Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Climate change: a sustainable agenda

Colin James predicted that Helen Clark would attempt to link climate change and sustainability to national identity in a similar manner to the anti-nuclear legislation in her opening address to Parliament, and he wasn't wrong. It's a shrewd political move, trading on our self-image as a "clean and green" nation in a way that National simply cannot. But what about the policy agenda?

As someone who has taken a deep interest in climate change issues and policy for the past few years, I'm very pleased indeed. The government has committed to implementing the policies laid out in its New Zealand Energy Strategy and Sustainable Land Management discussion documents around emissions trading, forestry and agricultural emissions. There will be a price on carbon, at least in the electricity sector, by early next year at the latest, and likely a price on deforestation and nitrogen around the same time. These policies form the core of a comprehensive response to climate change, which while enacted ten years too late, is still better late than never. It likely won't result in our meeting our CP1 target, meaning we will have to buy credits on the international market, but it will position us well for any post-Kyoto regime.

But better, they've also strengthened the policy in a number of important ways. The increased biofuels sales obligation doesn't sound like much - but its at the limits of what we can produce domestically, and its a strong sign that we will see higher targets in a few years time once the issues with the car fleet are sorted out. The stronger emissions standards for imported vehicles are also an important step, and will result in a more rapid switch to a cleaner, more efficient vehicle fleet. The moves around sustainable government procurement, more efficient ministerial vehicles, and a carbon-neutral public service are all mostly symbolic, but it is important for the government to lead by example. They can't expect the rest of us to move to a more sustainable lifestyle if they are unwilling to do it themselves (a lesson the Americans should heed if they want to see the Chinese and Indians follow a more sustainable path to development).

So, overall, a good agenda. Now all they have to do is implement it.


I/S I haven't studied this area, but reading HC's speech it struck me that much of it was old announcments or pretty small scale stuff. Biofuels possible being the exception.

What's your opinion? Is there much new in it? Or are the recent initiatives it summarised pretty significant anyway? Or do you think it just points the way to more substantial stuff to be announced in the buget? And what more substantial stuff would you like to see? (That is politically, socially and economically feasible)

Posted by Anonymous : 2/14/2007 02:00:00 PM

Or are the recent initiatives it summarised pretty significant anyway?

Basically, yes. The energy strategy and sustainable land management policy are absolutely central. Of the new stuff, the stronger biofuels target (it was originally 2.25% in 2012) is very significant, since it indicates they're goign to really push in this area. The rest - the government walking the talk - is window dressing, but useful in that the government must lead by example.

(I'm primarily interested in the climate change issue; so the waste move isn't something I'm following closely. However, an escalating price on waste is fairly significant).

As for what I'd like to see, speaing about the climate change issue, I'd like to see a serious investment in research into reducing agricultural emissions, a move to a full and broad emissions trading scheme, greater moves to incorporate agricultural emissiosn and internalise the costs farmers are currently dumping on the taxpayer, and continuous improvement in both vehicle emissions standards and biofuels targets.

Outside that area, we really need to do something about water quality. Again, farmers are the problem here, and I want to see them clean up their act. And if internalising the true costs of production drives them out of business, then society will be better off as a result.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/14/2007 02:14:00 PM


Yes, I've seen rivers by campgrounds turned into open sewers. When the shit is hardened into flakes on the river stones, and the river has changed colour and stink, you know there is a problem with farming practices.

I'm still really disappointed by the diversion of Project Aqua water to South Canterbury irrigation. Turning sustainable power into cow farts - I just can't understand why the Greens pursued that agenda.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/14/2007 08:04:00 PM