Town of Glasgow Photo by Anna Urlapova from Pexels
Town of Glasgow - Photo by Anna Urlapova from Pexels

Simon Court: Why I'm not going to Glasgow

Opinion 07/10/2021

Climate Change Minister James Shaw claims he has a climate change plan informed by experts, which begs the question, why is he going to Glasgow, writes ACT's Climate Change spokesperson Simon Court.

OPINION: Including Shaw himself, there will be 15 people on the team travelling to Glasgow, enough for a rugby team. What you might not know is that he asked even more people to accompany him. One of them was me. While it was kind of him to extend the opportunity to the Opposition, there are good reasons why I’m not going. 

There were nearly 3,749 cases in Glasgow last week. Shaw said Parliament sitting at Alert Level 4 was “putting lives at risk” and yet he’s prepared to fly to a COVID-19 hot spot.

What’s even worse, is James Shaw has declared a “Climate Emergency” and yet he’s prepared to fly to the other side of the world. Surely if he was taking this so-called “emergency” seriously he would stay home and not increase his emissions profile.

What’s even worse than that, is there are New Zealanders who are desperate to get back home who can’t get an MIQ spot, but he will take that from someone for the sake of meetings that could be done on Zoom.

Performative rituals at regular UN climate conferences do not even provide solutions to the emissions burned to get to the Glasgow meeting. 

There have been 25 previous climate conferences. Will James Shaw’s attendance at the 26th make a decisive difference? It’s unlikely.

New Zealand signed up to the 2015 Paris Agreement and pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, to keep global average temperature rises to 1.5 degrees celsius, to mitigate the risk that sea levels could rise more than 600mm this century.

That long term commitment has been factored into investment by the private sector in new energy and manufacturing assets, and research and development to mitigate emissions from both agriculture and industry. New Zealand also committed to reduce emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

New Zealand business has been making progress to achieve that target, without any need for the kind of extreme policy interventions suggested by the Climate Change Commission to cut industrial production, destock farms, and reduce transport to levels not achieved even by the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The New Zealand concrete industry, for example, has achieved a 15 per cent reduction in its emissions between 2005 and 2018 and is already on track to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, despite a 13 per cent increase in demand.  

New Zealand pastoral farmers already deliver some of the world’s lowest emission dairy products to 70 million consumers and are working on breeding low methane traits into animals over the next decade.

Investments by electricity generators in renewable energy will meet commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by the first 2030 commitment period, without any other government policy interventions.

Japanese and European car makers are retooling their production to produce huge volumes of battery and hydrogen electric vehicles by 2030, which will largely supplant light petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

Our Emissions Trading Scheme allows the Climate Minister to set a limit on total carbon emissions by limiting the number of units in the scheme. 

This means that other policies – like feebate and the oil and gas ban – won’t actually reduce emissions further because they are already capped by the ETS.

Our ETS can be improved.

Member’s Bill – the Climate Change Response (Offshore Mitigation) Amendment Bill – would allow New Zealand businesses to use offshore mitigation to meet its emissions targets. This will ensure New Zealanders fulfil their emissions reduction obligations at the least possible cost or to maximise their emissions reductions for a given cost. 

It also combats carbon leakage by ensuring New Zealanders do not pay more per tonne to fulfil their emissions reduction obligations than overseas competitors. And unlike the performative climate rituals, it is simple and will work.

That is why I am not going to Glasgow. Why I won’t burn emissions flying around the world just have talks that are all hot air, because the answers are already here.

This article was written by ACT Climate Change spokesperson Simon Court.

Simon is a Civil and Environmental Engineer with 23-years’ experience in roles for the private sector and local government. This includes 10-years leading engineering, planning, tendering, and construction teams primarily in Auckland, Wellington, and Fiji.

Simon believes in the principles of the ACT party where communities, individuals and business lead the way. 

Simon has three boys at high school. They share a love of loud music, fast cars, biking, fitness, good science, and good ideas.

ACT Climate Change spokesperson Simon Court
ACT Climate Change spokesperson Simon Court