The climate crisis is real. It’s not a drill. If we do nothing, Barcelona and the planet will become uninhabitable for future generations.

Barcelona declared a Climate Emergency on the 15th January 2020

with an action plan and a budget of 563 million euros

We are talking about a profound transition in every aspect of the city: its productive system, its people, how we work, how we move around, etc. The challenge is enormous, but not acting is too risky.

This is, in fact, a good news post. Just when we’re wondering if leadership on the climate exists, a city steps up to the challenge with real action to decarbonise, prepare for climate emergency events – and become more beautiful in the process. Barcelona shows that climate action means life for its inhabitants becomes cooler, more equitable, with more opportunities (and fresher food!)

First, I’ll highlight the biggest departure from convention. Barcelona has set a new standard in climate data presentation. Here’s Barcelona’s standard emissions pie-chart:

These are emissions counted on a city level, but the activity of some infrastructures such as the port and airport also has a big impact.

An approximate calculation of port and airport emissions – the big transport infrastructures – has been made that goes beyond those currently assigned to the city for those infrastructures in the Climate Plan, in order to make them co-responsible. The following figures therefore include the emissions from their activity, counting flights from Barcelona Airport and the emissions from shipping routes linked to port activity encompassing the routes, which could be four times the city’s GHG emissions.

Responsibility for these emissions has previously been left to the industries to contain, not assigned to countries or cities. Since this approach has failed, Barcelona’s emergency declaration brings these big polluters into the planning process. The plan acknowledges the challenge of:

Involving, in terms of commitments, agreements and investment, the competent public authorities in transport infrastructures, such as the port and airport.

The intention is to rationalise the use of the port and airport, switch to rail where possible, and provide the infrastructure needed for electrification. They will:

Work for a taxation system with a markedly environmental character for vessels in the Port of Barcelona and the aviation sector.

If the intention to avert climate catastrophe is genuine, every city needs to do the same.

These summaries somewhat understate the scale and pace of the actual measures being taken:

Change of mobility and infrastructure model: action centred on cutting traffic and the application of the low emission zone, in place since 1 January 2020, to cut CO2 emission by 550,000 tonnes.

Change of urban model: measures to transform 15 km of streets into green routes in the next five years, add 40 hectares of urban greenery and carry out work in the areas around 200 schools, transforming them into greener and more accessible places.

Change of energy model: backing for the generation of renewable and local energies in housing blocks and municipal facilities, more energy renovation grants for buildings and a new energy by-law for new buildings.

Change of economic model: definition of a green, blue and circular economy for the whole city, as with the Besòs area, incorporation of environmental criteria, sustainability and the social and solidarity economy in public procurement.

Change of food model: promotion of healthy low-carbon diets in municipal dining halls, opening and promotion of the wholesalers’ market for fresh organic local produce at Mercabarna in 2021.

Change of consumption and waste model: roll-out of the zero-waste strategy citywide, increase in selective waste disposal up to 65%, elimination of single-use plastics.

Change of cultural and education model: financial support for projects helping towards the goals of the climate plan and the climate emergency declaration, promotion of goals against the climate emergency at large events and international congresses in the city.

Taking care of health, well-being and environmental quality: activation of a hundred municipal facilities as climate shelters, backing for environmental impact studies on motor vehicles.

Taking care of water: reduction of domestic water usage by up to 100 litres per day per inhabitant, increased sewerage capacity to cut the risk of flooding and spillage at beaches during heavy rain, definition of strategies to protect beaches and the banks of the Llobregat and Besòs rivers.

So I’ll highlight a few points. Barcelona’s climate plan from 2018 was already recognised as “the best climate plan among major European cities”, receiving an award from the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The emissions reduction targets for 2030 in the 2018 plan, based on the Paris commitments:

Reduce per capita GHG emissions by 45% compared to 2005

and were altered by this emergency plan to reflect the international understanding that stricter targets are required to keep temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees:

a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to the levels in 1990.

Barcelona’s challenges in urban planning are different to Auckland’s:

As a dense, compact, Mediterranean city, Barcelona consumes little energy and generates few emissions compared to other cities but it has a very long way to go…

*All images marked with * are from the Ajuntament de Barcelona website or the Barcelona 2020 Green and Biodiversity Plan.

Increasing liveability through more green space and less traffic are important:

The metropolitan city of Barcelona is compact, with high residential density, an old housing stock, with a shortage of green spaces and a mobility system that is over-dependent on motor vehicles…. We want a comfortable, traffic-calmed city with lots of green spaces that contribute to people’s good health and well-being, and biodiversity.

There will be 100 climate shelters for emergency climate events, biodiversity nodes, nature reserves, urban green corridors, shaded areas and 40 hectares of new public green space.

Despite the differences in urban form, the transport solutions required are similar. We need to reallocate traffic lane space to other modes to enable people to get out of their cars. Barcelona needs to do the same to provide the green space they need:

Step up the scale and pace of the Superblock programme (see below).

Transform 15 km of streets into green axes by 2024.

Protect schools with environmental and road safety measures. Action at 200 schools up to 2024.

*

Barcelona’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) doesn’t rely on electrification alone to solve transport’s carbon emissions burden. The 2018 Climate Plan set a 2030 target to:

Reduce private motor vehicle journeys by 20%.

There’s action on goods vehicles, parking, dedicated spaces, and new taxes for the goods distribution of big tech platforms. There’ll be new buslanes on the main access roads, and cycle lane improvements. And in addition to ramping up the Superblock Programme, they will:

further promote the use of public transport, with new pricing which cuts the cost of frequent-use tickets by up to 25%.

Improve interchanges, both on-street and in stations

Increase the number of traffic-calmed streets, where maximum priority is given to pedestrians

Speed reductions so on most streets traffic speed is less than 30 km/h

*

The city will invest beyond the urban boundary:

Increase investment in commuter and regional trains to improve regional public rail transport

And from day one:

the use of planes will be restricted for all municipal staff (councillors and people working in public companies and associated autonomous bodies). Journeys under 1,000 km will be made by train if the journey time does not exceed 7 hours, except for unusual circumstances.

