Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Climate change: light in the darkness

Since the government scrapped the carbon tax in December last year, we've been drifting essentially without a policy. While there's a very extensive work programme in motion to devise a new one, there has been precious little from it so far. But according to the Prime Minister in her post-Cabinet press conference yesterday [audio], all this is about to change. Cabinet had discussed

major cabinet papers around climate change, energy, sustainability issues... We've approved for release and consultation in the coming weeks the draft New Zealand Energy Strategy and draft New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy which is being renewed after its first time period, and also a discussion paper on transitional measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and non-transport energy supply prior to longer-term measures kicking in, as well as a discussion paper looking ahead to the post-2012 period and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in that longer term framework. As well there's a major consultation document to go out on land management and climate change issues, dealing with options in forestry and in agriculture. All of those documents across energy, and forestry/agriculture will be released in the pre-christmas period beginning next week, and all of them deal with ways of making New Zealand more sustainable and making a contribution to dealing with the climate change challenge.

("Transitional measures" is policyspeak for a narrower replacement for the carbon tax, either an emissions trading scheme or limited carbon tax applying to electricity generators and major emitters)

These papers will form the core of our new climate change policy, focused on reducing energy emissions by shifting towards renewables, and (hopefully) encouraging forest planting (and maybe forcing farmers to clean their act up as well). But before anyone celebrates, this is the consultation stage - it will be at least another six months to a year before these policies are in place, possibly longer if they require legislation. Which means we might just get a new climate change policy in place in time for the start of CP1 in 2008 - at least five years after we needed it.


The recently announced solar water heating initiative was also preceded by a discussion document. The document was thorough but lacked urgency and determination and the result was a measly $15 million towards a vague hope of doubling solar water heating installations over the next five years. No serious targets, not a hint of regulation. Hardly an encouraging precedent.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/28/2006 04:10:00 PM

I think its better to view it as a start rather than a serious plan to push it. Some of that $15.5 million will go on training, which is one of the big bottlenecks (finding people who can install the damn things), while more wil go on increasing the grant to homeowners (but this is still too low). Really, we should be running an EnergyWise-style scheme for them - but we can't do this until we have the actual ability to massive increase installation.

Unfortunately, they don't seem to be doing much about the resource consent issue, which is another big barrier to uptake apparently.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/28/2006 11:28:00 PM