Counting the cost of climate change

Ngati Porou lawyer says climate change will bring costs and opportunities to the East Coast.

Ngati Porou lawyer says climate change will bring costs and opportunities to the East Coast.

Whaimutu Dewes

CLIMATE change will bring both costs and opportunities to the East Coast, says a Ngati Porou lawyer who has been appointed to the Government’s climate change adaptation technical working group.

Whaimutu Dewes, of Ngati Porou and Ngati Rangitihi descent, says he will draw on his experience working on climate change issues and with iwi, especially as lead adviser for the Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group.

“We can help communities be more resilient and help with policy framework to get to a low-emission economy,” says Mr Dewes, who is also chairman of Aotearoa Fisheries Limited, Sealord Group Limited, Ngati Porou Seafoods and Ngati Porou Forestry.

“It will affect our community in the long term in a profound way, and as a community we need to think about what options there are.”

Mr Dewes is one of 10 technical experts from the public and private sector appointed to 18-month terms to provide advice to Minister for Climate Change Issues Paula Bennett on how New Zealand can adapt to climate change while sustainably growing the economy.

A consequence of New Zealand transitioning to a low-emissions economy, and changing the way people get their energy will be higher energy costs.

“Generally Maori communities and households are low-decile, and will be disproportionately impacted by higher living costs.

“They are also less able to take advantage of cost-reduction measures such as subsidised heat pumps and insulation, as they either don’t own property or lack capital to make the initial investments.

“I am not saying we should not increase renewable energy but we should be aware of the costs, and develop responses to help those who are affected.”

Working group

The working group will do a stocktake of existing adaptation work across the public and private sectors, and look into pilot projects.

“One option could be helping provide capital for people to make better energy choices. Some countries have levies from emissions that go into supporting low-income households.”

From his experience as a director on the Contact Energy board, he sees another opportunity in feed-in tariffs, where people who produce their own energy can sell it back to the grid.

“From an energy company perspective, we need to look at ways we can encourage people to reduce, save and store power.”

Other significant impacts, especially on the East Coast, will come from sea level rise and changes in weather patterns.

“On the East Coast there is going to be a much less reliable shoulder growth season. Here we typically grow good grass and have good rain, but what if El Nino goes from one in five years to more often?”

The effect of the seabed lift from the Kaikoura earthquake gives an example of how a change in sea level can affect sea life, especially East Coast specialities paua and crayfish.

“Imagine if that was a sea level rise? It would be harder to dive for seafood and might add cost to commercial divers. If the sea temperature also rises they might shift location. There could be long-term impacts.”

On the other hand, there are opportunities.

“On the East Coast, we have a lot of highly erodible land, which we can revegetate. Planting trees with heavy carbon absorption will help with erosion and reduce New Zealand’s net carbon emissions.”

While that is already happening, it could be increased. Climate change adaptation expert Dr Judy Lawrence will co-chair the group with Penny Nelson, the Ministry for the Environment’s deputy secretary, sector strategy.

CLIMATE change will bring both costs and opportunities to the East Coast, says a Ngati Porou lawyer who has been appointed to the Government’s climate change adaptation technical working group.

Whaimutu Dewes, of Ngati Porou and Ngati Rangitihi descent, says he will draw on his experience working on climate change issues and with iwi, especially as lead adviser for the Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group.

“We can help communities be more resilient and help with policy framework to get to a low-emission economy,” says Mr Dewes, who is also chairman of Aotearoa Fisheries Limited, Sealord Group Limited, Ngati Porou Seafoods and Ngati Porou Forestry.

“It will affect our community in the long term in a profound way, and as a community we need to think about what options there are.”

Mr Dewes is one of 10 technical experts from the public and private sector appointed to 18-month terms to provide advice to Minister for Climate Change Issues Paula Bennett on how New Zealand can adapt to climate change while sustainably growing the economy.

A consequence of New Zealand transitioning to a low-emissions economy, and changing the way people get their energy will be higher energy costs.

“Generally Maori communities and households are low-decile, and will be disproportionately impacted by higher living costs.

“They are also less able to take advantage of cost-reduction measures such as subsidised heat pumps and insulation, as they either don’t own property or lack capital to make the initial investments.

“I am not saying we should not increase renewable energy but we should be aware of the costs, and develop responses to help those who are affected.”

Working group

The working group will do a stocktake of existing adaptation work across the public and private sectors, and look into pilot projects.

“One option could be helping provide capital for people to make better energy choices. Some countries have levies from emissions that go into supporting low-income households.”

From his experience as a director on the Contact Energy board, he sees another opportunity in feed-in tariffs, where people who produce their own energy can sell it back to the grid.

“From an energy company perspective, we need to look at ways we can encourage people to reduce, save and store power.”

Other significant impacts, especially on the East Coast, will come from sea level rise and changes in weather patterns.

“On the East Coast there is going to be a much less reliable shoulder growth season. Here we typically grow good grass and have good rain, but what if El Nino goes from one in five years to more often?”

The effect of the seabed lift from the Kaikoura earthquake gives an example of how a change in sea level can affect sea life, especially East Coast specialities paua and crayfish.

“Imagine if that was a sea level rise? It would be harder to dive for seafood and might add cost to commercial divers. If the sea temperature also rises they might shift location. There could be long-term impacts.”

On the other hand, there are opportunities.

“On the East Coast, we have a lot of highly erodible land, which we can revegetate. Planting trees with heavy carbon absorption will help with erosion and reduce New Zealand’s net carbon emissions.”

While that is already happening, it could be increased. Climate change adaptation expert Dr Judy Lawrence will co-chair the group with Penny Nelson, the Ministry for the Environment’s deputy secretary, sector strategy.

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