21mar what the ccc recommendations mean hero
17 March 2021

What do the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations mean for consumers?

Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ CEO, shares his thoughts on the Climate Change Commission’s draft report.

The Climate Change Commission (CCC) caused a stir in February when it dropped its long-awaited 2021 Draft Advice for Consultation. The dull title undersells what is a potentially game-changing piece of analysis and a line in the sand for New Zealand’s relationship with the climate.

Once the recommendations had been digested, some industries seemed more surprised than others to be singled out, and at the suggestion that profiting from burning fossil fuels ad infinitum may not be the best idea for the planet. For these sectors the timelines recommended in the report seem to have been a much-needed reality check.

Some were quick to point out that this is only draft advice and there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge before any recommendations become law or policy. Fair enough, that’s true. But there’s plenty of industry support as well, with some businesses very advanced in their thinking and, rather than railing against the inevitable, already focussing on how to bring about change sensibly.

Some consumers were taken by surprise, as well. There were reports of customers cancelling orders for gas appliances and plumbers and gasfitters losing installation contracts. We received complaints suggesting the CCC was out to rob people of their BBQs.

That the government would be seizing everyone’s BBQs seems a stretch, at least until it’s finished dealing with the pandemic and the America’s Cup is over. That said, the commission does propose transitioning away from the domestic use of natural gas by 2050. This means at some point before then, an alternative will need to be found and we’ll have to work out what to do with all those BBQs.

Badly overestimating the likely quality of summer in Wellington this year, I recently bought a BBQ. Obviously, I am interested to know how long I can (and should) use it. I also have children, who will hopefully be around a lot longer than me. These recommendations have real-world consequences: both for how I choose to cook a sausage and whether my children will inherit a planet worth living in.

What the CCC has released puts high-emission sectors on clear notice, but that was always going to happen at some stage. For consumers, it’s a wake-up call that addressing climate change will involve actual changes in our behaviour. And that we have to act sooner rather than later.

Some consumers will have the luxury of choosing when to change their lifestyles. However, that transition won’t be easy for everyone. For example, not everyone can afford to swap out their petrol car for an electric model. This means any policy decisions made in response to the CCC report must be fair for everyone, and not disproportionately place the cost of change on those least able to afford it.

An entire chapter of the report is devoted to how the proposals could impact the people of Aotearoa. To its credit, the CCC moves beyond the science to consider fairness. It also acknowledges that emission reduction needs to occur at pace, but without slowing economic growth.

Central to the commission’s thinking is a concept of connectivity borrowed from Te Ao Māori. As the commission puts it: The people, the land, the atmosphere, the oceans – all things are connected.

In contrast, the fast consumer culture that drives many of our buying habits isn’t connected to, but is exploitative of, the environment, which is treated as a free resource. The only connectivity? The connection to profits. This isn’t sustainable.

Our habits make it difficult to imagine consuming in different ways. However, if we think about how we are connected to the world around us, our role in changing how things are produced for our consumption becomes clearer.

We already have the power to make better choices. Being more discerning about whether we need to buy that new fridge or T-shirt – despite what the marketing says – can make the purchasing decisions we do make have a positive impact. If we do need to buy, and we can afford to, we can have a positive impact through buying things that are built to last, not built to last until the two-year warranty expires.

Choosing not to buy at all and extending the life of products by repairing rather than replacing them slows demand and keeps broken goods out of landfill.

If we all did these things, manufacturers would, in turn, be forced to improve the quality and durability of what they produce to meet consumer demand.

Only time will tell what recommendations the government takes on from the CCC, but the draft report is already a success for framing its response in terms of connectivity.

As the CCC points out, it would be harmful and disruptive to go cold turkey tomorrow and eschew any product or service that produces harmful emissions. That is sensible cricket. But if there’s one thing capitalism has taught us, the quickest way to bring about change is to threaten profits.

We have some power here, but we need to break some habits to use it.

