GEN 2021 Annual Conference

GEN2021: The economics of climate mitigation

What a fantastic conference. GEN extends a warm ‘thank you’ to all speakers and participants for contributing to a thought-provoking, lively and engaging day.

For the full programme with speaker and session descriptions, click here

For the first time ever, GEN is releasing both the session slides and full video recordings of the speeches – scroll down for the links.

GEN2021: Resources

1 Welcome – Tamara Linnhoff

GEN’s Tamara Linnhoff welcomed all to the GEN2021 conference.

2 Ministerial Address, Hon James Shaw

GEN2021’s opening address was from Hon James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change, with a rousing address about the importance of robust economics underpinning for climate policy – with a focus on ensuring the modelling we use is ‘built to spec’, and suitable for modelling out to 2035 or 2050.

3 Prof Michael Grubb

Professor Michael Grubb joined us from Cambridge, UK and gave an overview of the key pillars of the framework for climate policy presented in his seminal 2014 book Planetary Economics. Professor Grubb also highlighted the development of thinking behind the UK’s energy market reform – from a pure efficiency objective, to a wider lens incorporating broader objectives and the need for coordinated innovation and investment policy to achieve, eg, climate, policy objectives. The UK economy has continued to grow (until Brexit) while substantially reducing carbon emissions.

4 Dr Suzi Kerr

Dr Suzi Kerr then considered what others could usefully learn from the Kiwi approach to transitioning to low emissions. While some people in New Zealand are frustrated with our pace, many other nations look to this country as an example: the Zero Carbon Act sets in place an institutional design and a process (of emissions budgets and an Emissions Reduction Plan) that other countries laud. At the same time, progress on climate action is accelerating globally and New Zealand can benefit from the evolving international experience with technological innovation, with approaches to international transfers of mitigation and corporate offsetting, planning for critical infrastructure and a just transition.

GEN greatly appreciates Professor Grubb and Suzi Kerr’s involvement, acknowledging their unique contributions for GEN conferences: zooming in from a garden office and laundry-office, under lockdown conditions in Cambridge and New York. Thank you.

5 Dr Tanira Kingi

We heard from Scion’s Dr Tanira Kingi, on a Māori perspective on climate change, including He Waka Eke Noa and Māori response/adaptation, with insights into land ownership models and the potential for Māori economic contributions via forestry and enhanced productivity.

6 Simon Coates

Simon Coates explained Concept Consulting’s ENZ tool – the bottom-up modelling that supports the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice on emissions budgets and policy direction. Simon highlighted the EV uptake levels we’ll need to pursue.

7 Prof Niven Winchester

Professor Niven Winchester (Auckland University of Technology/Motu/Vivid) then presented his C-PLAN CGE model (without showing the equations!), which was recently built specifically for the Climate Change Commission’s forward-looking emissions budgets. It allows for greater structural shifts than previous NZ CGE models, links to downstream distributional impact assessment modelling, and can link to global modelling of international trade flows and other countries’ climate policies (critical when considering carbon leakage).

8 Ben Gleisner

CoGo founder Ben Gleisner presented the evolution of CoGo, an app that links to banking records – across the top 5 banks in NZ and 35 banks in the UK – to calculate the user’s carbon impact. By providing emissions data in the back pocket, and applauding success, CoGo aims to enable users to make choices to reduce their individual carbon footprints.

9 Matthew Ellingsen

Matthew Ellingsen, co-founder of Empathy Design, took delegates back down to earth with a practical and introspective session considering what lies beneath – how to uncover what actually drives individual behaviour and decision making – critical for policymakers to understand for effective policy design.

10 – Mike Gwyther

Mike Gwyther, Creative Director at Clemenger BBDO/EECA’s GenLess campaign shared the GenLess story and its evolution – from the expansive pre-Covid messaging to today’s innovative and nuanced approach of asking us what we can give up that we don’t like doing – looking for win-win outcomes for individuals and the climate.

11 Fraser Morgan

Dr Fraser Morgan of Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research then built on the human-centred strands by looking at the cross-over between economic and geospatial modelling. He shared recent research across Landcare and collaborators about what drives farmers’ decision making, extending this to spatial agent-based models of land use and land cover change – a critical component of the emissions mitigation jigsaw here.

12 Martin Grant

Martin Grant of Thinktank shared guidance gleaned from his experience working across many complex human systems on wicked problems: bringing a practical and pragmatic seven-point framework for cutting through complex systems theory.

13 Jo Hendy

The Climate Change Commission’s Jo Hendy closed the conference with a comprehensive overview of the work underway, highlighting what conference delegates, as government policymakers, could support in future: namely New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan. Jo focussed on the ‘why’ behind the work we do, sometimes under challenging circumstances – we are looking to the future, and to the wellbeing of our children and future generations.

14 Closing remarks –  Mark Lea

GEN’s Chair Mark Lea closed the conference with some perceptive final remarks

GEN2021: Thanks

The GEN Board thanks all conference speakers for giving their time to take part in and help with this conference. GEN is a voluntary organisation and we are only able to deliver an event of the calibre of today’s conference because of their help.

The GEN Board would also like to thank the GEN conference team (Tamara Linnhoff, Nick Smith and Grant Andrews), OnCue and also the organisations who have supported us throughout the year.

GEN2021: Gallery

Hon James Shaw, Minister of Climate Change, delivers the opening address

Rosie Collins (centre, holding her prize certificate) with members of the Hearnshaw family

GEN2021: The Dr Ed Hearnshaw Prize

The Dr Ed Hearnshaw Prize for Economics and the Environment – award to Rosie Collins

GEN2021 also included a session awarding the inaugural Dr Ed Hearnshaw Prize for Economics and the Environment, a prize for young economists writing on environmental economics co-sponsored by the Hearnshaw family and GEN.

In two decades of professional life, the late Ed Hearnshaw made a significant contribution to environmental economics in this country, initially in academia then in policy. Delegates heard from Tamara Linnhoff (a friend and colleague), from Professor John Hearnshaw (his father) about Ed as a younger man and economics student, and from Geoff Simmons (a close friend). Geoff shared stories of Ed’s eagerness to debate economics and policy (sometimes late into the night!), his keen sense of fun, and the brilliance of his most recent work at the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment: Farms, Forests and Fossil Fuels.

The question posed for the inaugural prize was: Nudging us: How can government policy interventions encourage Kiwi consumers to make choices that result in lower greenhouse gas emissions? Five outstanding entries were shortlisted, with the award going to Rosie Collins, for a superb essay Flexiwork: a nudge proposal.

Rosie articulated her ideas to the conference in a clear and compelling presentation. Her proposal is elegant in its simplicity: flipping the default in employment law towards flexible working, to reduce demand for transport. Rosie delved into the legislative framework, leading to a proposal to reframe the default to working 2 days a week from home. She calculated the resulting emissions reductions, acknowledged the potential distributional impacts and considered implementation.

See Rosie’s presentation here and read Rosie’s essay here.

For summaries and links to Rosie’s and the other shortlisted essays, click here

For more on the Dr Ed Hearnshaw Prize for Economics and the Environment click here.