Flights between Barcelona and Madrid currently pollute twelve times more than the same journey made by train.

With more action to come:

Study the withdrawal of short flights with an alternative by train… while boosting the high-speed and long-distance rail network and encouraging the creation of night trains, ensuring affordable prices.

There is support for solar power installations and renovation to make buildings more energy efficient.

*

The plan calls the government to implement:

the Climate Change Act, including fiscal measures (tax on Co2-e, climate fund, etc.)

Tourism is not off-limits, with legislation changes to allow new tourist taxes. The whole sector is now under scrutiny:

Study Barcelona’s tourism carrying capacity in sustainability, climate and social terms. Reduce tourist activity emissions.

Radical change could come from taking aim at the heart of the problem:

The current economic model is based on continuous growth and a never-ending race for profits… the global ecological crisis and the climate crisis in particular are largely due to excessive consumption on the part of the rich countries and, above all, the wealthiest social groups… We are faced with the challenge of transforming… into a culture that recognises planetary limits and fosters sustainable ways of life.

And personnel and funding is provided to help make this cultural shift.

Barcelona is expecting a loss of between 30% and 46% of useful sand area on most beaches. In the worst-case scenario, Sant Sebastià beach could practically disappear.

Some reasons why Barcelona’s emergency action plan is not just hot air:

1/ Barcelona’s track record is good. Against a backdrop of increasing emissions in the country as a whole, Barcelona took its C40 membership seriously and is now one of thirty C40 cities whose carbon emissions are dropping.

2/ Barcelona’s plan has a strong public mandate, having been initiated by climate marches last year, and written by:

the Climate Emergency Committee… set up… in accordance with the City Council Regulation on Citizen Participation, to define specific measures to be developed for tackling the climate emergency effectively.

The process would be worth studying. I can’t find mention of any need for further consultation. I did find mention of consultation about an existing green axis project. The engagement was to decide details, not to determine whether it would proceed. In Auckland, the risk of consultation watering down the actions in the Climate Action Framework is high. Change is imperative, so should the engagement process have had better mandate for action from the beginning?

3/ The plan is ambitious but this Climate Emergency Committee is:

the forum where the City Council will be held to account for any progress made and fulfilment of the commitments it has taken on…

4/ By incorporating the big polluters into the planning process, the inequity that creates so much citizen despondency and inaction is challenged.

5/ Barcelona has become comfortable with taking bold and innovative steps. Their Superblock concept – developed to address climate, air quality and social equity challenges – has become “best practice”, and is being adapted for use in cities around the world, including Paris. It works on the same principles as the circulation plan of Ghent, Belgium and the UK’s low-traffic Mini-Holland schemes.

Credit: Javier Zarracina/Vox, from David Roberts’ fourth article in his wonderful series on the Barcelona Superblocks

Resident satisfaction and international praise for the Superblocks means Barcelona has been rewarded for its innovation and boldness, so change has become progressively easier. This is in contrast to the political hurdles facing cities where insufficient progress taken by conservative politicians has increased social tension, and therefore delayed progress even further.

6/ The action plan includes many short-term actions, which help to build momentum towards the longer-term ones:

a hundred robust, urgent and effective measures to speed up the way the city adapts to climate episodes in the next few years and mitigate the effects in the short to mid-term.

Long-term goals without such supporting short-term actions can result in targets simply being revised.

7/ Responsibility for each measure is devolved to the organisation delivering it.

Trees in pots helped reclaim public space from cars when the first Superblocks were implemented. Now some of Barcelona’s streets will become “green axes”. Image Credit: Maysun for Vox, from part two of David Roberts’ Vox series on the Barcelona Superblocks

While Barcelona’s emergency declaration commits to changing the models for how the city works, Auckland’s emergency declaration commits to continuing what Council is doing:

Auckland needs to implement a framework that directs every aspect of our city’s activities. We have at least as much need as Barcelona has to plan for air travel and shipping, and to rationalise the use of our port and airport.

In terms of the emissions conventionally assigned to the cities, Auckland’s carbon footprint per capita (6.3 t CO2e in 2016) is fully three times that of Barcelona’s (2.1 t CO2e in 2017). Yes, a lot of that difference is because we’re a sprawling city whereas Barcelona is a compact one.

But why do we choose to continue to sprawl?

Last week’s announcement of borrowing our children’s money to spend $5.3 billion on roads, $3.8 billion of which is for 82 km of duplicate highways, was funding for yet more sprawl. The sprawl roads that Auckland is getting were even on our mayor’s wishlist. It’s big money, better spent on direct intensification measures. Instead, it’ll push our emissions up further, while adding yet more maintenance and financial burden to future generations.

Our five years of C40 membership should have seen us well on our way to developing a people-focused and sustainable city.

Barcelona’s leadership can inspire our people, even as it highlights our politicians’ folly. Can it inspire our politicians to change tack?

 

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103 comments

  1. Change, not continue. That needs to be the response to climate change, in a nutshell.

    Anything less is either failing to see the issue for what is, or wilfully downplaying what it means.

  2. Barcelona know what a climate emergency is. Auckland Council is just using it a catchphrase and not including any of the urgency that is supposed to come with an “emergency”.

    Some of things we should be doing, and are really easy, just need the push from politicians to get it done!:

    -> We need to converting buses and ferries to electric urgently, not in X years.
    -> Re-purposing road lanes to transit, bus and bike lines urgently, even in a “pop-up” manner if it gets it done quicker, and then look at “proper” changeover later if needed.
    -> Roads should cease except where required in new development, but should strictly include provisions for all modes
    -> Grow cycle infrastructure faster, a place like The Netherlands implements more in a week than we do in a year, even though they have a very large cycle network already. If we keep going at the current pace, even though its faster than the past, it will take 100s of years for Auckland to have a complete cycle network.
    -> Making PT affordable to more people
    -> Making PT span more hours, so people working shifts dont fall through the gaps
    -> Making PT span more areas, its ridiculous how many smaller regions (population-wise) manage to have PT to their semi-rural towns whilst only very few of ours do.
    -> Making bikes/e-bikes more affordable to more people

    1. “-> We need to converting buses and ferries to electric urgently, not in X years.”
      That would only have negligible effects.
      Besides; Electric ferries aren’t an established technology. Many of them rely upon fossil fuels anyway, like LPG.

