Described as a generation’s nuclear free moment by Jacinda Ardern, Chris Hipkins says it’s a major intergenerational challenge. Progress on climate was made under Ardern but a long list remains, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday morning, sign up here.
Fewer set pieces, more debate
I want to look at one of the big issues I meant to cover last week before the political year got started earlier than expected. Thankfully it ties in nicely with a comprehensive rundown this morning from Stuff’s Eloise Gibson and Olivia Wannan on what was and wasn’t achieved on climate under Jacinda Ardern and what the next prime minister/prime ministers will do. Marc Daalder also has a summary of what to expect on climate policy this year. With fewer policy set pieces and an election, Daalder expects there to be more debate on climate change. Up for discussion are the role of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the prioritisation of adaptation and mitigation, the fitness of our methane targets and the obligation (financial and otherwise) we owe to the rest of the world for our historic emissions.
Climate change initiatives unlikely to go under Hipkins
Asked about climate change at his first prime ministerial press conference on Sunday, Chris Hipkins replied: “Climate change remains one of the major intergenerational challenges we face as a country and as a planet and we owe it to future generations to continue to work to make sure we are tackling the challenge of climate change. That’s not going to change.” Re-reading yesterday’s article by Thomas Coughlan (paywalled) about which policies may be on the chopping block, Coughlan doesn’t expect major energy, transport and climate adaptation policies – including light rail in Auckland and the ongoing work on investigation into building a huge hydroelectric scheme in the South Island – to get the axe.
Last year was the warmest on record
Niwa has calculated that 2022 was the warmest and eighth wettest year on record since meteorologists started to measure temperatures in 1909, beating out the last warmest year on record, 2021. As we know, 2023 started with Cyclone Hale, estimated to have caused millions of dollars of damage. The Mercury Bay Boating Club in Whitianga is the latest organisation dealing with the issue of managed retreat after coastal erosion caused by the storm carved out six metres of sand in 24 hours. It’s unlikely they’ll be the last. Unveiled last August, the country’s first national adaptation plan was released and there are still plenty of questions about cost and timing to address. La Niña weather patterns had a big role to play in the cyclone and we may shift into an El Niño pattern this year. Niwa meteorologist Ben Noll says that, combined with global warming, it’s a recipe for a concerning picture from late 2023 onwards.
Marine heat waves and glaciers melting
The west coast of the South island is currently experiencing a marine heat wave. Jamie Morton outlines what that means, with an alarming note on the impact it may have on our glaciers. I haven’t put two and two together before but this 2018 RNZ article schooled me, with research showing a strong connection between sea surface temperatures in the Tasman Sea and temperatures in the Southern Alps. Warm temperatures reduce the potential for any of the snow that fell in the previous winter period to be retained through summer and into next year. We will know more about the state of the glaciers once scientists conduct their aerial survey at the end of summer.