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World leaders claiming a win after the latest round of Climate talks in Poland (Twitter – @jamespeshaw)
World leaders claiming a win after the latest round of Climate talks in Poland (Twitter – @jamespeshaw)

The BulletinDecember 17, 2018

The Bulletin: Modest goals, modest success at climate talks

World leaders claiming a win after the latest round of Climate talks in Poland (Twitter – @jamespeshaw)
World leaders claiming a win after the latest round of Climate talks in Poland (Twitter – @jamespeshaw)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Poland climate talks conclude with agreement on rules, ACT accuses conservative campaigners of misleading claims, and a new doco series on life in Queenstown.

Climate talks in Poland have concluded with the moderately successful achievement of modest goals. The BBC reports that member nations of the Paris Climate Accords have thrashed out a series of agreements by which they will be able to measure and monitor cuts to carbon emissions. It’s being called the rulebook for how the Paris Agreement will be implemented.

That sounds great. Is it? Parts of it are valuable, and parts are rubbish. The rulebook does bind countries to cut emissions by what they’ve said they will. And in the grand scheme of things, some cuts undertaken by the world at large will be better than no cuts by the world at large. Having better information on who is doing what, and how, will probably help with that aim.

On the other hand: The Sydney Morning Herald reports that there has still been no agreement on how to legally bind countries to the targets they set. So if a country (for example Brazil, where the new President has threatened to log and exploit the Amazon rainforest) were to completely miss the targets they set at the Paris talks, they’d be subject to a lot of stern finger wagging, and maybe some impolite remarks over dinner. But that’s about where the sanctions would end.

Plus, there’s the not insignificant fact that the Paris climate targets are probably inadequate given the scale of the crisis. The recent IPCC climate report found that at current rates we’re much more likely to hit an average rise in temperates of 3C globally, rather than the much more survivable 1.5C. Are governments actually going to do what is required now that the non-binding rulebook has been agreed?

Climate change minister James Shaw says it’s a big step forward. He says NZ is one of the “high ambition” countries that really is willing to do what it takes to get there, reports RNZ. And he says it really will make a difference to have these rules in place, because it will provide momentum towards economic and societal changes. But are we really doing our bit in terms of cutting emissions – you know, the actually important part? Not really, writes environmental lawyer Natalie Jones on The Spinoff – our emissions are still the 5th highest in the OECD per capita.

Part of the problem is those changes are really expensive up-front. But look at it this way: This year, insurers in NZ paid out the 2nd highest amount of money to cover extreme weather events than in any year since 1969, reports Newshub. The highest was 2017, in case you were wondering if it was a one-off. We, like every other country in the world, are going to suffer terribly if warming continues at the out of control pace it currently is. In that context, high ambition is nothing but a nice pat on the back – it’s high action that matters.

ACT leader David Seymour is accusing conservative lobby groups of misleading claims over his euthanasia bill, reports Newshub. Family First and Right to Life have claimed Mr Seymour is backing down on his bill, which was met at Select Committee by a large volume of responses against it. But Mr Seymour says he’s not doing anything of the sort, and still intends to get the bill through parliament – where he won a clear majority on the first reading.

Here’s the first in a fascinating looking series of short video documentaries about life around the Southern Lakes, from Crux. The first episode focuses on the ‘cultural desert’ Queenstown is becoming, with little to no room for the arts amid the boom in tourism. It’s a good chance to recognise the fine work Crux has done this year actually – it’s a new organisation that appears to have built itself editorially around a fundamental question: What is life actually like for the people who have to make paradise work for the tourists?

Who was the politician of the year? It’s time to weigh in, and a few outlets have now published their year in review pieces. The NZ Herald’s political editor Audrey Young has declared it for Winston Peters, which taking in the whole span of the year is a pretty reasonable argument. Stuff’s political editor Tracy Watkins has called it for Jacinda Ardern, saying she has proved the doubters wrong over the viability of leading a potentially unwieldily coalition.

I’ve got my own award to give out actually – the ‘Whomst Among Us’ award for the politician who came up with the most bizarre scheme of the year. And the winner of that is Labour backbench MP Jamie Strange, who Newshub reported tried and failed to get himself on Dancing with the Stars. I wouldn’t worry though, it might still be possible to get on the next season of The Block, so there will be more opportunities for Jamie Strange to get on telly. There might be more awards to give out over the week too – if you’ve got any good ideas send them in.

