The main issue addressed by the carboNZero programme is climate change. Burning fossil fuels for activities such as transport and electricity generation has resulted in unnaturally high concentrations of carbon being released into the atmosphere, in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This gas persists in the atmosphere, trapping warm air that should otherwise have dissipated out into space. This is termed the greenhouse effect and is the cause of global climate change.
As a result of climate change, extreme weather events such as droughts, storms, and flooding occur more frequently. The cost associated with these events varies, but the main point is that there will be economic, social, and environmental effects as direct and indirect results of climate change. These affect you and your business one way or another. We can all contribute to lessening the extreme effects by reducing the amount of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) entering the atmosphere, and by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere by supporting projects that generate carbon credits. There is a general agreement that the cost of combating climate change now is a cheaper alternative to ”business as usual” and paying for the costs of adaptation later on.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into force in March 1994. The Convention sets an objective of stabilising greenhouse gas emissions “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system”.
Parties to the Convention are committed to develop, publish and regularly update national emission inventories of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and agree to integrate climate change considerations into their policies on agriculture, industry, energy, natural resources and to develop national programmes to slow climate change.
The framework document has been amended over time through additional agreements and mechanisms, the most significant of which is the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, and came into force in February 2005.
The Protocol provides a number of flexible mechanisms through which these reductions targets may be met. For example, Parties may partially compensate for their GHG emissions by increasing "sinks" such as forests that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In addition, Parties may opt to offset their emissions by funding projects overseas that result in reductions in emissions of GHGs through mechanisms such as Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI). Emissions Trading is one of the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, designed to enable emission reductions to be achieved in a cost-effective manner through a system of trading between countries.
Further negotiations have lead to the development of a set of rules for implementing many of the Kyoto Protocol activities. These rules were agreed and adopted in 2001 and called the Marrakesh Accords.
National inventories cover the six direct greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol:
These gases contribute directly to climate change owing to their positive radiative forcing effect.
New Zealand ratified the UNFCCC in September 1993 and the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002. This international agreement commits New Zealand to reducing its average net emissions of greenhouse gases over 2008-2012 (the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol or CP1) to 1990 levels or to take responsibility for the difference.
New Zealand’s inventory is used to provide historical, actual and projected greenhouse gas emissions by sources (e.g. fossil fuel combustion) and removals by sinks (e.g. growing trees). The national inventory is where New Zealand’s compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will be determined. New Zealand’s climate change strategy is detailed in Climate Change Solutions at www.climatechange.govt.nz. New Zealand’s climate change work programme sets out policies to ensure that New Zealand delivers its legally binding target under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of the basket of the six greenhouse gases to 1990 levels over the first commitment period 2008-2012. The programme includes:
The proposals for the New Zealand ETS is currently under formal review and is due to be revised by September 2009.
Despite all the international action and regulatory programmes, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Many people are concerned about the impacts this will have on climate change and want to take voluntary action. The most important contribution that individuals, communities, organisations and businesses can make is to understand how their day-to-day activities cause emissions and take action to manage and reduce the largest sources of these emissions (see Options). Where emissions cannot be further reduced or are unavoidable, some organisations choose to invest in projects elsewhere that reduce emissions. This is most often done by purchasing and cancelling offsets from trusted projects (see Mitigate) overseen by governmental or international agencies with the authority to issue tradable units or carbon credits created by these projects.