Did the Climate Commission mislead Parliament’s Environment Committee?

I previously blogged on how the Climate Commission had not released the full model and data for their economic modelling which drove their interim recommendations.

Industry groups, businesses and NGOs need this data so they can both check the Commission’s modelling, but also so they can submit alternative proposals. Without it, the consultation process if fatally wounded.

Yesterday the Climate Commission’s Chair and CEO fronted the Environment Committee, and what they said does not appear to be correct.

The Chair said:

“But I think we have to distinguish what is already available, which is the inputs, the analysis, the sensitivity analysis, the outputs”

I’ve been informed by multiple people this is untrue. The Commission has no published a sensitivity analysis and only some inputs have been published.

The Chair also said:

“I think we do need to be clear, we have always released the assumptions, the body of evidence and the work available on our web site.”

Again I am informed this is not correct. Specifically they have not released the critical marginal abatement costs, and only some of their assumptions.

In response to a question on whether they have released the marginal abatement costs, the CEO said:

“Our models have inputs in terms of cost projections and assumptions around there. We have put the input assumptions on our web site. Marginal Abatement Costs are a particular way that people sometimes look at the costs of particular individual technologies. Our approach has been using these models, there’s cost data on the web and we’ve had a number of webinars.” and ““We have cost data on the web.”

Again they have only released some of their input assumptions, and they have not released either their marginal abatement costs or their cost paths.

The CEO then implies they have bene using cost paths instead of marginal abatement costs:

“We have cost paths for different technologies, they’re inputs into parts of our modelling.”

“Yeah, it’s a different thing from marginal abatement costs, they are static. We can send you material on marginal abatement costs and how you think about them in the broader modelling context. There’s stuff in our evidence report that goes into that.”

This appears to be an attempt to justify why they have not released their marginal abatement costs, by implying they used cost paths instead. However in their actual published report they do not mention cost paths once, but refer to marginal abatement costs almost a dozen times.

Now people may get sore heads focusing on the difference between marginal abatements costs and cost paths. I do. But that is not what is important. What is important is the Commission clearly does have data on marginal abatement costs, and is refusing to release it, and is misleading the Environment Committee about it. And the question has to be why?

The Commission is meant to be a neutral body of experts that will help deliver bipartisan policy recommendations over the next 30 years to deliver the best path to net zero emissions. They are at grave risk of shooting themselves in the foot at the first hurdle by their ongoing refusal to release all the data, and now to try mislead about it.

The gold standard for the Commissions would be to actually release online their economic model for others to use, and the source code for it. Then everyone could check it, and use it for their own proposals and submissions.

If that gold standard is not available (say because they have not used a full economic model, but are just using excel spreadsheets) then the minimum they should do is release the full data – the spreadsheets, the assumptions, the marginal abatement costs, and the inputs.

The Green Party should be pressuring the Commission on this. They have been champions of open data. James Shaw wants his legacy to be partisan consensus on the policy path forward. This will never happen, unless there is full data transparency. You can’t expect people to submit on what will be the biggest change to the NZ economy since Think Big without access to all the data.

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