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The BulletinApril 24, 2020

The Bulletin: Global context for NZ’s climate change review


Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Global context for NZ’s climate change review, new media support package announced, and Wellington’s council looking increasingly dysfunctional.

New Zealand’s carbon emissions cutting pledge will be reviewed by the new Climate Change Commission. As Eloise Gibson at Stuff reports, it may result in the target for 2030 – currently set at carbon emissions being cut by 30% below 2005 levels – will be strengthened. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep global warming under 2 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels, but at the moment, even if you take every country’s most ambitious pledge as the standard for what will actually happen, we’re still not remotely close to hitting that target. The Climate Change Commission will consult the public as part of the process of deciding whether a stronger target is needed.

On a global scale (which is a pretty important scale when discussing worldwide climate change) it comes at a very delicate time. In some ways, it’s pretty unusual right now for a country to be considering strengthening the targets, because right now a lot of emissions reductions projects are being put on hold. It’s worth going back to a piece from November last year for elaboration on why this isn’t just a Covid problem – this Vox report forecast that the 20s would be a “perilous decade” for the Paris Agreement, because of a worldwide retreat to nationalism and isolationism, led by the Trump administration. Moreover, the report noted that the vast majority of countries were falling short on their Paris targets, let alone the sort of cuts that might prevent catastrophic warming.

And now we’re living in the world of Covid-19, things have changed radically from that earlier baseline. The New York Times reported overnight that many US cities are putting mitigation projects on hold right now, as they address the immediate health crisis, and try to find a way to cope with plunging revenues. And Reuters has reported concerns from the Japanese environment minister, who says that with a brutal global recession looming, it could put climate change on the backburner right at the time when action has never been more urgent.

The economic downturn will leave countries facing serious choices about what they want to prioritise in their recovery. To go back to a point made by energy economist Michael Liebreich in the interview I did with him recently, some countries could end up making very stupid decisions here, in propping up high emissions industries to protect jobs short-term, rather than investing in cleaner economic growth. In this context, the comments made by climate change minister James Shaw to Radio NZ yesterday are very interesting – he argues that many countries now see intertwined environmental and economic progress as the best way forward, citing “South Korea, the UK, the EU at large, Costa Rica and others” as examples.

Just quickly, a message from our editor Toby Manhire:

“Here at The Spinoff, members’ support is more important than ever as the Covid-19 crisis lays waste to large chunks of our commercial work. It’s a tight time for everyone, of course, but if you’re able to, please consider joining Spinoff Members to help us stay afloat and keep producing work by the likes of Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, whose collaborations have had a real impact in New Zealand and around the world.”

A new media funding package was announced yesterday, in a bid to support the struggling sector. As The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire reports, much of the $50 million package will be going to broadcasting organisations rather than print media. One thing about it that I absolutely love to see is a “commitment to build on the Local Democracy Reporting pilot as part of longer-term support” – the journalists on that programme are doing outstanding work in less well-served communities. On the other hand, it’s a bit bizarre for some of this money to be going to Radio NZ, whose revenue hasn’t been affected at all, in contrast to the revenue crash being experienced by every commercial media company.

Wellington’s council seems to be in an increasingly dysfunctional state, with mayor Andy Foster totally unable to command a majority around the table. The problems are laid out in great detail by the NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell – right now doing an excellent job on the local government beat. The issues have got so bad that Foster is now bringing in the services of a professional facilitator, to try and find some common ground. One of the most interesting aspects of it all is the ideological clash, and the question of who really has the stronger mandate – is it a citywide mayor, or the left bloc which tends to have the numbers?

I’m going to get into a story that hasn’t been covered in The Bulletin by way of an opinion piece. Earlier this week, a police officer shot and killed a man in Papatoetoe, who was carrying a machete and damaging property. According to the police, he was shot when he began to advance on an officer. In the view of lawyer Michael Bott writing for Stuff, it was a clear example of why police should be wearing cameras, so that every such use of force is recorded. Meanwhile, Radio NZ reported yesterday that the IPCA have declared a police officer was unjustified in punching a 13 year old boy, who was part of a group of people in a stolen car.

