Friday 25 October 2019

Ruling out doing anything about 99.83% of the world's emissions

The Zero Carbon Bill requires the government to focus on domestic mitigation opportunities. But the rest of the world provides 99.83% of the world's emissions. Does it seem likely that all of the very best opportunities for mitigating emissions will be found here at home? We risk ruling out doing far more good than we otherwise could.

A snippet:
I don't know if anyone ever really believed manufacturing televisions in New Zealand made sense.

Controls in place until New Zealand's reforms prohibited importing fully assembled televisions, to encourage manufacture and assembly in New Zealand. But it resulted in nonsense practises guaranteed to make televisions more expensive.

New Zealand businessman Alan Gibbs famously found it profitable to have Japanese television manufacturer JVC disassemble televisions and ship the parts to New Zealand for reassembly.

If what you cared about most in the world was making sure that Kiwi families could afford televisions, banning or severely restricting trade was hardly the right solution.

So why does the Government's proposed Zero Carbon bill, meant to address the biggest environmental challenge of our time, shackle New Zealand into only pursuing those carbon emission reductions achievable here at home?
The Bill requires that New Zealand's emissions budgets be met, "as far as possible", through domestic measures.

There is obviously a lot more that can be done domestically to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme can, should, and likely will be strengthened. The ETS should be comprehensive across all sectors. As carbon prices increase, households and businesses will adjust in the same way that they do with any other change in relative prices.

But as carbon budgets become tighter, domestic low-hanging emission-reduction fruit start being eaten up. Each subsequent tonne of emission reductions becomes more expensive than the one that came before it.

And while spending massive amounts per tonne abated can be worthwhile if it is the only and best way of avoiding catastrophic climate change, it makes far less sense if there are cheaper opportunities out there to reduce emissions.

Does it make sense for New Zealanders, collectively, to invest a lot of costly effort in the next million tonnes of emission reductions in New Zealand if, for the same kind of commitment, we could back projects abroad that did twice as much good, or 10 times as much good?
I'll now be appearing fortnightly in the Fairfax papers, so keep an eye out for me there.

No comments:

Post a Comment