Anglicans CAN submission on the Zero Carbon Amendment Bill

Submission to the Environment Select Committee on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill 2019

Anglican Climate Action Network
Contact person: Dr. Richard Milne

Summary of recommendations
  • That the purpose of the Zero Carbon Act be clearly stated in the Act.
  • That the proposed Climate Change Commission be expanded to include at least one Māori person and two persons under 30 years of age, one male and one female. 
  • That the Climate Change Commission sets targets based on cumulative greenhouse gas emissions rather than annual or 5-yearly emissions.
  • That the Bill strengthens its targets for biogenic methane emissions, considering the need for a fair and just transition from present agricultural methods to low emissions agriculture.
  • That the Climate Change Commission be tasked to set a limit on the carbon emissions that can be compensated through the emissions trading scheme.
  • That the Bill includes a provision which requires the Climate Change Commission to provide advice to the Government on how emissions-reduction and adaptation policies can best ensure that the burden of adjustment is shared fairly and that the extractive industries, agriculture and forestry and least advantaged citizens are assisted in practical ways to adjust. 
  • That the Minister be given 3 months rather than 12 months to respond to any recommendation of the Climate Change Commission (clause 5R1). 
  • That emissions budgets be published within 3 months of consultation with all political parties, and that any reasons for disagreement be published (clause 5ZA).
  • That government departments be required to follow the recommendations of the Minister (clause 5XL).

Who we are

The Auckland Anglican Climate Action Network is formally acknowledged and resourced by the Anglican diocese of Auckland to work towards a carbon neutral New Zealand. To this end, since 2006 we have worked towards divestment of church resources from the fossil fuel industry; provided education on climate change and sustainable living at parish level; conducted audits of church buildings (energy/water/waste/food production and consumption); advocated for more efficient use of clergy vehicles including electric cars; developed community gardens; and made connections with other Christian churches with similar intentions. 

In addition, the Global Anglican Communion at a meeting of its highest governance body, the Anglican Consultative Council, in Hong Kong in April 2019 passed the following motion on Climate Change (abbreviated):

recognises that there is a global climate emergency

requests every Member Church to develop an action plan, and resources, for sustainable living at individual, parish, diocesan and provincial level; including, but not limited to, policies and procedures to minimise waste, increase use of renewable energies, and incorporate creation care into liturgical practice

encourages each Member Church to hold a strategic planning conference on the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change, ensuring the involvement of Indigenous, young, and women’s voices, and to report back to ACC18

asks Member Churches to identify environmental and climate-related threats in their context and to develop or adapt existing tools on disaster preparedness and mitigation

We accept the very strong scientific evidence that progressive increases in mean surface temperatures (‘global warming’), resulting in major changes to the Earth’s climate and ecosystem, are caused largely by burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and progressive deforestation in Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, New Zealand and elsewhere. Therefore, we believe that the emphasis of the Bill should be on transitioning to a low or zero carbon economy as rapidly as possible, and sequestration of carbon through reforestation and other means.

Endorsement

The Anglican Climate Action Network endorses the proposed Zero Carbon Bill with an architecture for emissions reductions in New Zealand, with strengthening (see below). We support the global goal to limit warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels and the signal of solidarity with Pacific Island Nations that are already suffering from rising sea levels, thought to be a consequence of melting of the glaciers and polar ice caps and expansion of warming oceans. We also endorse the formation of an independent advisory Climate Change Commission, operating under the principles of social justice, intergenerational justice and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Matters for the Select Committee to consider. 

Recommendation: that the purpose of the Zero Carbon Act be clearly stated in the Act.

“The purpose of the Climate Change (Zero Carbon) Amendment 2019 Act is to enable Aotearoa New Zealand to contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5°C in accordance with the IPCC 1.5 degrees report (2018).”

  • We acknowledge that, without similar actions in other countries, reductions in carbon emissions in New Zealand will make little or no measurable difference to the global mean atmospheric temperature or the local climate. However, for moral reasons and because of New Zealand’s commitment to the Paris Accord, this fact does not provide an excuse to have weak ambitions around reducing our carbon emissions.
  • New Zealand is in a unique position geographically and strategically, being a relatively wealthy country located on the Pacific rim, which can take a moral lead over other developed countries in reducing carbon emissions for the common good of the Earth and all its inhabitants.
  • it is very clear that the future cost of weak emissions policies will be born largely by those individuals who were born after about 1970. Reducing carbon emissions therefore is a matter of intergenerational justice.
  • It is also clear that the future cost of weak emissions policies will selectively disadvantage the poorest sectors of our community, who cannot afford to buy themselves out of trouble (e.g. by relocating away from the coast or adjusting to increases in food prices brought about by flood- or drought-induced food insecurity). This is a matter of social justice.

Composition of the Climate Change Commission

Recommendation: that the proposed Climate Change Commission be expanded to include at least one Māori person and two persons under 30 years of age, one male and one female. 

In order to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori cultural values, and the potential impact of carbon reduction policies on Māori, it is important that at least one Māori person be represented on the Commission.

We recommend that the proposed Climate Change Commission be expanded to include two persons under 30 years of age, preferably one male and one female, to be nominated by one or other of the organisations of young people that are making submissions on the ZCB (such as Generation Zero and 350.org).

Speaking as parents and grandparents, we are aware that many thoughtful young people are deeply concerned about their future and need to be reassured that their Government is taking strong steps to mitigate climate change and to demonstrate moral leadership to the rest of the world. Their concern has been evident in protests and school strikes, and in formation of strong NGOs dedicated to action on climate change. Collectively, these young people hold a lot of wisdom as well as passion, and this needs to be explicitly recognised by direct participation in the Climate Change Commission. 

