Thursday, August 21, 2008

Climate change: waffle

That's the best way of describing National's climate change policy, released under the radar by Bill English yesterday. Where Labour has something concrete - the ETS - to point to, and the Greens a host of detailed policy prescriptions, National has only vague platitudes. Sure, they have a long-term goal of reducing emissions by 50% from 1990 levels by 2050 - but they have given no indication of how they plan to achieve this. Yes, they're promising to "[work] on the world stage to support international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions", but this is simply a promise to keep participating in talks, which we were going to do anyway. And yes, they're promising their own ETS - now to be passed (rather than simply introduced to the House) "within nine months of taking office", which is making rather heroic assumptions about the Parliamentary timetable. This isn't a promise of action - it's hot air!

What about the details of that ETS? More hot air. It will "strike a balance between New Zealand’s environmental and economic interests" - but they won't say where that balance is. It will be "fiscally neutral" - but whether this means that other taxes will be cut to compensate for revenue, or whether it simply means permits will be given away for free (a massive privatisation of a public asset which is most definitely not "fiscally neutral") is anyone's guess. It will be "closely aligned" with the Australian scheme - but does not highlight any areas which need to be changed to ensure this (that's because there aren't any, at least according to the Australians). There's (a little) more, but its in a similar vein: waffle. Policy detail clearly is for pussies.

About the only concrete policy in the entire speech is a promise to gut the RMA to make things easier for large electricity projects - something which will have exactly the opposite effects from those they intend.

On the most important issue of public policy facing this nation, with long-lasting effects, the public deserves a lot better than this. But sadly, it doesn't look like we'll be getting it from National.