Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Climate change: a world leader?

So, the New Zealand Institute is suggesting that New Zealand should slow down on climate change and seek to be a "fast follower" rather than a "world leader". But quite apart from their strange definition of "slowing down" - I'd have thought that unilaterally abandoning Kyoto would count as "stopping dead in the water" - there's also the fact that their entire analysis is predicated on the idea that New Zealand will somehow be "leading the world" if we implement climate change policy. And this is simply false. To pick my favourite example, Norway - the real "world leader" on climate change - started pricing carbon fifteen years ago. The European Union has been trading carbon since 2005 (though overallocation means it has been less effective than it could have been - a mistake we hopefully won't be making here). By contrast, we won't have even the rudiments of an emissions trading scheme until 2010. To claim that this would somehow be "leading the world" displays either a complete ignorance of international policy, or a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

The inconvenient truth is that even if the government implements its entire programme of emissions trading and regulation, we will not be a "world leader". We will not even be a "fast follower". Instead, we will be playing catch-up after 15 years of sitting on our hands doing nothing, and implementing measures that other countries implemented long ago.

Update: Hot Topic has an excellent analysis of the NZI report, and finds it to be "deeply flawed, overly simplistic, and... spectacularly misguided". Ouch.