Former MP Aaron Gilmore is facing prison if he doesn’t front up with money to pay up over an Employment Relations Authority judgement. Politik reports Mr Gilmore – who infamously threatened to get then-PM John Key to sack a barman – is well behind on paying back money owed to a former staffer. The comments made by the ERA about how he’s handled this dispute indicate he hasn’t exactly changed since leaving parliament.

The boss who instituted a four day work week and encouraged others to do the same is now speaking out about the problems of the gig economy. Perpetual Guardian CEO Andrew Barnes told Nine to Noon that gig economy workers lack protections and safety nets, and the way the country’s employment system is currently set up encourages employers to adopt more of the gig model. He’s advocating for some form of holiday or sickness fund scheme to be set up for gig economy workers to access.

Have you seen the stage show City of 100 Lovers? Neither have I, and by the sounds of this NZ Herald report, almost nobody has. The extravagant original musical currently playing at Sky City has had an average audience turnout of about 18% of the theatre’s capacity – but that includes complimentary tickets. Because the journo who wrote the story is Matt Nippert, the second half of it is a fascinating dive into the backstory of the man financing the whole shebang.

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A keyboard warrior about to hit send on his latest Not All Men tweet (Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: Writers from the NZ Alternative discuss how the Ardern government could lead the way on progressive foreign policy. James Dann has a fascinating and balanced piece on whether Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel should be re-elected. Sophie Bateman decries the selfishness of those who feel the need to insist ‘not all men’ in the wake of tragedies like the death of Grace Millane. And Duncan Greive has finally wrapped up his media odyssey, finishing with a roundup of the smaller, but still important media companies.

Best Journalism of 2018: Today’s nomination is for a story that put a human face on an unfolding scandal, that could previously have been dismissed as out of sight and abstract. Our nominator is Tess, who has put forward Stuff political journalist Henry Cooke’s story about Rosemary, who was removed by an over-zealous Housing NZ from the home she had lived in for decades. That meth-testing regime ruined many lives for no good reason, and strong journalism played a vital role in exposing that. Here’s an excerpt:

This might sound like an agency doing the best it can to help a vulnerable tenant it didn’t want getting sick. And an HNZ spokesman said they were also very worried about her safety thanks to that “serious incident involving her son and some associates who identified themselves as gang members” where shots were fired on the property.

But the Government has now made clear that unless there was someone actually cooking P on her property, which HNZ didn’t suspect, Rudolph was in no real danger from the meth – even with the higher reading. Neither were the hundreds of other tenants kicked out or moved from their houses for the same thing, with readings that were often far lower.

According to a report from the Chief Science Advisor Peter Gluckman to the Prime Minister released earlier this week, not a single person has ever been found to have gotten sick from the residue left over when someone smokes P.

Fierce debate is raging over whether Katrina Rore (nee Grant) has been hard done by, with the manner of her dropping from the Silver Ferns. She was the former captain who had to front up during arguably the worth period of the Silver Ferns’ history, and now all of a sudden she isn’t in the squad for the upcoming Quad Series.

On RNZ, Ravinder Hunia has analysed the strategic structure of the new squad and come to the conclusion that Rore doesn’t necessarily fit with what new coach Noeline Taurua is going for. But on Stuff, Kevin Norquay says Rore has been brutally disrespected after her service, and deserved better. The Silver Ferns are looking like being genuinely competitive again though in the Quad Series, so that’s something to look forward to.

In other news, my jealousy knows no bounds, after seeing two perfect Wellington days of test cricket at the Basin on TV. A big crowd came out in support both days, and cheered the Black Caps on to a heavy advantage at the end of day two. New Zealand leads Sri Lanka by 29 runs, with eight wickets in hand, and Tom Latham not out on 121.

From our partners at Vector: The pros and cons of putting solar panels on the roof of your home are well debated. But what about the empty rooftop spaces on commercial buildings throughout our country? PowerSmart’s Sam Vivian explains why more New Zealand businesses are adding commercial solar systems to their buildings.

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