Thursday, 8 May 2008

Climate Snippets - 9 May

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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Government fuel taxes delayed until 2011.

The Government has confirmed it will not introduce petrol and other liquid fuels into its emissions trading scheme (ETS) until 2011. The fuels were slated for introduction in January. It has been estimated the move would have pushed up the price of petrol by between 6c and 8c a litre. "These changes will lessen the burden on businesses and households which have been facing steeply rising fuel costs," Miss Clark said.

The Government has also said it will veto a quick 5c jump in the price of petrol next year in Auckland to help pay for transport projects, saying regional petrol taxes will be phased in. Legislation is before Parliament that would allow councils to levy up to 10c a litre, but Prime Minister Helen Clark said such large increases would not be allowed immediately.

The Green Party is on the verge of pulling its support for Bill.

The Green Party has threatened to pull its support from the scheme, saying it was a panicked "gutless" reaction to lobbying from business groups and other political parties which would render the scheme useless. Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the party was "very, very close to pulling our support", potentially leaving Labour to rely on National's support to push it through. "The bottom line is we won't support this unless it makes a reasonable reduction in carbon emissions soon. This would mean another two years of people buying larger cars than they need and using them when there are alternatives like public transport, car pooling, biking and walking. It would weaken our credibility internationally and our sustainable brand."

National leader John Key said he supported the delay to the fuel charges, but said the backdowns were an embarrassment for Helen Clark and left her credibility on climate change "in tatters". He said National still believed a trading scheme was the best method to tackle climate change. His party would continue to work with the Government and in select committee on a solution which balanced out environmental and economic issues. United Future Peter Dunne said the delay for petrol was welcome, but he was yet to decide on his party's ongoing support for the scheme.

Green Party: ETS crumbles as 'grand coalition' forms.

Green Party says a 'grand coalition' of Labour and National is already forming over the Emissions Trading Scheme, as predicted by the Green Party earlier this week. National has demanded the ban on new thermal generation be abandoned, as the price of its support.

Maori Party added its voice to Green Party threats that it could pull support from the scheme after two backdowns on the scheme from the Government.

Asked if it would continue to support the scheme, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said: "It's looking as if we won't. The Government can't go round promising or telling people one thing and then backing down because it's election year. You either genuinely believe this needs to happen and you've got a strategy to address the issues around climate change, or you haven't."

Other comments this week:

Fuel retailer Gull is warning that the Government's proposed ETS could hurt its profits to the point where it reconsiders operating in New Zealand.

Don Elder: Govt will 'make billions' from emissions plan

The Kyoto Forestry Association is concerned about reports the Government plans delaying bringing other industries, notably transport, into the ETS saying it risks significantly devaluing the carbon credits, now known as New Zealand Units, that post-1989 forest owners have been earning since 1 January 2008 under the ETS.

Government buys back rail.

Finance Minister Dr Cullen, on Monday announced the Government had bought back the rail and ferry business from Toll Holdings for $665 million. Initial reaction to the decision had been generally positive. The Green Party said they “look forward to a time when many of today’s big trucks are off the roads and there are many more trains and coastal ships instead. And also look forward to the reinstatement of long distance passenger rail services so that New Zealanders can still travel when airfares rise further as a result of fuel prices.”

ARTA accepts idea of airport rail loops.

Auckland's public transport agency has accepted in principle a recommendation for sweeping railway loops between Britomart and the airport, estimated to cost just under $2.2 billion. Although saying that some components may take "decades" to put in place, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority has confirmed heavy rail as its preferred rapid-transport mode for the region's southwestern quadrant along 29km of new tracks. That encompasses the airport, which would eventually have railway lines converging on it from Wiri to the east, and from northern locations including Penrose, Onehunga and even Avondale to the northwest. Light rail and busways have been ruled out as long-term options, although authority chief executive Fergus Gammie told Auckland City's transport committee yesterday of more immediate plans to boost airport bus services.

‘Desmogblog’ outs Heartlands dodgy science list: Kiwi scientists distance themselves.

The Heartland Institute has named five New Zealanders in a list of 500 scientists whose published research is alleged to undermine support for the idea that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, largely fossil fuel burning, is warming the globe. The five scientists concerned are Associate Professor Chris Hendy (University of Waikato), Dr Matt McGlone (Science Team Leader, Landcare Research), Dr Neville Moar (retired DSIR,), Dr Jim Salinger (Principal Scientist, NIWA) and Dr Peter Wardle (retired DSIR, FRSNZ).

Heartland has also this week sent out more than 11,000 brochures and DVDs to Canadian schools urging them to teach their students that scientists are exaggerating how human activity is the driving force behind global warming.

Tropics insects 'face extinction.'

Many tropical insects face extinction by the end of this century unless they adapt to the rising global temperatures predicted, US scientists have said. Researchers led by the University of Washington said insects in the tropics were much more sensitive to temperature changes than those elsewhere. In contrast, higher latitudes could experience an insect population boom. The scientists said changes in insect numbers could have secondary effects on plant pollination and food supplies. In the research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the US scientists studied how temperature changes between 1950 and 2000 had affected 38 species of insects. Unlike warm-blooded animals, cold-blooded organisms cannot regulate their body temperatures by growing a coat of fur or shedding it when it gets warm. They are instead limited to either seek shade when hot or sun themselves when cool.

Next decade 'may see no warming'.

The Earth's temperature may stay roughly the same for a decade, as natural climate cycles enter a cooling phase, scientists have predicted. A new computer model developed by German researchers, reported in the journal Nature, suggests the cooling will counter greenhouse warming. However, temperatures will again be rising quickly by about 2020, they say.
Other climate scientists have welcomed the research, saying it may help societies plan better for the future.

Trial approved for Cook Strait tidal power.

Electricity from Cook Strait tides could be powering Wellington homes by the end of next year after a company won approval to install an underwater turbine. Neptune Power has consent from Greater Wellington regional council to place the turbine 95 metres below the surface, 4.5 kilometres off Sinclair Head on Wellington's southwest coast. The Christchurch company hopes to have the turbine operational within 18 months, powering 400 Wellington houses via Vector's Wellington grid. Company spokesman David Beach said the $4.5 million two-rotor turbine was capable of producing one megawatt of power - enough to supply 800 households. If it proved successful, Mr Beach said his company hoped to have up to 30 turbines operating in Cook Strait by 2025. "They could generate 350 megawatts of power."That's the equivalent of the New Plymouth power station."

In Brief

Biofuel moratorium 'would slash food prices.'

Greenpeace report finds CCS is unproven, risky and expensive.

The Government releases the latest update on the cost of meeting New Zealand’s Kyoto obligations which showed that it had officially reached one billion dollars for the first time.

Tesco trials climate change labels on groceries including potatoes, orange juice, washing-up liquid and light bulbs.

Watchdog calls for new UN agency to oversee transport emissions.

"Super-spike" could lift oil to $200: Goldman Sachs.

Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede.

Shell game: oil giant pulls out of U.K. wind farm.

Monbiot: Is the airship a viable alternative to jet travel?

Legget: No time at all.

Rod Oram: Wheels start to turn on climate change

Couple buy Golden Bay `carbon farm.'

Greens call for walking option on Harbour Bridge.

Best of the Net

Radio NZ ETS interview with Helen Clark, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Peter Dunne.

Agenda: ETS discussion with David Parker and Russel Norman.

Wellington tram e-petition

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