Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Climate change: National's true colours

For the past two years, National's Nick Smith has been pushing the government hard on climate change, claiming that it has not done enough and trying to position National as a strong defender of the environment. National, according to Smith, would act where the government hasn't and implement strong policies to curb emissions. It's all a bit laughable coming from a party which until two years ago was firmly in the Denialist camp, and whose leader has declared climate change to be "a hoax", but Smith has tried gamely to overcome that handicap in an effort to win the green vote for his party (or at least enough of it to drive the Greens below the 5% threshold). But with real action about to be announced tomorrow, the mask has slipped, and National's true colours are shining through. National's agriculture spokesperson, David Carter, is demanding that any policy must safeguard agriculture and recognise its importance to the economy by exempting it. It's a position popular among farmers, but it spells death for any serious efforts to reduce our emissions. The agricultural sector, around 5% of our population, currently produces almost 50% of our emissions. Dairy emissions are growing at 1.3% a year, and if this is left unchecked, will more than triple by 2050, to 35.75 MTCO2-e - more than 80% of our 1990 total. Which will make it absolutely impossible for us to achieve National's goal of a 50% reduction by 2050, let alone carbon neutrality - and that's without considering the rest of the agricultural sector, who are just as big a polluter again.

The only way to prevent this massive rise is to fully internalise the cost of carbon, and make the farmers pay their way rather than dumping their costs on the rest of us. But that would cut into their profit margins (which as you may recall are quite generous at the moment), and when push comes to shove, National puts farmer's profits ahead of both fairness and the environment. That's their true position, and all the bluster from Smith is unable to hide it.