Between 35,000 and 70,000 people have flown to Rio de Janeiro to discuss reducing carbon emissions and other environmental concerns.
Their Rio+20 summit will of course fail to deliver any binding commitments on anything, and its “aspirational” targets will be ignored by everyone except, perhaps, New Zealand.
Nevertheless, just as before the failed Copenhagen, Cancún and Durban climate change summits (and the one that will fail in Doha later this year), pressure on New Zealand to accelerate enviro-self-flagellation is mounting.
Transnational pressure-machine Greenpeace is calling for Nick Smith, the architect of the emissions trading scheme (ETS), to return to a senior government post, saying it has always seen eye to eye with him.
More extraordinary is a rogue envoy at the British High Commission, Tony Clemson, taking to the newspapers to ludicrously accuse New Zealand of going slow on climate change and “green growth,” comparing us unfavourably with the UK and South Korea, where he was previously posted.
His outburst follows his 2010 public intervention in favour of Dr Smith’s ETS.
In a different era, Mr Clemson would have had his head chopped off or at least been declared persona non grata.
In these more enlightened times, he escaped with only a mild ticking off from the prime minister. John Key simply remarked that he wouldn’t expect an office junior in the New Zealand High Commission in London to write newspaper columns criticising David Cameron’s policies.
$136,800 per tonne
It is a shame that diplomatic courtesy prevented Mr Key, foreign minister Murray McCully or trade and climate change minister Tim Groser from briefing against Mr Clemson let alone responding comprehensively to his improper intervention.
Mr Key, for example, could have agreed that Korea and the UK have done well lifting the share of their electricity generated from renewable resources from 1% to 2% and from 1% to 3%, and welcomed the UK’s goal of 30% by 2020.
He could have offered advice on how they could catch up with New Zealand on 76%, and regretted that EU coal use was up 4% last year.
Mr McCully, a former housing minister, could have mentioned the 200,000 New Zealand homes – 12.5% of the total – that have been insulated and installed with clean heating under Gerry Brownlee’s $275 million Warm Up New Zealand scheme. He could have agreed that South Korea has done nearly as well, with 2 million green homes, 11.8% of its total, and offered to share with Mr Clemson ideas about making such schemes affordable.
After all, Mr Clemson cited with approval work by Pure Advantage, the New Zealand chapter of warmist alarmism.
It lauds a Birmingham City Council project to retrofit 25,000 homes and 1,000 businesses over five years, creating 270 new jobs and cutting emissions by 3750 tonnes.
Unfortunately, it will cost NZ$513 million, or $2 million per new job, and around $20,000 per home, compared with the $1375 per home Mr Brownlee managed.
On an emissions basis, the Birmingham programme will cost $136,800 per tonne saved, compared with the current carbon price of $6 per tonne.
Worse, the savings represent just 1500 tonnes of coal, 0.003% of all the coal the UK burns each year. Bizarrely, Wellington’s Dominion-Post appeared to welcome such economic idiocy in an editorial yesterday.
Just 10,000 factories
For his part, Mr Groser could have challenged the UK, the third largest member of the EU, to urge its partners to expand the EU ETS to include agriculture, forestry and more than the 10,000 factories and 50% of CO2 emissions it currently covers.
He could have asked how Mr Clemson felt that idea would go down in Brussels, Paris or Athens right now.
More importantly, Mr Groser could have thanked the UK for belatedly joining his Global Research Alliance (GRA), which he set up in 2009 as the only substantial outcome from the Copenhagen fiasco.
It is now the largest agricultural science project in history, involving scientists from 30 countries.
If it discovers ways to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions by 50%, it will cut global emissions by more than 10%, making it by far the biggest and perhaps the only genuine emissions-cutting project taken by any country.
Even Dr Smith, who was initially sceptical about the GRA, fearing it would make his ETS irrelevant, now sees it will have a positive impact thousands of times greater than either the EU or New Zealand ETSs, or anything Mr Clemson prattles on about.
All in all, based on the evidence, perhaps Mr Key should reconsider giving Mr Clemson only a mild ticking off. Perhaps he should get our second secretary in London to bash out a thousand words for The Guardian to mark the Rio circus.
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