Emissions targets

Recommendation: that the Climate Change Commission sets targets based on cumulative greenhouse gas emissions rather than annual or 5-yearly emissions.

While the Bill declares support for a 1.5°C warming cap (above pre-industrial levels), the targets are not consistent with this goal. 

The key issue is what our cumulative emissions will be over the next 30+ years. A fast reduction path over the next 10-15 years followed by a slower reduction path over the subsequent 15-20 years will deliver much lower cumulative emissions than a slow reduction path in the near term followed by a rapid, probably panic-driven steep reduction path later. 

The IPCC 1.5°C report suggests that to have a 50% chance of staying within the 1.5°C warming limit (with little or no overshoot) will require global CO2 emissions to fall by about 45% compared to 2010 levels by 2030. The Bill therefore must commit to a reduction of this magnitude by 2030.

Given NZ’s large cumulative emissions to date and our current high per capita emissions (both of long-lived gases and GHG emissions overall), together with our relatively high GDP per capita, there is a very strong case, based on well-established principles of distributive justice, for NZ to commit to a faster reduction in long-lived GHG gases than the global average (i.e. of 45%). Aside from this, a 50% chance of avoiding more than 1.5°C warming entails a very high risk of failing and heading towards global climate catastrophe.

Biogenic methane emissions

Recommendation: that the Bill strengthens its targets for biogenic methane emissions, considering the need for a fair and just transition from present agricultural methods to low emissions agriculture.

The Bill in its present form has very weak targets for reduction of biogenic methane emissions. We acknowledge the impact on the farming community of having stronger targets for methane emissions and we acknowledge the scientific argument that biomethane is short lived and is in a stable equilibrium and therefore does not contribute directly to growth in annual carbon emissions or further global warming. 

However, any methane in the atmosphere contributes to global warming, regardless of its origin. Warming of the Arctic Circle is thawing the permafrost and thereby releasing methane, leading to positive feedback (i.e. increased warming leads to more methane which leads to increased warming). Ultimately, this could lead to dangerous tipping points and atmospheric temperatures that increase beyond the level that humanity can survive. Therefore, we believe that it is imperative that all nations reduce methane from all sources. In New Zealand, this requires much stronger targets than the Bill allows for currently. We submit that the Climate Change Commission should research this issue immediately and recommend a much stronger methane emissions pathway, finding ways to compensate the agricultural sector, especially dairy farming. 

The emissions trading scheme

Recommendation: that the Climate Change Commission be tasked to set a limit on the carbon emissions that can be compensated through the emissions trading scheme.

We are concerned that the emissions trading scheme can provide an excuse for failing to reduce carbon emissions directly. In this respect, it is like the mediaeval system of buying indulgences to compensate for bad behavior. Therefore, we believe that there should be a limit to the quantity of carbon emissions that can be traded.

On a just and inclusive society

Recommendation: that the Bill includes a provision which requires the Climate Change Commission to provide advice to the Government on how emissions-reduction and adaptation policies can best ensure that the burden of adjustment is shared fairly and that the extractive industries, agriculture and forestry and least advantaged citizens are assisted in practical ways to adjust. 

The Paris Agreement acknowledges that climate change is a common concern of humankind and that negotiating parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights. These include the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations; also, the right to development, gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.

The Explanatory notes of the Bill begin with an overarching purpose which includes ‘a just and inclusive society.’ However, this provision, which is also used extensively in the Regulatory Impact Statement, is not used in the Bill. Instead there is a requirement to consult affected communities, and 

  • (a) take account of economic, social, health, environmental, ecological, and cultural effects of climate change, including effects on iwi and Māori
  • (b) take account of the distribution of the effects of climate change across society, taking particular account of vulnerable groups or sectors(5ZQ4) 

Therefore, equity considerations need to be strengthened in the New Zealand bill. In particular, New Zealand needs to find ways to share the burden of reducing the size of ruminant herds; also providing employment and income support policies for changes in work and for retraining, with particular forecasting of training needs for renewable-energy industries and low-emission agriculture. 

Adaptation

Recommendation: that the Climate Change Commission be tasked to provide advice to the government on adaptation of society and of the economy to the predicted increase in extremes of temperature, drought, fires, flooding, fires, sea level rise and other outcomes of global warming.

The need for adaptation will become more evident as global atmospheric and oceanic temperatures keep rising. We submit that the most urgent task for the proposed Climate Change Commission is to advise on mitigation will in order to meet our international commitments; and a less urgent but equally important task is to advise on adaptation.

Specific recommendations

  1. Clause 5R1 of the Bill gives the Minister 12 months to respond to any recommendation of the Climate Change Commission. In view of the urgency for action this is far too long a period for governments to prevaricate. We recommend that the period be reduced to 3 months maximum.
  2. Clause 5ZA requires publication of emissions budgets after consultation with all political parties in the House of Representatives but puts no time limit on the response from political parties. We recommend that a time limit of 3 months be added and also a requirement that if a political party fails to agree a particular budget, the nature and reasons for their disagreement be made public.
  3. Clause 5XL allow Ministers to issue guidance to departments but fails to require a department to follow the guidance. We recommend that the issue is so important that if the Minister issues guidance to a department then the department should be required to follow that guidance.

Signed:

 Dr. Richard Milne (Co-Convenor)
Dr. Nicola Hoggard-Creegan (Co-Convenor)

On behalf of:

Dr. Bobbi Laing
Mr. Lane Hannah
Rev’d Jim Hunt
Mr. Rod Oram

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