaw only a toothless emissions trading scheme, debased by the purchase of ''hot air'' credits from Eastern Europe. It is time for better.

The Bill will be rightly tested by the Opposition and others as it moves through Parliament, but it is to be hoped that the focus will be to ensure it is as watertight as possible. That there will be no more free passes for favoured sectors of the economy. All must now share the load.

Equally, as sectors of the economy are identified as being particularly affected by the Bill, the Government must do all it can to facilitate a just transition. The conference of the same name in Taranaki last week was a welcome initiative in that process.

So, as we make the emissions reductions that will genuinely safeguard the climate for futuure generations, we need to keep the science at the front of our minds. The laws of the physical world do not wait for us to be ready. Acting now is what they demand.

 

Comments

New Zealand has been conned

It is unusual for a newspaper to publish bald, non evidential statements to the degree that the Otago Daily Times publishes yours online. That, is free speech.

The evidence on Climate Change is in. The debate was politicised.

prove what I post to be incorrect / wheres the proof climate change is man made..... if at all.

The climate change movement is purely political. The great scientific tradition we have been gifted has been corrupted. Search for yourself: "replication crisis". Seventy percent of modern papers do not bear scrutiny. They do not repeat.

Consensus has nothing to do with Science. Copernicus was terrified of consensus. Consensus brings us the terror of the majority. Science always questions.

Climate science is cant. It is a religion. Offer a dissent and you attract immediate opprobrium. We should separate religion and public office. This is power politics for nefarious intent.

The climate has changed for billions of years. It is arrogant to think we can change it.

 

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