Climate change minister James Shaw (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Government proposes hefty ETS changes

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Government proposes hefty ETS changes, wide ranging review of road rules, and Dunedin’s stadium promises tussle with Christchurch.

Everyone serious agrees that carbon emissions are too high, so how to actually go about bringing them down? The government has set out a way forward, with proposals for big changes to the emissions trading scheme, and moves to start really limiting how much coal gets used. Stuff’s Henry Cooke has a comprehensive look at the two discussion documents out for public feedback right now, and how the proposals would work in practice.

The top line of the first one is this – a cap and floor for emissions credit prices under the ETS, along with an overall limit to the number of emissions credits within the system. I realise that’s an incredibly boring sentence to have to read, but it’s quite important. In theory the restrictions on those credits would push the price of emissions up, past the price point at which it would make more economic sense for businesses to invest in cleaner technology. As climate change minister James Shaw put it in the Stuff story, “previously the ETS had no cap – it was a cap and trade scheme without a cap. Now we’re introducing a cap, and what that means is we will issue a number of units up to a cap, and then business would have to find a way to work within that cap.”

The second aspect of the proposals is around coal. It’s a particularly dirty source of energy, and the proposal suggests a ban on new boilers for low and medium heat industrial processes – drying milk for example. It also proposes that existing boilers be phased out by 2030. If that sounds extreme, well, Fonterra have already pledged to not build a single new coal fired boiler, so it’s fair to say the writing has been on the wall for a while. Speaking of coal, we’ve got an interesting piece up today on The Spinoff about the increasing worthlessness of coal reserves on investment balance sheets, and the financial implications of that.

The context for all of this is continually rising emissions. Michael Neilson at the NZ Herald reports that on current trajectories, the country will fall wildly short of international commitments. In fact, it’s likely that year on year emissions will continue to rise until around the middle of next decade.

A wide ranging review will be coming to road rules and policing, in an attempt to bring down the number of deaths. The details were leaked in advance to Radio NZ’s Ben Strang, who reports that they include lower speeds in high risk areas, increased penalties for high-risk behaviours, many more clearly marked speed cameras, and infrastructure improvements to dangerous roads. It follows closely behind the announcement of legislation to enable roadside drug testing.

Dunedin’s stadium is gearing up for a tussle with Christchurch over major events, reports the ODT. It comes amid slow and steady moves towards a new stadium being built in the Garden City, with big-ticket concerts being a key part of the business case. But Dunedin Venues chief executive Terry Davies says it’s a highly competitive industry, and his city had really put itself on the map in terms of securing major artists (and then painting murals of them.) Central government is yet to make a decision on $220 million in funding for the proposed new Christchurch stadium.

Tamarind Taranaki, the troubled oil field operator, has officially fallen into liquidation, reports Hamish Rutherford for the NZ Herald. They’ve reportedly got debts of around $350 million, including $100 million owed to the government to decommission and clean up their fields. The cost of that now could fall on taxpayers.

A range of new and revised economic figures have been released, showing stronger than expected growth in the last quarter, reports Interest. It has to be recognised that economic growth definitely slowed over 2019, but now bank economists are suggesting that slowdown will stabilise in 2020. It could also have implications for the Official Cash Rate, currently at a record low of 1%, with various commentary around whether further cuts will be made, or whether an increase in government spending means that won’t be necessary.

We’re hiring! The Spinoff is going to be looking for a new business journalist in the new year, with the wonderful Maria Slade moving on. So if you’re an experienced business journalist – or a journalist in another speciality who is keen on a move, come join us. Here’s a link to the job description, if you’re keen or know someone who’d be good for it.

Say Something Nice about a Journalist 2019: Right, so we’ve come to the end of this week, and there are many more nice things to say. So instead of theming this one, it’s just going to be a massive heap of some of the shouts that weren’t made before – it’ll be extremely messy but please bear with me.

Colin said “I’m going to nominate Stuff’s climate change coverage in general, and Charlie Mitchell’s work in particular. I really loved this article about the red zone in Christchurch.”

