Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
This week we are running an ‘Agreement Special’ edition to mark the passing of a number of very significant international agreements. The first of these is the Paris Agreement which comes into force on the 4th November 2016, the second is the Kigali Agreement to phase out the harmful Hydrofluorocarbons commencing in 2019, and the third is the Montreal Agreement limiting greenhouse gases from international aviation from 2020.
The first, the Paris Agreement, is the most significant of the three and followed on from the COP 21 held last December in Paris. For it to come into force, it required over 55 signatories covering more that 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions to ratify it. Once those key thresholds had been reached, the Agreement could enter into force 30 days later, so as of November 4th the world will finally have a binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But before we all get excited over the prospects of avoiding the worst of the predicted climate change outcomes, it is worth noting that the present reduction pledges made by the international community are not sufficient to limit warming by 1.5C or even 2C. Even if all the reduction pledges are realised, the world could still see warming by a catastrophic 4C or even up to 7C. The pledges need to be significantly more ambitious and severe.
And are the New Zealand pledges adequate to limit warming to 1.5C or even 2C? Unfortunately not, according to Jonathan Boston, Professor of Public Policy at Victoria University of Wellington. Unless this country becomes more aggressive in the size and speed on our emission reductions, we will be expecting the rest of the world to bail us out by requiring others to reduce their emissions to compensate for our shortcomings. But why should New Zealand believe it should receive special treatment? If this was a report card we would be scoring a D.
Although our targets for CO2 emissions may be lacking, we can celebrate a positive step in New Zealand’s battle against increasing HFC emissions with the signing (along with 170 other counties) of the Kigali Agreement. The goal being to reduce HFC’s by 85% over the next 20 years.
When fully implemented, this reduction of HFC use could reduce global warming by around 0.50C. HFC’s are used in air conditioning units, fridges, dairy sheds and aerosol cans. Incidentally HFC’s were introduced in the late 80’s to replace CFC’s which were causing damage to the ozone layer. HFC’s on the other hand are a potent greenhouse gas.
We next look at ‘The Climates Low Hanging Fruit’. This article covers off the aforementioned HFC’s, but provides some background to the 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which was so successful in bringing to an end CFC use. There is so much that can be achieved to reducing worldwide emissions, hence the low hanging fruit tag. As an example of low hanging fruit, phasing in more efficient air conditioning systems would be the emission equivalent of retiring 2,500 medium size peak power plants (used during periods of high demand).
Interestingly, although these agreements cover a large portion of various global emissions, both the Paris Agreement and Kigali Agreement appear to have left out two very important, and high emitting, sectors. These sectors being Aviation and Shipping. Thankfully, the signatories of the Paris Agreement acknowledged this and set upon forming the Montreal Agreement on aviation emissions. This agreement is the first of its kind limiting C02 emissions from aviation to 2020 levels. The agreement is based around offsets, so any emissions over 2020 levels have to be offset. Even though it is a compromise, it is progress none the
Unfortunately, shipping emissions are still to be addressed, and could be damaging. A five year delay to curbs on toxic emissions could result in approximately 200,000 premature deaths through lung cancer and heart failure. An IMO meeting will be held at the end of this month to decide whether or not to cap emissions at 2020 levels, or 2025 levels. Fingers crossed that the 2020 levels will be imposed.
We finish with an example of how successful these types of agreements can be, with an analysis of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change showing 100% success. Here’s hoping these new agreements will be as successful.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.