Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Climate change is now common sense

This year has seen a massive turning of the political tide on climate change. This time last year, the government had been forced to dump its plans for a carbon tax in the face of opposition from its new coalition partners. Now, thanks to some bad weather and Al Gore, climate change is common sense. And so even United Future - a party which went into the last election opposed to any action on climate change and promising to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it was "based on debatable science" - now has a climate change policy.

Media reaction has focused on the somewhat kooky idea of getting householders to stick another five grand on the mortgage for insulation - something which is unlikely to be effective in the absence of a solid regulatory regime (and currently United Future is only proposing compulsory ratings, not higher insulation standards). But the real news here, overlooked in the TV and radio reports I've seen, is that United Future now supports emissions trading. They also support biofuels and deforestation liabilities, so it looks as if the government is going to get its policy agenda through. And if the cost of that is substantially boosting funding to EECA for "a comprehensive nationwide programme of retro-fitting existing homes with energy saving improvements" (something which should have happened long ago), then who am I to complain?


This is genuinely good news. Thanks for pointing to this I/S! While we're still miles from where we need to be, it is encouraging to see the noisemaking and lobbying having real effects.

Posted by George : 12/20/2006 11:07:00 PM

This is a worthwhile step forward ... although the about-face does tend to emphasise that United Future lacks any kind of coherent position - "We're in favour of the family! And the climate! And other stuff that might make people vote for us! But mainly in favour of keeping Peter Dunne in Parliament!"

Posted by Clarke : 12/21/2006 03:00:00 PM


Yes, noisemaking and lobbying is a great way of drowning out & marginalizing those who don't agree with you :-P

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 12/22/2006 10:29:00 AM

The problem is, however, that EECA is hardly the sort of outfit you would give more money to, not if you want any action, let alone any kooky action like making homes more energy efficient - especially in the absence of regulatory controls. They hardly have a glorious track record in making a difference.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/22/2006 09:51:00 PM

Anon: one of the main reasons for EECA's dubious track record is that the government systematically underfunded it. In a 2002 cabinet paper on climate change [PDF], it was noted that in order to achieve its ambitious energy efficiency and emissions reductions goals, "EECA estimates additional funding increasing from $4.6 m per annum to $25.7m in 2006/07 will be required. $4.6m is being sought in the 2002-3 budget to commence funding of this work." (p. 11). They didn't get it. According to the 2002 estimate of appropriation for Vote: Energy Efficiency and Conservation [PDF], EECA's budget increased by just over $1 million between 2002 and 2003 - a quarter of what was needed. In 2003 [PDF] it was raised to $13 million, and in 2006 [PDF] it was at $21.1 million, just over half of what was believed to be necessary. Just to point out the obvious, EECA's key means of producing energy savings is through distributing grants and loans to businesses and households to install insulation or more energy efficient technology. In 2006, they were given $5.867 million for this. If they'd been funded properly, this amount would have tripled, producing three times the results. Instead, they get to dribble along, while the goverment simultaneously berates them for being ineffective while denying them the resources necessary to do their job.

What programs EECA has been able to run have made a difference. The EnergyWise home grants scheme is fully utilised and insulates 5000 homes a year, leading to both energy savings and significantly better health outcomes (the latter alone justifies it, IMHO). There is more demand, but they don't have the money to meet it. But its just easier to blame them for being useless, right?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/23/2006 02:23:00 AM

Now now, let's give credit where it's due. Even if it is the inconsistent tossers in UF.

Their final listed policy, of requiring landlords to advertising whether a house is insulated when renting it, is a good idea. Not quite good enough (you'll also need to quantify how well insulated it is). But home owners are pretty good at insulating their own houses now, whereas landlords aren't, large duly to assymetry of information preventing market signals from making it worth their while.

Posted by Icehawk : 12/25/2006 04:44:00 PM