      1. Electric harbour ferries:
        – Wellington, under construction, in service mid-year
        – Auckland & Christchurch, under serious investigation, in service 2021 if given go ahead. Fullers have put $300k into R&D for an Auckland design. Christchurch has got grants (EECA & CCC) to develop their proposal.

    2. Good list.
      Another critical thing required is for the govt to build high density housing en masse near centers or on good PT routes. One of the reasons we are getting so much housing pressures on our urban edge is affordability.

      The government could build and sell 3 bedroom apartments for 600k if it did so on a ‘non profit’ basis.

      This would ‘kill’ much of the Greenfield housing market.

      Getting much more high density in the right locations to optimize land use – transport integration is crucial for a lower carbon Auckland.

      MUCH bigger thinking and investment is required.

    3. I am surprised that you don’t seem to know how our PT system works.
      AT do not own any buses, they just award tenders to bus companies. To insist on electric buses is ignoring the Capex cost to these service providers. With the average expected fleet life of 20 years and most of Aucklands buses quite new, none of the bus companies are interested in BEV transition and certainly not to do it anytime soon.
      There is also the problem of charging. It’s a fact that for every 4 bus charge points, you need a sub station. Who is going to pay for those? Also most bus operators don’t have the space to put in charge stations.
      Then there is the question of is BEV the right way to go for Auckland and while it’s still not decided, it’s looking increasingly like Hydrogen is better.
      There is no quick fix, only political sound bites

      1. AT policy is to require electric buses in all new contracts from 2025 onwards. this is timed to meet the first rollover of contracts from the start of the new network. Operators have five years to sort it out charging at their depots or their business will start to shrink rapidly as the lose routes to competent operators. It’s not rocket science.
        The operators will pay for the charging points and recoup costs in their contract rates, same way they pay for existing vehicles and depots.

  3. Last week’s announcement of borrowing our children’s money to spend $5.3 billion on roads, $3.8 billion of which is for 82 km of duplicate highways, was funding for yet more sprawl. The sprawl roads that Auckland is getting were even on our mayor’s wishlist. It’s big money, better spent on direct intensification measures. Instead, it’ll push our emissions up further, while adding yet more maintenance and financial burden to future generations.

    That $1.35b road has been in the Auckland Plan since 2012 when it was decided up to 40% of our urban development would be greenfield – contained to the Future Urban Zone. Unless Twyford deleted the RUB we are not going beyond it full stop.

    So this sprawl down in the South as it were has long been signalled and might find quite a large chunk of it will be industrial as industry leaves the Isthmus for – yep intensification of MORE housing close to the City Centre.

    Sprawl as it were will always be with us and industry continues to move but as it does it turns former industrial land into housing often on transport lines close to commercial centres. Be no different in Auckland.

    I expect a bit better Heidi on the Urban Geography of Auckland especially down in our largest sub region. It is not all doom and gloom in the slightest unless one wants to deny this city Industry and thus the 35,000 future jobs attached to it?

    Better effort would be to get AT to recognise the Climate Emergency from Council because right now they don’t.

    1. The UN and C40 both call for compact cities as a response to climate change. Auckland has a compact city strategy. The purpose of declaring a climate emergency is to unroll bad decisions from the past and forge ahead on a new path. What’s refreshing about Barcelona’s emergency plan is how focused on equity for the most vulnerable in society it is. Have a long read, Ben, particularly on the changes to the economic model and the cultural shift required. To bring equity to South Auckland, you might be better to scrutinise flights, who’s taking them, and who’s going to be paying the carbon bill.

      If solutions for today’s population removes options for their children, they are not good solutions. A circular economy, not a linear, polluting industrial one, is the way forward. We can’t solve the global problems if each individual area thinks it is an exception to good planning.

      Do you need some links to C40? Or is the Cities part of “The New Climate Economy – The 2018 Report of the Global Commission on The Economy and Climate” useful?: http://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/cities/

      “When done right, compactness improves residents’ access to jobs, services, and amenities and, compared to sprawl, could reduce infrastructure capital requirements by over US$3 trillion between 2015 and 2030. Densification is also more carbon efficient and resilient to climate change and disasters.”

  4. Having made a few basic changes to my life, I really don’t understand why this seems like such a big deal.

    And it’s taken very little effort… sold car. Got city bike. Telecommuting to work. Insisting on audio/video meetings instead of face-to-face. Stopped buying crap. Eating more fresh veges. Using Zilch cars for night trips when public transport is crap ($29) or for weekend excursions ($99).

    I’m really enjoying the change, but the challenge of it has been pretty low-level. Yes, Auckland’s infrastructure has its weaknesses, but its totally workable. AT’s app serves my needs perfectly.

    I do feel like an outlier doing this (in my 40s), and I don’t understand why others don’t see the need to also. I’m really quite mystified. Are there other GA readers in the same boat?

    1. First, how many people have the option of telecommuting?

      I commute on a bike regularly and I would at best describe that option as reckless.

      Mostly this is due to things beyond people’s control. The council chooses to not build bike lanes, even simple ones like on Cook Street. Even though a long term plan for bike lanes exists it is not followed through when roads are dug up for maintenance. It chooses to not enforce existing bike lanes and footpaths. The government chooses to cripple the expansion of PT by means of a farebox recovery target. Etc.

      Drivers are also exceptionally hostile to pedestrians.

