An ambition for zero carbon

with Sue Edmonds

Zero carbon – can it be that Central Government will at last take a leading role on climate change?

I read Simon Upton’s sensible and measured report on what needs to be considered in setting up our own Climate Commission and writing the legislation of what is already being called the Zero Carbon Act. My goodness, what a few years and a little maturity can do.

Having been a member of Geoffrey Palmer’s staff when the Resource Management Act was created, it was galling to say the least when the Other Side got to put it into practice. Labour had planned for a detailed central guidance plan to be created. What happened was a certain politician promptly handed it to regional councils to get on with as best they could. Was it somewhat surprising then that 27 different organisations applied it in 27 different ways, provoking endless arguments and court cases over its interpretation?

So I see a certain irony in the current measured statements that Central Government not only has to make the right decisions, but must get cross party agreement on them all, to make sure that the new Act and the upcoming Commission are totally clear on what will be needed to achieve the carbon budgets that they will have to advise on and measure.

Sectoral uprisings

Unless all this is done exactly right, I fear we shall see yet more sectoral uprisings such as the current ones being fought over freshwater.

I agree that the United Kingdom model provides a good start, but even there politicians didn’t really get the point, and opted to go on drilling for gas and oil, and digging up coal. However, as they all now have 10 years more experience, perhaps ours will get the point quicker, particularly when the cyclones get more and more frequent.

We need independent and intellectual persons on the Commission, with no hint of sectoral interests. Do we have enough of those? We’ve already seen with water and other issues that, when a whiff of sectoral interests creeps in, the results get bent and worthless.

It will be interesting to see the order in which the current government goes about forming these things. Climate Commission for advice first, or dive into an Act and amend it later?

And the Act itself, which will need to survive unscathed through changing parliaments, is going to need very explicit but modern systems for its clauses and regulations.

Workable policies

I agree that a term of six years for our carbon budgets could probably work best here, with the review every three years. And ensuring that whatever government is in power has to come up with workable and measurable policies to carry out that budget within six months of it being set or reviewed, will certainly keep policy noses to the grindstone each time.

Adaptation should certainly be in there somewhere, as our mitigation efforts to date have proved to be mainly an excuse for argument. Something about our economy is going to have to change drastically in the near future. It doesn’t have to be all about agriculture, but that’s where most of the methane and nitrous oxide, those which cause more gas problems while they are around, are generally found.

And it’s all going to cost a heap, so who is going to be expected to pay?


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