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Dwayne B.
23 Mar 2021
Consumer is so out of touch.

Consumer couldn't care less about the real day to day needs of the average NZ consumer.

You are a bunch of political extremists bent on encouraging the government to adopt policies that hurt the poorest members of society.

You live in an echo-chamber, you only hire from the left-side of politics, and you all believe your own spin.

Pathetic, really.

The good news is that next time National win government, they will undo all this meddling, so we will be able to have our gas for decades to come.

Steve S.
22 Mar 2021
Thanks Consumer

An interesting and thought-provoking perspective. But I was surprised to read some of the comments. The climate science is settled, but still we have people who debate whether its an issue, or who argue that our our contribution is so small that we don't need to do anything. Clearly we still have a long way to go to increase our scientific literacy so the need for change is understood and embraced.

I don't think we'll be throwing away our gas BBQs any time soon. I have an all-electric house, but the gas BBQ is a contingency plan for when the power goes out. So stand-by domestic BBQs - no problem. Thermal power stations and industry running on gas? Big problem - they need to be phased out in favour of renewables.

Also, I have a suggested change for your statement: But if there’s one thing capitalism has taught us, the quickest way to bring about change is to threaten profits. While true, it's not going to win hearts and minds, and lead to willing change.

I'm more inclined to look at the negative externalities inflicted on all of us by current business models, and transfer that cost to the business so it both affects their profit and the price of their product. That way we cover more than climate change with eg ETS/carbon taxes, but generalise it so that the cost of degrading the environment in any form (pollution, single use throw-away products, reduced air/water quality, biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse etc) is factored in. Transparent, and more likely to get buy-in.

Whatever we do, we need a plan and to move fast for the sake of the planet we're bequeathing to our children.

Dinny O.
22 Mar 2021
Science is never settled!

Steve - you are showing your ignorance by stating 'the science is settled' - it can never be settled! The "Climate" is a complex beast & many things contribute to the final weather patterns we see, but to suggest that 2 very minor GHG can have such a major impact on our weather is purely laughable especially when the largest by % of the GH gases is ignored - water vapour! Trying to reduce methane from 0.00018% by 15% is just plain stupid, do the numbers, - the thunderstorms across the NI a couple of weeks ago reduced more than that!! This is a political stunt that one day will be shown to be the biggest hoax known to mankind!

Chris S.
21 Mar 2021

That an organization dedicated to New Zealand's consumers, which is the entire population, should publish such a one sided broadside against its own membership based on nothing more than junk science and an inability to do simple math is nothing short of disgraceful.

Try this:
World population: 8 BILLION
NZ Population: 5 MILLION
NZ percentage of world population: 0.06%

Anyone who seriously believes that 0.06% of the global population is going to make a dent in Global warming, even if we and our cows/ sheep etc. all dropped dead tomorrow, is either stupid, lying or on the Government payroll one way or another. If it's the latter both of the other options probably apply.

Chris Soucy

22 Mar 2021
Why not us?

There's an old proverb that "the longest journey starts with the first step". Why should New Zealand be the first to take that initial step? As the above narrative says, we don't have to go cold turkey on everything instantly. There's currently an ad running on tv which goes along the line of why should we give up the things we love to save the planet when we can just as easily give up the things we don't like toward achieving the same end? That makes sense. As another old saying goes "every little bit helps" and we have to start making individual changes if we collectively are to save the planet.

Steve S.
22 Mar 2021
We need to pull our weight

Yes we make up 0.06% of the world's population, yet contribute 0.2% of the world's GHG emissions. And if we don't act we'll be hit with punitive tariffs by those who do.

But more importantly, we all have a collective responsibility as part of mankind to do everything we can to reduce GHGs. Molecules of carbon dioxide and methane do damage irrespective of their source.