      I will describe most of Auckland as virtually impenetrable without a car. You can’t really blame people for driving in such circumstances.

        1. Ah yes, the smug, holier-than-tho ‘if I can make it work then everyone else can’ that is blind to privilege, circumstance and so on. Everything in your area is totally workable, so everyone else’s is too. You’re in a profession/profession/stage of your career where you can just decide to telecommute, so everyone else can to. Jeez, I totally can’t understand why everyone else hasn’t done this already!

          This is the PT equivalent of boomers telling millennial to stop spending money on avocado on toast – Please ignore how good I have it while I give this sermon from the Mount about how you’re all terrible people.

        2. Butwizard, not withstanding your false assertions (“you can just decide to telecommute”-nope, had to fight for one day week, the rest of the time I bike) and the misrepresentation/ paraphrasing (“you’re all terrible people”- nope, don’t think that at all)…
          If I did sound dismissive of roeland’s comment re bike lanes and PT, i didn’t mean to, I wholeheartedly agree with him there should be way, way more. It’s probably because I look at the probable consequences of climate change, with mass extinctions, hundreds of millions displaced, conquests, loss of law and order etc, and see “not enough bike lanes” as an insufficient barrier to doing everything we can to help those who will be seriously afflicted.

    2. People don’t see the need because it hasn’t had any meaningful impact on their own lives yet. Sure we have listened to enthusiasts banging on about it for 30 years but so far the only change we have here is better summers than we used to have. Net result is we have other things to focus on. That said i have cut out beef and lamb, not because of emissions but because I don’t like the idea of killing docile cows and sheep. Chickens and fish I don’t care about. I don’t commute because i prefer working at home, again not because of emissions but to improve my own life. I haven’t flown overseas in over 12 years because I hate being stuck on a plane for a long period and I don’t like Australia so I stay in NZ. On the plus side as I said, we now have the best summers I have ever known.

    3. I keep some of the environmental choices I make quiet. Easier to have people assume I can’t afford things sometimes. I’m happy doing what I do; I’m not happy having friends say I need to lighten up and stop virtue signalling.

      1. I hadn’t heard of virtue signalling. I am going to put it right up there with “fat shaming.”

        I understand it is difficult to have these conversations, but being overweight is most likely to lead to a dimution of their enjoyment of life at some stage; and ignoring the virtues of reducing emissions will impact many at some stage.

        I am constantly apalled that our seeming indifference to climate change has left 45 million people in Africa severly affected by drought.

        If our only concern over the next 20 years is that we loose a percentage point off our GDP growth then as a society we are heading in fundamentally the wrong direction.

    4. I am in a 4 person household- me, partner, two kids. We have one 1400cc car which we need mainly for kids errands, but we fill it up every 2.5 weeks.
      Both of us train for the commute.
      We aren’t vegetarian but eat red meat once a week.
      We buy a minimal number of durable high quality clothes on a relatively infrequent basis.
      We do these things only partly for environmental reasons. We also do them for financial reason, as well as lifestyle reasons (I dislike driving in Auckland, and we dislike crap quality clothing).
      We win on all fronts.

      1. Exactly, this is the thing that people aren’t being sold, the financial benefits to making simple changes. I pretty much stopped eating meat unless I was going out for dinner..started off because it was just cheaper, then I started to realise that there is really no need for meat in a lot of dishes I love. I bought an electric scooter and get to work quicker than I could in a car or bus, and cheaper. These are improvements to my life, nothing to do with virtue signalling, we simply aren’t telling people that change can be for the best..but of course if you believe some of the people posting here, reducing Meat intake, reducing Car travel, planting more trees are all futile and we simply need to just start offing a lot of people so we can get the world population to a level where we can pollute and consume as much as we like..we can even build lots of robots so we don’t need a working class!

  5. The governments recent road building announcements lookes like they could have been written by steven joyce. There is no real desire at a central government level for any change to the status quo. I guess the problem lies with voters who are change resistant.

    1. Every city has had resistance to change. The story of the Barcelona Superblocks is a story of initial conflict turned into something that’s very popular.

      The public deserve to see progressive concepts before deciding on whether they like them. Consultation in the abstract – when the status quo is the only experience the public have – is meaningless. For a genuinely democratic system, some progressive projects need to be pushed through, to be visible examples.

      What New Zealand has done wrong is given more political weight to the interests resisting change, and thus denied progress a chance.

      1. Absolutely.

        Our current political and civic engagement model seems to have no recognition of change bias and the way in which this skews results.

        Most people in the middle are apathetic to change (as they lead busy lives trying to make ends meet – apathy is taken to mean not caring; but I think our modern problem is there simply isn’t enough bandwidth to care as we have never been so time poor or mentally stretched).

        Further compounding the issue is the fact that humans are wired to speak out against change versus supporting it.I hate to sound ageist but the elderly generally have more time on their hands to get political and write letters to the editor etc. So a more conservative voice prevails* … Being civically engaged is a luxury for the time rich; which generally excludes the poor*.

        With the above in mind. I feel like AT/AC/ADO should spin up a ‘Tactical Urbanism’ (perhaps a less [email protected] under the radar name) unit that’s role is to roll out low cost and extremely quick ‘trials’ that have the C40 agenda 100% in mind. No other considerations given! After all it is a trial so if it has major adverse effects it can be reversed.

        I’m thinking movable concrete barricades and planter boxes, clip on green walls, street furniture etc that can be deployed off the back of a truck overnight.

        They then need to give each trial a of 6 months to let the general public have their say (especially children – as it is after all their future urban environ) on how it might be improved. Asking for feedback on improvement as opposed to a simple yes/no exercise is the key imo.

        Feedback also needs to be gathered in real time by talking to people on the street for 2mins. Even the most well intentioned struggle to find the time to sit down and write something up. This also removes the issue where a pensioner from Orewa has a voice as to how successful (or not) Henderson Main Street low traffic trial has been, despite having not visited since the 80s.

