Skip to Content »

How long will our ETS last (2)

  • February 26th, 2010

Since the post on this two days ago I've heard that Paul Kelly's pessimism is matched at senior levels here in New Zealand. The chances of the Copenhagen Accord delivering anything are low. There will be effort to put something in its place, but whatever it is, it is unlikely to look much like Kyoto or Copenhagen.

China's intransigence has killed them. That may have been inevitable. If they had not, India might have done the same, though perhaps with less deliberate offense.

Take a look at this NCPA collection of sobering figures (drawn from the work of a physics professor at UCAL Berkeley) for an explanation.

  • China's emissions intensity (CO2 per dollar of GDP) is five times greater than that of the United States.

President Hu Jintao plans to reduce China's CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 4 percent per year for 5 years. If carried on it would reduce China's CO2 emissions intensity 70 percent by 2040. But even if it works:

  • If China cuts its emissions intensity 45% it will still surpass the U.S. in per capita annual CO2 emissions by 2025.
  • Indeed, every 10% cut in U.S. emissions would be negated by one year of China's growth.
  • Because China's economy is growing by 10% p.a. a 4% cut in intensity is actually a 6% annual increase in emissions.
  • CO2 emissions are increasing similarly in India and other developing countries – far surpassing rich countries' output.
  • Even if China and India's goals are met – and other developing countries make similar cuts- total atmospheric CO2 would rise from 385 parts per million currently to 700 parts per million by 2080

The leaders of China and India can not risk constraining their growth, even if they were persuaded that they should give higher priority to CO2 emissions.

And the present wealthy countries are nearly all democracies. So our leaders have to persuade us that the costs of lowering emissions are worth incurring. That is failing. No people will vote for self sacrificial gestures made meaningless by neighbours who've given them the fingers.

We'll have to switch to plan C – get used to Climate Change and make the best of it.

In the meantime, if the ETS affects you, assume it will be gone as soon as voters catch up with the new reality. I'm sure the Government will wait to let reality sink in before canning the current law – there's no political mileage in being the one who has to say that last year's religion is dead. It is only safe to knock fervours that are much more passe.

Spare a thought for our officials who have put in the years of diplomatic trying to mitigate our disastrous Rio optimism, working for an offset planting regime, for example. All that effort down the tubes.

And start urging the government not to be silly over the liabilities the country has incurred in the current Kyoto period. As it becomes more clear that there will be no follow-on renewal of Kyoto commitments in 2012, it will look increasingly silly for NZ taxpayers to be funnelling hundreds of $millions to Russian oligarchs with Siberian forests, and other international beneficiaries of our current period deficit in carbon credits.

How soon will we be bold enough to repudiate those debits? Will Bill English's Budget this year recognise an increasing likelihood that we simply won't pay? I think it would be thought unseemly for this year. Next year may not be premature.



[…] Stephen Franks blogs: Take a look at this NCPA collection of sobering figures (drawn from the work of a physics professor at UCAL Berkeley) for an explanation. […]

Leave your comments:

* Required fields. Your e-mail address will not be published on this site

You can use the following HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>