Providing clarity and context on the Low Emissions Economy Report findings

Steven Cranston made this Official Information request to New Zealand Productivity Commission

Response to this request is long overdue. By law New Zealand Productivity Commission should have responded by now (details and exceptions). You can complain to the Ombudsman.

From: Steven Cranston

Dear New Zealand Productivity Commission,

1. Does the Productivity Commission (PC) have any research or scientific evidence available that would undermine the validity of NZ agriculture as a whole being able to market their products as ‘warming neutral’ when all scientifically accepted GHG sources and sinks are accounted for? (ie Could the current reported emissions be offset by on farm trees?)

2. The opening paragraph on page 301, heading 11.1 ‘A low emissions economy requires land use change’, seems to imply agricultural emissions drive the need for land use change.

New Zealand’s agricultural Methane emissions in 2015 and 2016 equate to a combined 2.9% reduction over the two years according to MfE data. This is already 29% of the total minimum -10% by 2050 warming neutral target (the GWP* metric can be used to better correlate CH4 emissions and warming). This current trend could be defined as ahead of the warming neutral target. No major land use change has occurred over the two years in question.

MfE GHG inventory data would also suggest that NZ agriculture’s approximately 8,500 ktCO2 -e of N2O is a sum small enough to potentially be offset by Carbon sequestration from on farm trees.

Given the total amount of Carbon sequestered by on farm trees has not yet been quantified by any Government agencies and the government has not yet decided on the most appropriate metric to account for Methane emissions.

Can the PC please provide any documents, emails or information stored on computer or data bases that would support PC Reports conclusion that major land use change is required to stop any additional warming?

3. Is there a document, email or other communication that instructed the PC not to include the option of including pre-1990 trees in the scope of the Low Emissions Economy Report?

4. Does the PC have any documents, emails or information held on computer that would suggest New Zealand as a country could not be considered ‘warming neutral’ when all scientifically accepted GHG sources and sinks are accounted for? (ie Could all of NZ's reported emissions be offset by trees).

For Reference, this question refers to findings in Simon Upton’s recent ‘A note on New Zealand’s Methane emissions from livestock’ which concluded that only a very minor annual reduction in methane emissions is required for all New Zealand’s Methane emissions to be considered warming neutral.

This question also refers to estimated quantities of native and exotic forest recorded by Landcare Research and standard carbon sequestrated rates used by government agencies.

Yours faithfully,

Steven Cranston

Link to this

From: Steven Bailey
New Zealand Productivity Commission


Attachment attachment.png
7K Download

Attachment attachment.png
0K Download

Attachment attachment.png
0K Download

Attachment attachment.png
1K Download

Attachment Final results workbook Concept Motu Vivid.xlsx
13.7M Download View as HTML


Dear Steven

 

 1. Does the Productivity Commission (PC) have any research or scientific
evidence available that would undermine the validity of NZ agriculture
as a whole being able to market their products as ‘warming neutral’
when all scientifically accepted GHG sources and sinks are accounted
for? (ie Could the current reported emissions be offset by on farm
trees?).

 

The Commission does not hold research or scientific  evidence that
specifically addresses the question of NZ agriculture being able to market
their products as ‘warming neutral’. The Commission, in preparing its
final report on a Low emissions economy, made use of a wide variety of
publicly available material that may be relevant to your request. This
material is referenced in its report (in particular Chapter 9 on
Short-lived and long-lived gases, and Chapter 11 on Land use). The report
is available on the Commission’s website [1]here. 

 

On the warming effect of stabilised methane, submissions from Professor
Dave Frame of Victoria University of Wellington and from Andy Reisinger of
the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre are relevant
(available on the Commission’s website [2]here ).

 

On the potential for carbon sequestration on farms, two reports
commissioned by the Ministry of Primary Industries for the use of the
Biological Emissions Reference Group may be relevant:

 

Reisinger, A., Clark, H., Journeaux, P., Clark, D., & Lambert, G. (2017).
On-farm options to reduce agricultural GHG emissions in New Zealand.
Palmerston North: New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

 

and

 

Burrows, L., Easdale, T. A., Wakelin, S. J., Quinn, J., Graham, E., &
Mackay, A. (2018). Carbon sequestration potential of non-ETS land on
farms. Wellington: Ministry for Primary Industries.

 

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) provided these reports to the
Commission in confidence. However, MPI advises that these reports will be
made public in November 2018. Therefore we are refusing this part of the
request on the grounds of section 18(d) of the Official Information Act
that the information requested is or will soon be publicly available. MPI
advises that they will notify you when the reports are made public.

 

 2. Can the PC please provide any documents, emails or information stored
on computer or data bases that would support PC Reports conclusion
that major land use change is required to stop any additional warming?

 

The Commission’s conclusions about the need for substantial land-use
change were based on modelling done for the Commission and the Ministry
for the Environment by Concept Consulting, Motu Economic and Public Policy
Research and Vivid Economics:

 

Concept Consulting, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, & Vivid
Economics. (2018a). Modelling the transition to a lower net emissions New
Zealand: Interim results. Wellington: NZ Productivity Commission.

 

Concept Consulting, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, & Vivid
Economics. (2018b). Modelling the transition to a lower net emissions New
Zealand: Uncertainty analysis. Wellington: NZ Productivity Commission.

 

These reports are available [3]here on the Commission’s website, together
with a cover sheet for the Excel workbook. The Excel workbook for this
modelling is attached.

 

 3. Is there a document, email or other communication that instructed the
PC not to include the option of including pre-1990 trees in the scope
of the Low Emissions Economy Report? 

 

No such instruction exists.

 

 4. Does the PC have any documents, emails or information held on computer
that would suggest New Zealand as a country could not be considered
‘warming neutral’ when all scientifically accepted GHG sources and
sinks are accounted for? (ie Could all of NZ's reported emissions be
offset by trees).

 

The Commission did not explicitly address the question of “whether New
Zealand as a country could not be considered ‘warming neutral’”, nor does
it hold any documents, emails or information that explicitly address this
question. The Commission carried out analyses of New Zealand’s GHG
emissions profiles (including offsets) and, as described in the response
to question 2, undertook modelling of alternative scenarios for future
emissions profiles up to the year 2050. These analyses, which are reported
in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of the Commission’s report, broadly followed
the internationally currently established conventions for evaluating
national GHG emissions. The research (in addition to the modelling
referred to in question 2) that the Commission relied on in its analyses
is referenced in Chapter 2 Climate change, emissions and the New Zealand
context and Chapter 3 Mitigation pathways and is generally publicly
available. The Commission’s report is available [4]here.

 

You have the right to seek an investigation and review by the Ombudsman of
this decision. Information about how to make a complaint is available at
[5]www.ombudsman.parliament.nz or freephone 0800 802 602.

If you wish to discuss this decision with us, please feel free to contact
me in the first instance at the details provided below.

Yours sincerely

Steven Bailey

Steven Bailey| Inquiry Director

Productivity Commission | Te Komihana Whai Hua

M 029 7788383| P 04 903 5156 | [6]www.productivity.govt.nz 

 

 

show quoted sections

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
New Zealand Productivity Commission only: