Clarity required on Zero Carbon Bill

Steven Cranston made this Official Information request to Ministry for the Environment

The request was partially successful.

From: Steven Cranston

Dear Ministry for the Environment,

1. Can you please clarify if you consider stable methane emissions as contributing to climate change? The UN defines climate change as a GHG that ‘changes the atmospheric composition’. If Methane inflow is equal or less than outflow then this definition would not be met.

2. Does MfE measure inflow vs outflow methane emissions for NZ?

3. Does MfE have any research to suggest NZ agriculture is currently warming the planet once on farm trees are included?

Note - GWP100 accounting does not correlate to warming.

Yours faithfully, Steven Cranston

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From: Ministerials
Ministry for the Environment

Kia ora Steven,

We are writing to acknowledge receipt of your Official Information Act request dated 11 June, for:

“1. Can you please clarify if you consider stable methane emissions as contributing to climate change? The UN defines climate change as a GHG that ‘changes the atmospheric composition’. If Methane inflow is equal or less than outflow then this definition would not be met.

2. Does MfE measure inflow vs outflow methane emissions for NZ?

3. Does MfE have any research to suggest NZ agriculture is currently warming the planet once on farm trees are included?

Note - GWP100 accounting does not correlate to warming..”

We will endeavour to respond to your request as soon as possible and in any event no later than 9 July, being 20 working days after the day your request was received. If we are unable to respond to your request by then, we will notify you of an extension of that timeframe.

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact our team.

Ngā mihi,
Erin

Erin Cairns – Advisor, Executive Relations
Ministry for the Environment – Manatū Mō Te Taiao
[email address]
www.mfe.govt.nz 
No.3 The Terrace, PO Box 10362, Wellington 6143

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From: Ministerials
Ministry for the Environment

Dear Steve Cranston

Thank you for your time and phone conversation this afternoon. We discussed the range of questions you have submitted to us recently via the FYI website.

11 June:
1. Can you please clarify if you consider stable methane emissions as contributing to climate change? The UN defines climate change as a GHG that ‘changes the atmospheric composition’. If Methane inflow is equal or less than outflow then this definition would not be met.
2. Does MfE measure inflow vs outflow methane emissions for NZ?
3. Does MfE have any research to suggest NZ agriculture is currently warming the planet once on farm trees are included?

18 June:
Using the latest MAF agricultural emissions inventory numbers, how many hectares of typical native bush would be required to offset all agricultural emissions that contribute to warming compared to the previous year? (Ie year on year warming)
For clarity, I understand this to be N2O and any net increase in year on year Methane emissions.

9 July:
MfE defines climate change as a change of atmospheric concentration of a GHG.
Given that the Carbon Zero Bill references stopping climate change as it’s purpose, what is the methodology MfE is using to assess if the atmospheric methane concentration from NZ agriculture is changing?
No clear methodology has yet been made publicly available to show how inflow and outflow of methane is being accounted for. Without this information it is impossible to account for any warming impacts from methane.
There are a number of ways to try and calculate changes in atmospheric methane concentration. What is the official MfE way so we can all be consistent?
If we can’t settle on how inflow and outflow are to be accounted for then we can not assess if methane has been stabilised (ie Option 2) or if it is contributing to warming or not. Pretty relevant given the goal of the bill is to stop global warming.

We discussed the option of the Ministry collating and provide a full response to all your questions in the next two weeks and you agreed with this. You are also happy for us to contact you again directly to discuss your questions if we need any further clarification in order for us to provide a full and comprehensive response.

If you have any further questions etc. about this feel free to contact us at [MFE request email]

Yours sincerely

Executive Relations Team
Ministry for the Environment – Manatū Mō Te Taiao
Website: www.mfe.govt.nz 
23 Kate Sheppard Place, PO Box 10362, Wellington 6143

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Rich Seager left an annotation ()

Just would add that methane concentrations have increased worldwide from about 750 ppb in the pre-industrial period to roughly about 1865 ppb now. They have risen about 7ppb in the last 12 months. There's nothing stable about these figures.

To get back down to a safe path level so that coastal areas (inclusive of cities & agriculture) are not inundated with possibly metres of sea level rise (IPCC, Hansen & various others) over the next 80 years or so most agree that we need to reduce CO2 levels back down to 350ppm although some say we need to go back to the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. As we're now at 415 ppm then we would need to reduce these by at least 15% to do so.

Figure you can say the same of Methane. The question then becomes what share of that Methane is NZ's.

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