NZ climate change laggard, solar growing fast in India

The basic concept of New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme - as explained by the Ministry for the Environment. Photo: MFE

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Less than a week after Fiji became the first of 195 countries to formally sign onto the Paris climate deal, the island nation felt the devastating impacts of global warming first-hand when it was battered by a Category 5 cyclone—one of the biggest ever to hit the Southern Hemisphere. Reducing carbon emissions, as spelled out in the Paris agreement, would prevent "hundreds of thousands of premature deaths" and save "billions of dollars" in the U.S. alone, according to a study released this week. The window of opportunity for humanity to cap global warming by slashing greenhouse gases is closing faster than previously thought, according to a another study. Unless the world sticks to the agreement to keep global temperature rise below 2c, Antarctica’s coastline could become home to trees and shrubs that grow in New Zealand’s high alpine areas now. More research confirms coral reefs are having their growth stunted by ocean acidification caused by global warming, while another report says sea levels are rising several times faster than they have in the past 2,800 years and are accelerating because of man-made global warming.

New Zealand is becoming a laggard in its response to climate change and the responsible thing to do would be to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), says Alison Dewes a fourth-generation dairy farmer, veterinarian and agri-business consultant. With the ETS up for review Radio NZ environmental reporter Kate Gudsell explains how it currently works. MetService and WeatherWatch acknowledge that climate change could be playing a part in the our scorching weather this month, but a longer trend of rising temperatures will be needed to confirm that - so, for now at least, super-hot summers are not "the new normal". New data on the sale of products and appliances shows Kiwis are choosing to buy more efficient models. In the last financial year we saved the amount of electricity used by Invercargill.

Electricity companies Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy have delivered first-half trading results in line with broker expectations, with both companies' after-tax profits slightly down. Both the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and the remaining two gas and coal-fired units at Genesis Energy's ageing Huntly power station will remain in operation past 2018, based on electricity futures market pricing, says Mighty River Power's chief executive Fraser Whineray. Greenpeace is running an online petition calling on Genesis Energy shut down the Huntly coal fired power station by 2018 as planned, and commit to a just transition for its workforce and 100% clean energy. Greenpeace is also calling for members of the public to take part in a co-ordinated demonstration of peaceful civil disobedience at the annual petroleum conference at SkyCity in Auckland on March 21.

Despite President Obama’s Clean Power Plan being held up by the Supreme Court, the power sector in the US is transforming in a way that will make the generation of electricity much less carbon-intensive in the future. Huffington Post reports that US billionaires Charles and David Koch, who have invested heavily in fossil fuels, are plotting a multimillion-dollar assault on electric vehicles. Norway’s biggest oil and gas producer, Statoil, has launched a new $200 million venture capital fund dedicated to investing in renewable energy. The Indian government says the installed capacity for solar power crossed 5,000 MW in January and is confident that the target of 18,000 MW will be reached by the end of next year.

Prices of lithium carbonate -- an industrial chemical used in lithium-ion batteries -- have surged 47 per cent in 2016 from last year's average. US professional race car driver and environmentalist Leilani Munter says it is not enough to cut down on fossil fuel emissions to combat climate change. It’s also important to think about how meat consumption harms the environment, she says. Radio NZ talks to Professor Frederick McDonnell, from Texas University, who is leading team of scientists he says have come up with a way to turn water into a fuel your car will run on. German researchers are investigating how apple waste, when reduced to a carbon material, can be used as an important component for energy storage solutions.