The Lucky Country

In late March, as floods raged through more-often-burning Australia, around 10 million people found themselves under weather warnings. 

Thinking of moving to Australia? The future of the Lucky Country is looking seriously unfortunate. 

Climate scientists there are predicting a “catastrophic” scenario involving once-in-a-century floods every year, regular 50C days in Sydney and Melbourne, tropical diseases taking hold in the major cities, mass deaths of livestock and around a quarter of a million homes under water. 

Authors of a recent report for the Australian National University’s Institute for Climate Energy and Disaster Solutions see the aim to keep average temperatures to 1.5 per cent above pre-industrial levels as “virtually impossible”, with a 3C rise more likely.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, one of the report’s authors says that the 3C rise would see Australia “warmer and drier with more frequent and violent extremes”. One-in-100-year floods, like the ones just experienced, would be annual events. Huge bushfires would be frequent occurrences. “What used to be thought of as extremely hot years will be cool years in the future.”

Sound extreme? In late March, as floods raged through more-often-burning Australia, around 10 million people found themselves under weather warnings. 

The weather event (just over a year after the disastrous wildfires in late summer 2020) saw every state and territory except WA affected, causing damage and disruption across an area the size of Alaska. 

Overseas air travel tax

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton spoke to a Hawke’s Bay gathering in March. He proposes a distance-based departure tax, ranging from NZ$25 for an economy flight to Australia, to $155 for an economy flight to the United Kingdom to offset the carbon emissions from international air travel, with some of these funds to be used for research by a NZ-led international consortium into alternative aviation fuels.

What are your views on that?

More tropical forests destroyed

Despite a global economic downturn courtesy of the pandemic, tropical forests around the world were destroyed at an increasing rate last year compared with 2019. The annual report from Washington-based research group World Resources Institute reported a 12% increase in the loss of primary old-growth tropical forest. 

More than 10 million acres of primary tropical forest were lost in 2020, adding more than two and a half billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere. That equates to around double the CO2 emitted by cars in the United States every year.

Corporate net zero commitments

21% of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies now have net zero commitments, according to a new report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and Oxford Net Zero. The report is the first systematic analysis of net zero commitments across countries, sub-national governments and major companies, and also found that 61% of countries, 9% of states and regions in the largest emitting countries and 13% of cities with over a population of 500,000 have now committed to net zero. Hopefully positive signs in the years leading up to COP26? 

HB climate action camp

Students from William Colenso College, Tamatea High School, Taradale High School, Central Hawke’s Bay College, Hastings Girls’ High School, Napier Boys’ High School, Sacred Heart College and Havelock North High School came together in March for the region’s first youth climate action camp. 

Regional Council environmental educator Sally Chandler says it’s been inspiring and exciting to be part of the camp. “The energy of the students has been fantastic to see, and hearing their goals for the future has been impressive. We had a great line up of speakers – including Sophie Handford who was the organiser of the School Strike for Climate and is a Kāpiti District Councillor, and the Regional Council’s very own Dr Kathleen Kozyniak, who’s our Principal Scientist Air.” 

The purpose of the camp is to build the passion, understanding, and skills of rangatahi youth to empower them to make changes for our future and help tackle the climate crisis. 

Volts-wagen?!

It wasn’t even April Fool’s Day when reports surfaced in the international media claiming Volkswagen was changing its name to Voltswagen to show its focus on electric vehicles. Debunked as a prank after a day or so, it did leave us wondering, why not, VW?! In March Volkswagen brand doubled its 2030 target for the share of full-electric vehicles in total European sales to 70%. In the US and China, the brand aims for a fully electric share of over 50%. 

Your tree diet

Researchers behind a new study out of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, in Kyoto, Japan have calculated the cost – in trees – of the average western diet, and the location of the damage caused, and it isn’t pretty. The average western consumer of coffee, chocolate, beef, palm oil and other commodities is responsible for the felling of four trees every year, many in wildlife-rich tropical forests. Highlights of the study include: 

Coffee drinkers in the US, Germany and Italy are causing significant deforestation in central Vietnam. 

UK and German chocolate consumers are driving deforestation in Ivory Coast and Ghana. 

Beef and soy demand in the US, European Union and China are leading to deforestation in Brazil. 

In five G7 countries – the UK, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy – more than 90% of their ‘deforestation footprint’ was in foreign countries and half of this was in tropical nations. 

US consumers sit above the western average, with a five-tree loss per capita. 

North Island hydrogen network

Gas transmission and distribution company Firstgas Group has completed the Firstgas Hydrogen Network Trial report, which projects future hydrogen supply and demand in New Zealand and assesses technical practicalities and regulatory factors. 

Off the back of this report, Firstgas has announced a plan for decarbonisation of its NZ gas pipeline network. Hydrogen will be blended into the North Island natural gas network from 2030, with conversion to a 100 per cent hydrogen grid by 2050. 

Wanted: 10x more ocean protectiion

Currently just 2.7% of the planet’s oceans are highly protected, but if this could change, so could our global future. New research published in Nature says a 30% ocean protection goal recently adopted by the US and other countries is a positive – but minimum – target to “bolster marine biodiversity, significantly increase the number of fish available for harvest and boost the amount of carbon taken up by the ocean, aiding the fight against climate change.” 

HBDHB aims to cut emissions

The Government has begun the rollout of its plan for a carbon neutral public sector by 2025, and for us here in the Bay that begins with a $63,000 grant to the HB DHB to install efficient heating and cooling. The health board will invest $94,000 too and the project will also reduce harmful hydrofluorocarbons used for refrigeration. Estimates suggest the project will reduce carbon emissions by around 66 tonnes over the next ten years (around 6.6 tonnes per annum on average over ten years). 

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2 Comments

  1. Off setting carbon emissions by buying your way out of your responsibility does not seem to me to be a sound way of dealing with the problems caused by these emissions. It doesn’t change the emitters behaviours.
    If emitters can be shown to be working toward significantly reducing their carbon footprint within a short specified time then buying time to change behaviours could be accepyable but for many it simply excuses the negative behaviour
    Isn’t it time for governments to be planning and implementing vastly improved public transport while reducing production and use of cars. New Zealand is still importing many cars (this includes electric cars) while there are still huge numbers of vehicles on car sales yards. And what are we to do with the graveyards of dead cars around the country?
    I haven’t seen any plans for disposing usefully of the dead batteries from the electric cars or controlling the mining of lithium and other metals used in the manufacture of vehicles. I have no answers but heaps more questions.

  2. When are we going to address the root of the problem….the human population ?
    Every nation and region should have a plan to stabilize and then reduce it’s population.
    We need economic policy based on an increase in Quality of life, not Quantity of human life.

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