Simonne M.
20 Mar 2021
Target manufacturers and advertisers of cheap junk products

The answer to climate change doesn't lie with electric vehicles and non-gas appliances. I have yet to see clear evidence that electric vehicles are more climate friendly that new petrol run vehicles especially when manufacturing and waste costs of the vehicles and batteries are factored in. There is a much bigger issue that we are failing to address.

Worldwide, consumers are buying cheap, junk, non-essential, often plastic products for a few cents to a few dollars. These products break after a few uses and ultimately end up polluting the environment. Many of these products are not produced cleanly either causing further environmental pollution. We need to target this type of pollution. If manufacturers of these products were charged with not only the full production costs but also the full waste management costs of their products they would at the very least be forced to reduce waste costs by making better quality products that last longer.

The cheap, junk products sell due to heavy advertising (with often false claims) enticing consumers to buy. Therefore, I suggest also targeting the marketing and advertising streams by prosecuting them for making false or misleading claims about products, and ensuring they must disclose product quality and durability. We've all seen the infomercials where products are tested under certain conditions that just don't stack up in real life and yet somehow they get away with it. They shouldn't be allowed to.

roy s.
20 Mar 2021
Hot water

Just over a year ago, we replaced our only source of hot water, which was a coal range, costing around $230 per annum to run, as I bought the coal directly from the mine. We now have gas hot water, at considerably greater expense, but without the hassle and greater environmental impact of the coal range. Now, just over a year later, we are being told that gas will become more expensive and will eventually be phased out. We feel like we just can't win.

Dinny O.
20 Mar 2021
Re - what do the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations mean for consumers?

I wonder if people realise that reducing emissions from a naturally provided product eg gas, will do absolutely nothing to the climate! The CC recommendations make no reference to the many aspects that have a far greater impact on our climate eg solar, lunar but focus on 2 very minor gases CO2 & CH4. the report ignores the largest GHG of them all water vapour!? The recommendations will have a far greater economic affect on us than the climate will ever do - but hey lets dig up the earth for lithium & cobalt to make non-recylable batteries to do our bit!! It is quite simple, without CO2 in the atmosphere mankind will die - CO2 is not the enemy, dopey politicians who don't understand the Carbon Cycle are!

Chris H.
20 Mar 2021
What to do about climate change

Sorry mate, you may understand the carbon cycle but you do not understand the physics of increased carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.

Maybe an analogy will illuminate the problem: Imagine a hot summer's night (they do happen occasionally) and you are in bed. Finally you decide that it is just too hot so you add an extra blanket. "Yeah right" I can hear you say, you would rather kick a blanket or two off.

That is what we are doing to the earth -- wrapping an ever thicker blanket of GHG around the planet and we are beginning to feel the consequences. It is time to kick the blankets off and hope that we can cool down.

Dinny O.
21 Mar 2021
Re - what do about Climate Change

Chris H - are you serious? The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 0.04% of which humans are supposed to have added 2% or 0.0008%; CH4 makes up 0.00018% in the atmosphere, Michael Mann's infamous "hockey stick" graph has been debunked in court as having been falsified so there has not been significant warming in the last 150 yrs as we were told! If what you say could even been remotely true - then please explain the Roman & Medieval warming periods which were both recorded as warmer than now - but without the extra CO2 industrial pollution? I say again CO2 is not the problem, certainly not at those %'s - but remember without it we die as plants need CO2 so we have food!

Alastair B.
21 Mar 2021
What to do about Climate change

Yes, Chris, you're quite right Michael Mann has just lost another court case against the National Review...why anyone listens to him I can't understand.

So now we're going to have to import natural gas from overseas instead of using our own...what are the greenhouse contributions from the ships? We will continue to need natural gas for so many things for a long time to come whether the government and CCC likes it or not. Just a small example...how are cremations going to work with no gas? Are we going to have wood pyres like they do in India?

Where is the evidence that more CO2 has anything but a beneficial effect on the planet. Just look at the increasing greening of our world thanks to increased CO2...plants (ie. food) need CO2 to feed in increasing population. Maybe the problem is just too many people?