Call to be bold on climate change
By NAOMI ARNOLD - The Nelson Mail
Last updated 12:30 18/07/2009
The message from Nelson citizens gathered at the Government's climate change meeting last night was clear: aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and we will make lifestyle sacrifices to achieve it.
The Nelson meeting was the last of a two-week, nine-city tour that gathered Kiwi opinions about what emissions target the Government should put forward at the next stage of global climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, in August.
The mood of the meeting mostly matched a three-storey message from Greenpeace projected on to the side of the Rutherford Hotel. It showed scrolling messages from 70,000 people who had signed an online petition urging the Government to commit to the figure of 40 per cent.
Minister for the Environment Nick Smith told the audience that he had received varying receptions up and down the country. "When I was in Hawke's Bay a couple of nights ago the meeting was filled with sceptics. People in the audience thought climate change science was all a load of crap. Every time I quoted the science I got booed and hissed."
In contrast, Nelsonians seemed to put forward a unified front, and there were barely any dissenters in the audience of around 200, some of whom had to stand throughout the entire 2 1/2-hour presentation.
The only one brave enough to publicly question the authenticity of climate science, past president of Federated Farmers Marlborough, David Dillon, was roundly heckled.
After the meeting Mr Dillon said he thought he might have needed a security guard to get out of there. "I would probably have got a better reception in Hawke's Bay."
He said he would "hate to see this country go broke just to look good" and disagreed with the science Dr Smith presented.
"We're in a recession and we're going to be handicapped by carbon tax. They give you this great guilt thing about damning our children's futures .. I'm portrayed as a criminal for speaking like this."
But Dr Smith said there could no longer be any debate about the fact that the climate was changing because of human impact.
"At the heart of the problem is this: CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And the science on this is unquestionable. [CO2 levels] have increased, at an increasing rate, as Western societies and developing countries have increased their emissions into the atmosphere .. we've got a major problem, but there are still some uncertainties about the extent of the problem."
The economic solution he said, was "really hard" and needed to consider New Zealand's unique makeup of emissions, of which almost half came from agriculture in 2007. "It involves a fundamental change in the way we live to get a constraint on the increase of C02 .. frankly this issue is bigger than the National Party, the Labour Party, the Green Party or any party. This is an issue for all of humankind."
But Dr Smith focused too much on the costs and challenges and ignored the opportunities, said Greenpeace Sign On campaigner Gareth Hughes, who urged him to "be bold".
"New Zealand should sign on to a 40 per cent target because that is what science says is necessary .. we won't get a second chance with this one. There is no Planet B."
He said Kiwis were a can-do people that wanted to do the right thing, and the country should be thinking of ways to capitalise on the issue technologically and financially.
"As [42 below Vodka founder and CEO] Geoff Ross says, climate change is a bloody good business opportunity."
Nayland College student Jack Harvey said Dr Smith had spoken about the need to be honest with New Zealanders about the cost to their livelihoods of a 40 per cent reduction by 2020. But during the session he asked if it wouldn't be better to focus on what the costs to the future of New Zealand would be if the country didn't make a stance on it.
"Who here would not be willing to make sacrifices to their lifestyle to ensure the future of people like me, their children and your children? I don't see 40 per cent by 2020 as a sacrifice or something to be afraid of; I see it as an opportunity, not only to improve our environment and the world we live in .. but also as a chance to improve the society we live in, bring people together and build better connections within the community," he said to loud cheers from the audience.
It was a sentiment echoed by many, including Dr Smith.
"I want to pass on to my kids a world that is inhabitable," he said.
The Government will announce its greenhouse gas emissions target at the next negotiations in Switzerland next month.
OANZ News July, 2009
Wholistic Carbon Offset System Targets Organics
Charitable organization Reciprocate Biocapacity Ltd, established in May 2008, is targeting organic properties as recipients of voluntary Carbon Footprint donations.
Helle Janssen, Biocapacity Analyst for Reciprocate, says that they accept donations from individuals, businesses and organizations to mitigate Ecological Footprints.
Unlike many other offset schemes, however, Mr Janssen says that Reciprocate Biocapacity supports wholistic outcomes.
Projects focus on restoring environmental integrity by supporting ecosystem guardians, re-establish biodiversity and useful natural resources (multipurpose indigenous and compatible exotic woodlands) for resilient bioregional communities.
Importantly, soil carbon increases are also considered – and because organic land is often ecosystem guardianship in practice, Mr Janssen says organic producers could have a key role as recipients of Reciprocate Biocapacity funding.
Each “Biocapacity Bond” costs $200, which establishes 20 multipurpose trees to sequester 10 tonnes of CO2 equivalents in both soil and plants. This is enough to offset carbon emissions associated with the lifestyle of an average consumer over ½ year, or a long haul economy class flight.