Sarah said this, in relation to some of the work done in the aftermath of the March 15 attacks: “Conan Young from Radio NZ and Charlotte Graham-McLay from the NY Times and the Guardian for their patience, persistence and empathy in going all year on this story. Conan has done an awesome job with the widows and victims stresses with government departments. For Charlotte’s work, I know foreign media gets some stick here in Aotearoa but I think it’s brave, good journalism for someone to hold our government to account in the global press on behalf of victims.”

There was more than one for Paula Penfold of Stuff Circuit – here’s a flavour of them from Jane: “Paula Penfold from Stuff, for The Fraudster, the fascinating story of Joanne Harrison’s earlier fraud at Tower Insurance. I stupidly started watching it at about 10:30pm and couldn’t go to sleep till I’d finished.” And Mark wanted to highlight Stuff Circuit’s Infinite Evil interactive documentary – “It is one of the most thorough mainstream media explorations to date of the questions around responsibility and accountability for the hate and violence generated by anon message boards.”

Bernard Hickey from Newsroom wanted a shout out to one of his colleagues – a journalist who in my view compiles the best sports section in the country. “I suggest Suzanne McFadden from our LockerRoom. Great work in last two years to build up LockerRoom with fantastic stories about womens’ sport,” said Bernard. And incidentally, reader Anne wanted this one noted – “hats off to Bernard Hickey for great work this year on banking.”

Terry had one for Jenée Tibshraeny of Interest, saying “she’s got a great eye for detail yet doesn’t let it overwhelm the story. She’s very prolific but was across the KiwiBuild debacle and on how much of a strait-jacket the Budget Responsibility Rules were becoming.” He added that “Matt Nippert is just a legend really.”

Beth had one for our very own Emily Writes – she described her as a “clear, sensible voice on parenting, and a good laugh!” Many of you also noted the outstanding, difficult work of our senior writer Alex Casey this year.

There’s more – a lot more in fact. Helen wanted a nod for the NZ Herald’s Simon Collins, Neill named “Michael Wright and Katy Gosset for their incredible work on White Silence”, Grant mentioned “Steve Kilgallon for this articles on the Unlikely Avengers”, Mike said Gerard Hutching at Stuff for his work on the issue of Western Sahara phosphate and how it relates to NZ.

I could go on, but at a certain point you just have to admit defeat against the massive volume of correspondence. So to conclude, I think once again the point has been made pretty clearly. We have a lot of remarkably good journalism being done in this country. If there was just one thing I would urge you to do, it would be to keep paying attention to it.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Phoebe Carr writes about the wider legal and cultural lessons we should learn from how Sweden does rental housing. Flick Electric CEO Steve O’Connor explains why the independent power retailers are calling out the major gentailers. Alice Webb-Liddall explains why Kiwisaver is still useful to young people, even if they don’t reckon there’s much chance of ever buying a house. Alex Casey talks to Josh Thomson about his satanic transformation for the Wellington Paranormal Christmas special. Musical-theatre sceptic Anna Knox writes about her conversion to the hilarious Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – I must admit that I’m quite taken with this show too, despite having developed a later-life allergy to musicals.

And look, this could be useful advice for any and all of us really. Sam Brooks has come up with a very useful list of ways to not be a dick over the holidays, whether that’s to family, friends, or really any other human being you encounter. After all, it’s a stressful time for everyone, so let’s all do what we can to make it easier.

For a feature today, a piece about how allegations of sexual harassment and assault are dealt with outside of the court system. For many reasons, victims of this sort of treatment in the workplace don’t want to take their complaint to the police. But as this commentary from the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Kirsty Johnston about an allegation within a university shows, often the impulse of an employer is to prioritise secrecy above all else. Here’s a short excerpt:

Employment lawyer Steph Dyhrberg said the same problems occured in almost every case.

“Both privacy rights and employment obligations protect perpetrators, if the complainant is not prepared to go public,” she said. “The threat of defamation law is often used to silence people too.”

Remember that extreme Aussie heat we were talking about yesterday? Well, One News reports the first day of a Boxing Day test warmup match has been preemptively cancelled, because of said extreme heat. Temperatures are expected to hit a cool 45C, which creates pretty serious player welfare concerns. I do wonder if cricket in Australia could one day be more of a spring and autumn sport, rather than a summer code.

That’s it for The Bulletin – just one more on Monday and then that’ll be it for the year. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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