        The temporary pedestrianisation of High Street should be the kind of thing seen on the weekly. I know it sounds idealistic but wouldn’t it be cool if there were 50 ‘High Street esquetrials’ underway at anyone time where the public could experience them as opposed to having to think about them in the abstract. These trials should be developed organically as key learnings are taken from contemporaneous trials occurring.

        *No offence intended. Generally the elderly have a more conservative voice and are more represented in terms of voting and civic engagement.

        1. You of course could argue that this blog and its readers fit the same profile. “Being civically engaged is a luxury for the time rich; which generally excludes the poor”. We are encouraged here to have a say on projects etc that don’t affect us. But I guess it is OK as long as we are not old.
          I like the idea of trialing things like bus lanes etc. Would also prove that cycle lanes dont need to be many millions per km.

    2. The governments recent road building announcements were written by Steven Joyce.
      The current COL are good at grabbing headlines, KiwiBuild, Billion Trees, Light Rail, Capital Gains Tax, and a host of others. But they lack the ability to plan and get them under way. Hence they change from being targets to becoming inspirational.

    3. That’ll be because the projects are mostly the same National projects that Labour cancelled 2 years ago.
      If this government were serious they’d be looking at what emissions are sustainable and implementing schemes TODAY.
      Start with fuels. Tax all carbon in petrol, diesel, jet fuel, coal, gas, etc. We need to get to the point where we eliminate them where there are alternatives, and then offset the small remainder. This should start with a large tax now that ramps up rapidly.
      This should stop imports of coal from Indonesia, seriously reduce sales of dinasaur powered vehicles and be a great driver behind changing government policy and the projects they fund.
      There is no alternative.

      1. “This should stop imports of coal from Indonesia”

        …and consumption of local coal In which case it will also stop manufacture of steel in NZ so we will put a bunch of people out of work and bask in the glow of self-righteousnous as we import steel with even greater emissions as it has to be shipped here.

        1. I’m at risk of sounding like a broken record on hydrogen, but apparently it has the ability to replace coal as the reducing agent in steel manufacture. No idea what it would cost to get that capability up and running at Glenbrook though.

        2. Nobody has any idea what it would cost because there is no proven process or equipment for hydrogen blast furnace ironmaking, let alone a hydrogen-based process for iron sand (which cannot be processed through a blast furnace).
          Add to that the fact that there is no suitable green hydrogen production capacity or distribution system and the fact that electrolysis and hydrogen compression have such poor efficiencies that there would need to be a large investment in additional generation capacity.
          It’s not hard to see why the current risk-averse owners of NZ Steel would just import steel.

  6. The climate emergency declaration in Auckland is just like Mt Eden Borough declaring itself nuclear free. It was about looking good at no cost whatsoever.

  7. If you really want to stop people and industries from polluting, you just need to charge them (tax them) to do so. And instead of sending the money to some South American drug lord in the form of Carbon Credits, share the money equally with the general population. The people that don’t pollute much (or buy products and services that pollute) will end up better off, the others worse off. Ramp the tax up over time.
    Everything else is simply hot air. While we are allowing people to pollute for free, we will never fix the problem.

    1. Exactly, a Pigouvian tax on the externality provides all the signals necessary so people will change if they can at low cost while those who can’t change will pay the true cost. Best of all the money can be used to remove income tax from people who are struggling.
      In contrast the carbon credit system sends our money to the world’s biggest cheaters and liars.

    2. I don’t mind other stuff happening if it’s low cost / low impact, but I agree the real heavy lifting on climate change for most sectors of the economy is going to be done by making polluters pay. Cutting car usage in Auckland by 20% (like the Barcelona target) might only save around say 0.5% of national emissions, while we eventually need to be getting rid of most of the emissions.

      The Emissions Trading Scheme is currently a domestic-only scheme, so the money the polluters pay will only go to the government and people sequestering carbon through forestry – which will encourage more planting. They might be considering opening it up to ‘reliable’ overseas parties, but if you don’t like that I think the consultation on the ETS settings is still open.

      Cars are a bit of a special case though, in that they think they may not get enough of a response out of the likely range of ETS pricing to put people off buying petrol cars alone. So, they might need extra regulation to extend the emissions standards they have already talked about and perhaps eventually go as far as banning fossil fuel vehicles in time.

      1. A scheme that takes people’s money (when they are already struggling) and gives it to forestry isn’t gonna win votes. So it will be a watered down amount that makes next to no difference. A scheme that takes polluters money and gives it directly back to the general public (maybe just a monthly payment divvied out evenly) is much more likely to succeed. Add a dollar a litre to fuel and other environment taxes and then give back $100 a month per person – only the very heavy polluters wouldn’t want that!

        1. According to the modelling the Productivity Commission did the carbon price may not have to rise much for things to happen with forestry and the remaining fossil fuel electricity generation. No doubt the Climate Commission will be looking at that more closely, and how far they would need to raise the price to start making some real progress. I think they’ll probably put out some consultation documents on that sometime this year.

          I think the government will probably look at some rebates. We might found out about any proposed arrangements from them later this year, depending on what sort of carbon budget they expect the Climate Commission to recommend for the next five years.

  8. Which is worse?
    – saying you won’t do anything and then do nothing.
    – or saying lots of nice things about doing something and how everyone should be doing something, but then not really actually doing anything.

    I still get a laugh at seeing hordes of kids protesting after being dropped off in a car, going to mcdonalds afterwards and then getting picked up in a car again. Virtue signalers everywhere.

    NZder’s basically have to quit eating meat or any animal products, quit air travel, quit using cars and slash the power use. Most people just can’t do it. It’s pretty hard for addicts to recognise their problem and to change.

    1. I don’t think we need to quit all of those things. In most cases there are good alternatives such as electric cars, renewable power, etc. But most of us will take the cheapest option, and while we don’t have to pay to pollute, that option is normally the worst one.

