Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Climate change: more comprehensive?

Jordan Carter has some thoughts on Matthew Hooten's prediction that "National will end the year with a more comprehensive climate-change policy than Labour". Jordan focuses on the political aspects of the question, and the likelihood of National overcoming its Revolutionary and industry lobby factions (something I am deeply suspicious of). But I think it is also worth pointing out that it would be a very difficult task, because Labour's policy is already about as comprehensive as it can be - and possibly even extends its net wider than the previous version (while it does not include either direct industrial emissions or small users of industrial power and heat, or air travel, the inclusion of forestry and fertiliser more than make up for this). In order to produce a more comprehensive policy as Hooten suggests would require National to bite the bullet and directly target agricultural methane and nitrous oxide - something they have opposed since the 90's, and which their farming lobby would regard as a betrayal - or return to a broad-based carbon tax or emissions trading regime encompassing all emitters rather than just large ones. And in the wake of their opposition to the carbon tax (or indeed to any action outside the electricity sector), I really can't see them doing that.

Meanwhile, it is also worth pointing out that the most comprehensive climate change policy in the world is worthless if it is not implemented. This has been the bane of New Zealand climate change policy since 1990 - pursuing the mirage of perfect policy in preference to actually implementing any of it - and it will be the real test for Labour. Their policy, while having wide coverage, is far from perfect - it needs to be extended in some areas, and strengthened in others - but it is better to have even an imperfect plan implemented than continue to do nothing at all.