GWP* a key focus of climate change submission

// Climate Change

B+LNZ, along with Federated Farmers and DairyNZ, are pushing strongly for New Zealand’s negotiating mandate for upcoming climate change negotiations to focus on warming and to promote the use of more appropriate metrics such as GWP*.

The negotiations will be part of COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

What is COP26?

COP26 stands for the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It’s a global UN summit about climate change and how countries are planning to tackle it. This will be the 26th time they have met.

The last COP meeting in Madrid (COP25) finished with lots of big issues unresolved, and each nation agreed to devise a plan to cut their carbon emissions by the next conference.

COP revolves round the Paris Agreement, which among other things says nations must keep global temperature increase "well below" 2 degrees Celsius and to try to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

What are New Zealand’s goals for COP26?

COP26 is a pivotal moment as the Paris Agreement passes the five-year mark.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently sought feedback on its negotiating mandate from domestic stakeholders. 

B+LNZ, provided feedback on their mandate, as did Federated Farmers and DairyNZ – we worked together to ensure our submissions are aligned.

New Zealand’s overarching priorities for COP26 will be to: 

  • conclude negotiations on outstanding items of the Paris Agreement, including rules for carbon markets that ensure environmental integrity and a transparency system that enables us to hold Parties to account and which supports ambition
  • advocate for Parties to enhance their climate ambition by aligning their climate action with the objective of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius
  • support the UK’s finance campaign by mobilising support to developing countries to reach the US$100 billion goal
  • stand with the Pacific to amplify the voices and priorities of our region.

What is B+LNZ’s submission all about?

B+LNZ largely agrees with these goals, however we believe they should go further in some areas. This is a summary of some of the key changes we have proposed to their negotiating mandate:

  • That the mandate regarding metrics is strengthened and New Zealand climate negotiators be empowered to take a leadership position on promoting the use of more appropriate metrics for measuring, and reporting on, the contribution of short-lived gases such as methane (such as GWP* and CGTP). 
  • That the issue of GHG metrics should be reframed to focus on the broader issue of ‘estimating the warming impact of short-lived GHGs’. 
  • We have urged the New Zealand Government to advocate for a position that clearly prioritises how emissions should be managed over the long term to eliminate their warming impacts. Reductions of biogenic methane would reduce warming in the short term but are not a long-term solution when compared to reducing emissions of other gases that also come with co-benefited methane reductions from fossil fuel sources.
  • We have recommended the split gas approach taken domestically in New Zealand be promoted by climate negotiators internationally as a means of addressing the same issues alternative metrics are designed to resolve. Taking a split gas approach to climate targets was recently recommended in the IPCC 6th report.  
  • If New Zealand negotiators wish to remain consistent with the Paris Agreement and the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), we have noted they need to ensure that peoples’ values and uses for land are not overtaken by ones which favour carbon farming above other land uses. Current domestic policy settings have incentivised planting of pines for sequestration over and above other land uses and have led to many rural communities fearing for their future viability with concurrent impacts on food production.
  • We support New Zealand’s position that “in the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, and in other relevant fora, [it will] encourage other countries to take mitigation action on agriculture.” This support should be complemented by recognising the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change, as is consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Why have we asked for these issues to be added to the New Zealand Government’s negotiating agenda?

The current way of measuring the global warming potential (GWP100) which compares the warming potential of emissions over a 100-year period is inaccurate for methane. 

This was recently highlighted in the IPCC 6th report which stated that GWP100 overstates the effect of constant methane emissions on global surface temperature by a factor of 3-4 over a 20-year horizon, while understating the effect of new (or increasing) methane emissions by a factor of 4-5 over a 20-year horizon.  

Given the Paris Agreement’s primary target is to try to restrict the increase in global temperature to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius and to try to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it is appropriate that the metrics used accurately measure the warming impact of the various gases.  

The Paris Agreement recognises the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger. More appropriate metrics have to be used otherwise agriculture will shoulder a larger burden of addressing climate change than other sectors, because using GWP100 overstates the impact of methane on warming if it is reducing.