      1. So that society doesn’t have to wake up to its waste and pollution?

        How about we support each other to be caring humans, instead of consumers?

        Or was there something special about your parents’ generation that privileges them over today’s young adults?

        1. I don’t often agree with this “Vance” guy.
          But this (rare) time; he’s correct. The chief underlying issue is too many people on the planet.

        2. Ecological footprint calculators often ask: “How many planets do we need if everybody lives like you?” And the answer for NZers is often 5 or more.

          Overpopulation is a problem; especially so when that population is living wastefully and unsustainably as NZers are.

          People who want others to stop breeding instead of fully supporting the changes required to reduce NZ’s ecological footprint, are expressing a type of resistance to change. But it’s a more serious resistance than usual, because it takes aim at basic healthy human motivations and emotions.

          Population growth needs to stop. We know what brings down the birthrate equitably and without misery: education, women’s rights and security. So we need to stop exploitation and conflict, and fund education, empowerment and ecological restoration.

          Blaming people for breeding nicely prevents having to support measures that would actually stop exploitation and conflict, or direct funding to the education and ecological projects that are required.

          Children are our treasures – and they are the next generation of workers, providing the things society needs and caring for the young, elderly and sick.

          Vance has found a scapegoat, but his “solution” devalues children and child-raising. No real solution would do that.

        3. The opposite side of the equation of “have fewer children” is even worse. With no workers or anyone paying taxes there wont be anyone to keep society working or look after the old people. A natural, logical conclusion will be mandatory euthanasia on all people over a certain age or have terminal illness. No healthcare provided after a certain age too. Children and old people consume similar resources and many old people are pretty useless to the function of society so it is a natural progression. If some people have to give up having children for the greater good of society, then lots of old, sick people have to give up being a burden on society for the greater good too.

          Both ideas are abhorrent to me, but it’s fair.

    2. NZers don’t have to do all those things immediately. They just have to eat less beef and lamb (not all meat), cut down or stop increasing their air travel, and cut down their distance driven in fossil-fueled vehicles by switching to other modes. “Slash power use” is the bottom of the list as electricity is on its way to being 100% renewable.

      Rather than “most people just can’t do it”, I would say that most people haven’t given it more than a moment’s thought. The evidence is that so many rich people with plenty of choices haven’t made the simplest first steps.

    3. “NZder’s basically have to quit eating meat or any animal products”
      NZ goes vegan so…. …animal methane emissions can be replaced by human methane emissions? Or methane emissions from rice paddies?

      Sorry, but going vegan isn’t going to make any difference to climate change. It’s as silly as going around planting trees everywhere.

      1. So cutting down / eliminating meat consumption isn’t going to make a difference, Electric Buses isn’t going to make a difference, Planting Trees isn’t going to make a difference. Can you educate us all on what will help us achieve our targets from the Paris accord? I’m interested to know the new science.

        And yes we all know that NZ emissions are not the bulk of World output so you don’t need to bore people with facts we already know.

        1. To lower its carbon emissions; NZ needs to move away from having so many grazing animals (especially from intensified bovine Dairying). And it needs to reduce its automobile dependency.

          Going vegan is simply an absurd futile gesture that makes no difference. Except maybe to the health of anyone who goes along with it…

        2. Things happen for a reason.
          Hydrogen was being promoted 15 years ago. Then it suddenly went silent.
          And the reason for that is no conspiracy.

        3. One difference now is that the big reduction in wind and solar generations costs over the last decade have reduced the clean hydrogen production cost.

          This is worth listening to if you have the time:
          https://grattan.edu.au/podcast/energy-futures-hydrogen-worth-the-hype/

          In it they say the clean hydrogen production price is about half the retail price of petrol for an equivalent vehicle over the same distance. The question is what it would take to store and distribute the hydrogen. This is what Waitomo are looking at in NZ. A high carbon price would help bridge any difference.

          I think it has some momentum now. The Australian government is putting $370m into hydrogen development.
          https://reneweconomy.com.au/arena-and-cefc-to-kick-start-australias-clean-hydrogen-industry-27139/

        4. Why would you store and distribute hydrogen though. We already have a system that generates and distributes energy really well. You may have seen the big wires all over the country. You may also note that they don’t explode.

          Hydrogen is a battery, not a fuel. It needs to be compared to Lithium, not petrol. Lithium fast charge batteries are enormously prefereable to Hydrogen for pretty much everything except heavy trucks, they don’t need hydrogen distibution as they have enormous ranges and can simply stop at a hydrogen plant close to their origin or destination.

        5. They’re talking about centralising production of the hydrogen at Kapuni rather than producing it at the fuelling stations:
          https://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/119177256/kiwi-companies-team-up-to-build-hydrogen-refueling-network

          They’re talking about 20 odd stations, so would distributed production be feasible?

          I assume they would use tankers to distribute the hydrogen to fuelling stations, like I’m pretty sure used to happen for LPG and CNG. There were no problems with that exploding as far as I’m aware.

          Waitomo say they’re looking at hydrogen for heavy vehicles to start, but are open to the idea of serving cars as well.

          Lots of cars will go electric. But for people who want to make frequent long trips, or want to have the option to do so when they want, or whose car is in near continuous use or just don’t like the idea of charging delays hydrogen might be more convenient depending on what happens with the range and charging time for battery EVs. Hydrogen vehicles might be less affected by any constraints on battery materials as well.

        6. “They’re talking about centralising production of the hydrogen at Kapuni rather than producing it at the fuelling stations”

          Why do you suppose that is? It’s pretty much the centre of the onshore gas processing industry in NZ. Clannett has stated that initially hydrogen will be made from steam reforming natural gas…and the government is shovelling money his way.

          No indication of when it would switch to hydrolysis or where the renewable electricity is coming from or what sort of (abysmal) conversion efficiencies will be involved.

          This has taxpayer-funded boondoggle written all over it…and what a great centralized oil-industry-style business model it will be.

