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As the UN Climate Conference is scheduled to end in 24 hours, negotiators in Paris are embarking on another all-night meeting to try and reach a new global agreement to keep global warming below 2C and map an escape from fossil fuels. But, what does that mean in reality, and what difference will a couple of degrees really make?
The NZ Herald says John Key was in no position to be delivering a call, on behalf of 40 nations at the Paris talks, for an end to subsidies of carbon fuels when his own government does all it can to attract prospectors, especially offshore, and does not tax their rigs and seismic vessels. The just released 2015 Climate Change Performance Index rates NZ as 'poor' in 40th place out of 58 countries. That puts us just ahead of the US (41) and Chine (42) and well behind most of Europe. The top three 'very good' spots went unclaimed as no country is doing enough to prevent dangerous climate change. Australia is at the 'very poor' end of the spectrum coming in at 57th with Saudi Arabia last.
The standout winning technology from the Paris talks may be renewable energy and, in particular, solar. China is the largest producer of solar panels and has built massive solar farms but uptake by home and business owners has been disappointing. That could be about to change thanks to a new funding model, similar to our solarZero plan, that allows buyers to have panels installed for free. When it comes to electric cars and bikes, China is leading the way in numbers. Chinese consumers are expected to purchase up to 250,000 electric cars this year making China the world's largest market for the vehicles. And e-bike use has gone from virtually zero in 2005 to an estimated 230 million this year.
The importance of transitioning to clean energy was demonstrated this week when Beijing issued its first-ever red alert for severe smog, urging schools to close and invoking restrictions on factories and traffic. See these before and after photos showing just how bad the smog was. China's dropping coal consumption, alongside a decreased global appetite for oil and natural gas and a rising desire for renewable energy, means there will be a small cut in the world's carbon emissions this year. Not that NZ can take any of the credit, writes Olivia Wannan in Stuff.
The US is going through a major energy revolution and communities are at the forefront. Citizens are increasingly asking their cities to develop and act on ambitious plans and community leaders are seeing the social, political and economic benefits of doing so. American businesses are installing more solar than ever before, with the numbers growing 183% over the last four years.
In less than 10 years Uruguay has made a dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy. In just 15 years Africa could be producing twice as much electricity from solar panels, wind farms, geothermal plants and hydropower than it currently generates from all sources combined. The government of Kathmandu is preparing to make it mandatory for government and commercial buildings to install solar rooftop panels to cope with the energy crisis.
NZ is the fourth largest geothermal power generator in the world, after USA, the Philippines and Indonesia. During the Paris talks it was announced we are the newest member of the Global Geothermal Alliance which is an initiative to increase geothermal electricity and the direct use of geothermal heat. Following a reshuffle of the National caucus Paula Bennett will take over the Climate Change Issues portfolio from Tim Groser.
BMW's purely electric i3 has been named New Zealand's Car of the Year for 2015. While the NZ$83,500 price tag may be out of reach of most Kiwis, France has announced a global competition to build an electric car to be sold for just NZ$11,000.