Another story that hasn’t yet been covered: Earlier this week convicted murderer David Tamihere spoke out after being granted a Royal Perogative of Mercy. Radio NZ reports his case will now be reexamined by the Court of Appeal, with the possibility of his name being cleared. Tamihere has always maintained that he is innocent, and said that over the years since his conviction the case against him started to disintegrate. He has been on parole for about a decade.

A Kawerau man has been arrested and charged with allegedly making death threats against Simon Bridges and his family, reports One News. The man appeared in the Whakatāne district court yesterday, and has since been released on bail. He has been banned from using social media until his trial, and will not be allowed to go to Tauranga, where Bridges lives.

It will be a sad Anzac Day for many this year, with mass gatherings cancelled. Rather than dawn services, the RSA and the PM are encouraging people to mark the day at the end of their driveways, for a moment of silence as dawn breaks. One News reports Jacinda Ardern has called on those doing it to reflect on and pay tribute to sacrifice.

A spot of housekeeping: I’ll be Mondayising Anzac Day this year, so there won’t be another Bulletin until Tuesday next week. I’m quite looking forward to the long weekend actually, not planning on doing much, just lounging around the house basically. Hope you’re all planning on doing the same.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris explain exactly what elimination means in the context of Covid-19. Emily Writes checks in on the children she spoke to about lockdown a month ago to see how they’re going now. Toby Manhire reports on a bizarre swarm of scam social media ads featuring Mike Hosking. Toby Manhire (again, very prolific) reports on a survey showing public support for the lockdown is, if anything, even higher than before. Alice Neville has all the information you want to know about takeaway food at level three. Emily Writes (again) has a lovely and fascinating piece about how kids are holding onto friendships under lockdown. Catherine McGregor reviews Mrs America, a show that could be well worth starting over the long weekend.

But my entertainment when I clock off this afternoon is going to come from the country’s best politics podcast, Gone By Lunchtime, which had a new episode come out last night. Don’t judge me, it’s a great listen.

For a feature today, a story about not being selfish and heading out of town. Many self-indulgent New Yorkers have been fleeing from the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the US, and in doing so some have likely been taking the virus with them to otherwise unaffected places. Writing in The Atlantic, travel podcaster Nathan Thornburgh writes about considering leaving – and then deciding not to. Here’s an excerpt:

In the U.S., unbelievably, whether to leave is still up to you, as is where to go. If you fled for the hills the moment you read about Dr. Li Wenliang’s death in February, then kudos. I’m jealous of your paranoia, and perhaps you didn’t endanger anyone. But if you left this week, or are planning on leaving, you are nakedly prioritizing your comfort and peace of mind over the physical health of others. Don’t start in on Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, or any of those faraway self-dealers unless you start by doing what you can do to be part of the solution. Stay home.

I borrowed some of this moral clarity from an aunt in Madrid. She had watched with horror and fascination as politicians in Italy (about as far ahead of Spain along the coronavirus curve as Spain is of the United States) leaked news about a planned quarantine so that, instead of being contained, the virus scattered around the country on the wings of hundreds of thousands of individual decisions. That was on my aunt’s mind as the cordon started closing in on her city. She and her partner thought about fleeing to the village of Adahuesca, but, as she put it, “there was a chance that we’d just kill all the old people there.” They stayed put.

The Wellington Phoenix are putting their acclaimed youth academy on hiatus, reports Stuff’s Andrew Voerman. All football in the country has been put on hold until at least the end of May, and the decision will be reassessed then. But it’s entirely likely that they won’t be able to resume at the level they were operating at even when the game starts again, because of the impact of Covid-19 on movement and revenue.

And NZer Raelene Castle has quit as the boss of Rugby Australia. The Guardian reports she had lost the support of the board, and a group of former Wallabies captains had issued an open letter calling for her to go. It’s a really curious situation, and I’ve never been quite sure if she’s been given a fair go by the Aussie rugby media – after all, the sport in that country had been in a pretty dire position since well before she turned up. Having said that, there have been plenty of missteps – not least the destruction of the relationship between Rugby Australia and broadcaster Fox Sports.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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