        7. Where did you get the quote about it being steam reforming natural gas?

          This one is linked in the other article I linked: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/113153482/joint-venture-green-hydrogen-project-tipped-as-beginning-of-hydrogen-industry-in-taranaki

          It says they’ve got some wind generation going in there and implies that the power is all renewable.

          If that’s the case and the costs are low enough, what does the conversion efficiency matter?

          The $950k from the government seems like a pretty small commitment given the ultimate potential upside, but all the same you hope it was based on some reasonable logic about projected abatement costs once they were running at scale etc.

          I don’t know but they might have sited it there because they could get leverage off the existing factory for the first go. It seems like the production is pretty small for this one.

          I don’t know what sort of economies of scale they would get on future sites, but if they do go for just a few sites, what does it matter if it gives the lowest costs?

      2. Daniel,
        you simply have the science wrong.
        Most of the timber being burnt in the Amazon is so that principally soy can be grown to feed live stock. So eliminate that and the climate looks in better shape.
        But the benefits don’t end there. Eating meat, dairy is a very inefficient way of delivering energy to humans. The amount of land area given to agriculture could be greatly reduced if humans ate a plant based diet. The remaining area could be reforested to sequester carbon.
        Agriculture is a much greater user of that precious resource called water than is horticulture. This will become more important as regions become more dry, such as Northland yesterday and today.

        Do some reading; watch “The Game Changers” and then tell us that eating less meat and dairy isn’t helpful for climate change.

        1. “you simply have the science wrong.”
          And who are you to say that? You’re a scientist are you John?

          “Most of the timber being burnt in the Amazon is so that principally soy can be grown to feed live stock. So eliminate that and the climate looks in better shape.”
          No it doesn’t.
          Because they Brazilians will just slash-and-burn that rainforest anyway. And if they don’t grow soybeans anyway (which they probably will, and of which we’ll eat instead and flatulate out that methane instead); they’ll grow some other crop. What if it’s something like Rice which also emits methane?

          The elephant in the room of climate change is the fact that there are simply too many humans in the world. The also too many cows, sheep etc. and the grazing land they need are directly proportional to that.

          “But the benefits don’t end there. Eating meat, dairy is a very inefficient way of delivering energy to humans. The amount of land area given to agriculture could be greatly reduced if humans ate a plant based diet.”
          We’re talking about greenhouse emissions. None of this means that everyone becoming vegan will halt climate change.

          “Do some reading; watch “The Game Changers””
          No thank you:
          https://tacticmethod.com/the-game-changers-scientific-review-and-references/

        1. I’d have to look up the figures, but I think a few million hectares of planting had the scope to soak up the better part of our carbon emissions for the next thirty years. At lower cost than the other options available to make really substantial cuts.

          If you don’t cut down the trees the carbon is permanently stored. If you do harvest the wood, you do have to keep growing the trees back again.

        2. “but I think a few million hectares of planting had the scope to soak up the better part of our carbon emissions for the next thirty years.”
          I don’t mean to be rude; but you’re wrong.
          And if you do the proper research; you’ll find that out for yourself.

        3. Daniel, I love how you call out people asking if they are a scientist as if their argument is invalid if they aren’t…then continue to rant your side of the argument with sweeping unproven statements like ‘Brazilians will just cut it down anywyay’.

          Sometimes you speak sense, other times the troll inside you rises up and goes on incoherent rampages. Right now is that time.

        4. Daniel, take a look at the Productivity Commission’s Low Emissions Economy report.
          https://www.productivity.govt.nz/assets/Documents/lowemissions/4e01d69a83/Productivity-Commission_Low-emissions-economy_Final-Report_FINAL_2.pdf

          Modelling they commissioned has forestry giving a 45MT reduction on 2.8 million hectares in 2050 which is enough to absorb all the emissions then and give Net Zero – for a scenario where there is little innovation and we are relying on current technology. Forestry conversions are already absorbing 23 MT of NZ’s current emissions of about 80MT.

      3. Are you serious Daniel?
        What facebook page are you getting your “facts” from?

        Human farts have much less methane by proportion than cow farts. Unlike cows, we tend not to eat hard to digest plants which leads to methane production. But that is entirely beside the point.

        Large numbers of cattle in the world are reared in sheds, not pastures. They are fed corn and other feeds which are grown using large amounts of fertiliser and energy derived from fossil fuels. 2/3 of our arable land is used to raise and feed animals that we eat, but only provide 1/3 of our protein. Cows are not an energy efficient source of protein.

        If we all went vegan and mostly ate plants, then there would be a huge reduction in emissions and fossil fuel usage.

        BTW I’m not vegan, I’m just pointing out the facts that animal product production is a huge consumer of fossil fuels. If you want to reduce emissions, then going vegan is a big part of that.

        1. Daniel

          First, I trained in science for three years at University so I understand the science of climate change, but I am simply repeating the comments of leading scientists.

          Second, my family is Brasilian (note their spelling) and they understand the history of the Amazon, and a family member lives in the state. But don’t take their word, read this:
          Jair Bolsonaro launches assault on Amazon rainforest …
          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/02/brazil-jair-bolsonaro-amazon-rainforest
          I know its only the Guardian.

          I note that the Climate Minister, among a host of others, says if we eat less meat and diary this will reduce emissions. Agriculture is 50% of NZ emissions so this is why it is so important to reduce these.

          Read what Ari has written – it is helpful.

          But, you are entitled to your view, it is simply not supported by science.

          I am not going to attack you for your view because I have also trained in dispute resolution, where one of the first mantra’s is to focus on the argument and not the person.

  9. What I like about this approach is it offers a vision of a better life after undertaking all the climate change initiatives. Sure people need to cut back fairly drastically on various activities, notably those with high emissions, but they potentially end up with better communities to live their everyday life in.

  10. Great post Heidi! I love how the city is taking responsibility for international aviation and shipping emissions – if the industry refuses to be part of the international accounting mechanisms, then just get em at a city level.

