Thursday, 19 June 2008

Climate Snippets - 20 June

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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Labour talks on emissions reaching crucial stage.

Labour's private talks with the Greens and New Zealand First are entering a key phase as it desperately tries to get its flagship emissions trading scheme passed into law before the election. The scheme was reported back by a select committee yesterday with 1000 mainly technical amendments.

The select committee recommended that the bill be passed but Labour is yet to secure the political support it needs to get the legislation through its final stages in the House. There are several combinations Labour could hypothetically use to get the 61 votes it needs to get the legislation into law but some are clearly more politically palatable than others. The most likely combination of votes now appears to be the Greens and New Zealand First, but those parties are seeking different things and it will be hard to get a deal that satisfies both.

New Zealand First's concerns extend far wider than just the impact of the scheme on power prices - it is also worried about effects on the fishing and shipping industries, it isn't sure about Labour's planned ban on new thermal power generation, and it wants to look carefully at the impact on major employers such as a steel mill.

The Greens, meanwhile, have given Labour a rundown of what they want in the scheme, which includes some movement on the introduction of agriculture. Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the Greens would vote against the bill unless it improved at the committee stage in coming weeks in the House. "It's not a question of whether something is better than nothing," she said. "This sets up a huge, highly complex and very expensive edifice which is only worth having if it's going to really reduce greenhouse emissions in a fair way. If it's not going to do that we would actually be better off without it."
Maori Party: ETS rips off taxpayers, poor families hardest hit.

“The ETS as it currently stands is not fair and not transparent. Costs fall almost entirely on families and taxpayers, while big businesses and industrial farmers who are generating greenhouse gases get off scot free for years to come. The Maori Party knows there will be real costs that threaten the viability of some businesses. The ETS should deal with those situations as they arise – not by giving blanket protections to whole industries, which remove any incentive to cut emissions. We have sympathy for the seafood industry – why are other export industries given carbon credits, but fishers are not included in the lolly scramble? The whole scheme is riddled with inconsistencies,” said Mrs Turia. “It is fundamentally flawed and in its current form delivers little for the environment and Papatuanuku”.

Lights out for old bulbs.

The Government launched a strategy today which will mean lights out for old-style bulbs as it seeks to reduce lighting energy consumption by 20 percent by 2015. Energy Minister David Parker and government spokesperson on energy efficiency and conservation Jeanette Fitzsimons said the days of the traditional energy-hungry incandescent bulb were numbered. The strategy aimed to phase out the bulbs from late 2009. Once new standards were introduced, no new stocks of the incandescent bulbs can be imported for sale. Ms Fitzsimons said technological advances in the area meant there were more and more options.
Some are Electricity Commission subsidised. New Zealand spent about $660 million on electricity for lighting a year generating about 2.65 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Almost $500m could be saved by 2020, "just by changing the lights", Ms Fitzsimons said.

Ocean temperatures and sea level increases 50 percent higher than previously estimated.

New research suggests that ocean temperature and associated sea level increases between 1961 and 2003 were 50 percent larger than estimated in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Results were compared with recent estimates of other contributions to sea-level rise including glaciers, ice caps, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and thermal expansion changes in the deep ocean. When these independent lines of evidence are examined collectively, the story is more consistent than found in earlier studies. The oceans store more than 90 percent of the heat in the Earth’s climate system and act as a temporary buffer against the effects of climate change. The ocean warming and thermal expansion rates are 50 percent larger than previous estimates for the upper 700 meters of oceans, and greater than that for the upper 300 meters.

Africa: seeking a common position on climate change.

The Twelfth African Ministerial Conference on Environment ended five days of deliberations today with governments and civil society agreed -- separately -- on the importance of developing a common position for Africa at next year's climate change talks in Copenhagen. "Climate change is the defining human development and security issue of our generation. Those responsible should compensate the people whose livelihoods have been destroyed as a result," said Ewah Eleri, director of the International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development in Nigeria. The groups said Africa contributes least to greenhouse gas emissions, yet millions of Africans were being forced to daily deal with devastating impacts of climate change. Eleri said mandatory compensation must be paid to Africa by global polluters. He was particularly critical of the suggestion that African governments should obtain loans to fund climate change adaptation. "You don't burn someone's house and then offer them a loan to rebuild it," said Eleri.

Climate change is fuelling conflicts around the world and helping to drive the number of people forced out of their homes to new highs, says the head of the UN's refugee.

After a few years of improvement, thanks mainly to large-scale resettlement in Afghanistan, the numbers of civilians uprooted by conflict is again rising. During 2007 the total jumped to 37.4 million, an increase of more than 3 million, according to statistics published today. The figures, described as "unprecedented" by the UN, do not include people escaping natural disasters or poverty - only those fleeing conflict and persecution. But Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said that climate change could also uproot people by provoking conflicts over increasingly scarce resources, such as water.

NZ sees breakthrough in animal gas problem.

New Zealand believes it has made a breakthrough in its plan to cut methane emissions from its livestock, part of a strategy to tackle greenhouse gasses, the farming nation's trade minister said on Wednesday. "Our agricultural research organisation just last week was able to map the genome ... that causes methane in ruminant animals and we believe we can vaccinate against (that)," Phil Goff told a conference in Paris.

Businesses' green vows 'need to be provable'

New Zealand can't rely on some "hazy glow" of advertising around its clean, green image to capture the sustainability-oriented consumer market, says a British retail expert. Mike Barry, head of corporate social responsibility at Marks & Spencer, said at an Environmental Defence Society conference in Auckland last week that evidence of commitment to sustainability had to be clear and provable.

ARC banks on election to fund rail.

Political parties can expect organised pressure from the Auckland Regional Council to bid against one another to fund ambitious railway extensions, notably links to the airport. The idea of trying to influence the election was spurred by their endorsement of a $2.2 billion proposal of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority to create railway loops between Britomart and the airport via Avondale, Penrose, Onehunga and Wiri - including tunnels under Onehunga and part of State Highway 20. That would be in addition to a tunnel under central Auckland to form an inner rail loop for about $1 billion, which authority planning chief Peter Clark said would be essential for expanding services into Britomart. Councillor Joel Cayford, while welcoming the rail expansion plan, said it was "incapable of being funded unless the Government puts its hand up in a bigger way". Dr Cayford noted the Government's slowdown over introducing a regional fuel tax, which was only to pay for the $1 billion electrification of the existing rail network without provision for any extensions.

Catch the train now or miss the bus: The Government should underwrite the funding stream for the electrification of the Auckland rail system so new electric trains can be ordered now, the Green Party says.

In Brief

Gore endorses Obama, says candidate has what it takes to tackle climate crisis.

Bush will seek to end offshore oil drilling ban.

CO2 disposal in the ocean is a dangerous distraction.

Solid Energy, has ordered a twenty four year tourist activity to cease operations in a cave system it is about to destroy.

UK Climate change protesters hijack Drax coal train.

Segway sales glides as gasoline jumps.

With a new kit, turn your car into a hybrid.

Nuclear power grew by less than 2,000 megawatts in 2007, to 372,000 megawatts total, according to Worldwatch. This growth is just one-tenth the amount of new wind power capacity installed globally in 2007.

Best of the Net

Audio: Sunday Group discussion on Peak Oil and the future of oil supplies.

Blog: How Do We Intelligently Discuss Politicized Geoengineering?

ESA’s Envisat satellite captured further break-up of the Wilkins Ice Shelf – the first ever-documented episode to occur in winter.

Petition: to the prime minister of Japan - the chair of the powerful G8 summit. Join the call for climate action now!

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