Friday, November 22, 2013

Climate change: We're hypocrites

Tim Groser gave New Zealand's national statement to the (failing) Warsaw climate talks last night, in which he made the usual call for action. The Greens' Kennedy Graham - who is also in Warsaw - gives his impression of the speech here. And the overall impression, obvious to everyone is that we're simply hypocrites. Firstly, there's the big hypocrisy: calling for action while doing nothing ourselves. Our current "target" promises less than we've already achieved, while we're on track for a 50% increase in emissions by 2050 (compare this with the government's target of a 50% reduction). Against this backdrop, Groser's speech was nothing more than hot air.

But there's the specific hypocrisies as well. One of the policy props Groser leaned on to try and present New Zealand as "doing something" was the "Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsides Reform" group, which aims to eliminate subsidies to fossil fuels. The problem? New Zealand subsidises fossil fuels. And those subsidies have risen dramatically under the National government - production subsidies have risen from $5.9 million in 2008 to $46.3 million last year, due to National's massive tax subsidies for oil drilling. When experts challenged him on this hypocrisy, Groser told them to

Don’t get hung up about every single little thing that you might say was a subsidy in one form or another. Just tackle the big issues...

In other words, "Look! Over there! A monkey!".

Our climate change policy, and our negotiating position, are thoroughly hypocritical. If you asked kiwis how they thought we should present ourselves to the world, you'd get a demand for honesty and fair dealing, not this. But once again the undemocratic nature of foreign policy allows MFAT and Groser to misrepresent the desires of the people they are supposed to be representing.

This is undemocratic and wrong. But its also stupid. As I've pointed out repeatedly, as a small country with no diplomatic "weight" to fling around (and strong public opinion against doing so anyway), New Zealand is essentially dependent on persuasion to get what we want. And our most important tool in persuading people is a reputation for honesty and fair-dealing. And Groser is pissing away that reputation with every word he speaks (a trend which has been strengthening over the term of this government). And if he is allowed to continue, if we continue to be hypocrites (not just on this, but in almost every series of negotiations National participates in), we're going to learn a hard lesson: you can't run a mana-based foreign policy if you don't have any.