    Barcelona’s experience also highlights that action on emissions also has amazing co-benefits. Air quality, productivity, water, social cohesion, children’s safety and conservation – the list just goes on and on. The more examples of climate leadership we have, the stronger case us advocates can make to our own city leaders/planners.

  11. Great post Heidi. The link to the C40 cities that have reduced their emissions is interesting. The 30 cities are Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Venice, Warsaw, and Washington, D.C. The average reduction was 22% from peak. However, at first glance most of this was due to decarbonising electricity and space heating. It would be worthwhile going through this list in detail and seeing which strategies can be effective for Auckland.

    As you say, the lack of progressive role models in New Zealand is a problem. Imagine if there was a zero carbon town, suburb, or city to serve as an example. It’s like a 1 km radius circle drawn around every shopping mall has become virtually identical.

    1. can we not actually learn from the world, why do we need a local example? Auckland needs to be that local leader, we’re more of the problem, we come off a low base… we should be out front, but for a lack of leadership and lazy status quo warriors all through our institutions…

      1. Local examples would mean the vocal vitriolic commentators would look as stubbornly stupid to most people as they do to the urbanists watching examples overseas.

        1. Don’t be too harsh on yourself Heidi. While some may consider you to be a vocal vitriolic commentator I don’t think that most look on you as stubbornly stupid.

  12. The planet is warming everyday and if we are really concerned by a warming planet, NZ as a country, needs to declare a national climate emergency now instead of having massive talkfests, paying lip services and only picking the least amount of the lowest hanging fruit like rail.

    Whilst there is no handbook on how to adapt to warming planet, it is going to be a process of trial and error, so by declaring a national climate emergency now, NZ can move quickly to sustainable environmentally friendly economy, business activity, food production that is based on ‘grow/farm to suit the land and climate’ concepts, urban and transport planning, inter-regional travel, population growth, etc.

    Adopting to warming planet is going to be costly, as NZ needs to upgrade essential infrastructure like water, sewerage, power, moving coastal communities inland, future proofing (if possible) critical road, rail and power infrastructure for planet warming related storms, droughts, etc.

    The message from planet warming is, starting adopting now or sit on our hands and suffer the consequences. At the moment, NZ is sitting on its hands and making cosmetic changes.

    1. Kris,
      But there is a handbook produced by McKinsey for the C40 cities.
      https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/a-strategic-approach-to-climate-action-in-cities-focused-acceleration

      The first strategy is decarbonise the grid. And for those who say its happening, my reply is barely.

      Genesis says they aim to close Huntly coal by 2030, and Huntly gas?

      At a single swoop, at least 15% of emissions could be removed from the grid. And who knows the percentage in a dry year such as 2018?

      Who has to pay for it? Over the last few years the power companies have collectively made $3 billion in super profits – so the share holders should. And as we know, at the moment, interest costs have never been lower.

      So what’s stopping this? Well certainly Megan Woods hasn’t done anything to move the situation along.

      I have seen commentators say, we can’t completely decarbonise our grid and I am still waiting for someone to explain why. Don’t we simply run a reverse model to the current one i.e. instead of coal being the reserve, a hydro lake becomes the reserve?

      Unfortunately this issue is like every other in our miserable attempts to adapt, and at a city level we should embrace the methods used by the likes of Barcelona, but Sydney on our doorstep should also be a source of inspiration.

      1. Renewable energy already makes up 85% of electricity generation, and modelling has been done saying it would move to 95% pretty soon. I’m not sure if that forecast relied on any increase in the ETS price.

        I think the balance to 100% renewable production is just about dry years.

        I’m not exactly sure why they can’t get to 100% with more wind generation and using hydro to fill in the gaps as you suggest, but my guess is that as electricity demand grows, they don’t think there will be enough water in the hydro lakes in dry years to fill in all the gaps in wind generation.

        The government is looking at ways of getting to 100% renewable generation though. This article talks about one of the options:
        https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/central-otago/massive-hydro-storage-plan-be-reassessed

        1. Huntly provides vital backup close to Auckland and is reliable generation. Ideally we would have some other generation near Auckland. Maybe reserect the plans for nuclear power station…. In any case the current pricing model does not encourage fast building of new capacity and actively encourages the hydro generator to not run at capacity. Why build a new station or run full power when you get the cost per MW for coal or gas for your almost free hydro. At the moment we have excess generation capacity driven largely by improved efficiency in industry and home. This will change when we all switch to EVs. Maybe microgrids then become the answer.

        2. We just need our power companies to build another 1000 megawatts of Geothermal then both the coal fired and gas fired units at Huntley could be shut down. Actually gas production is getting damm unreliable I see there was another unplanned output at the main gas platform Pohukura I think it’s called. Of course they waited until Transpower was doing maintainence on the interisland cable. Sometimes I think they do it on purpose. Caused a spike in wholesale prices again. Why not save all the gas to make Methanol or burn in boilers and use something with better efficiency and not so tempremental to generate electricity.

        3. Royce, I understand that NZs gas is due to run out in 2029. Why not save it for all the hudreds of thousands of restaurants and homes that currently rely on it. The cost of the change they have to make will be a significant imposition on them.

  13. Where the fuck has this country gone wrong? We have such a stting reformist history but in the last 30 years that has disappeared.
    Think the anti-nuclear stance. It could have had a major economic impact, but we did it because it was right.

  14. So now UK has decided that all petrol and diesel vehicles be gone by 2035. NZ needs similar action, 2035 looks good since that would probably see end to internal combustion engined vehicles by late 2020s since resale value is zero by 2035..
    Jacinda, lets do this.

      1. The problem with NZ is they are dipping their toes in the water and seeing how cold it is. The likes of Europe are bombing into the deep end. It’s not even a case of adapting, we simply need to draw a line under things and just get on with it, leave people with no choice. Once you say no more Diesel by 2035 and put it into law people soon forget who and why it was in place and just get on with it, look at plastic bags, which is one of the most simplest examples.

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