Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Climate change: Obama speaks...

Just when the New Zealand government is taking us back to square one on climate change with a denialist dog and pony show, US President-elect Barack Obama has committed his new administration to serious action:

So, a federal cap and trade system, a reduction to 1990 levels by 2020, a reduction of 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, and a significant investment in clean energy. The initial target isn't that impressive - the US's Kyoto target was a 7% reduction by 2012 - but the 2050 target would reduce US per-capita greenhouse gas emissions to only 2.4 T/CO2 per person - a level which would make them a true world leader (compare with the figures for other nations' proposed cuts here). Dirty America has just said that they intend to make "clean and green" New Zealand look like slackers. Is that really a reputation we want? Worse than the Americans?

If John Key really was "ambitious for New Zealand", he'd want us to be better than that. He'd cancel ACT's denier forum and commit now to a stronger ETS with legislated targets for a 75% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020. The earlier we commit, the easier it will be, and a steeper path now always gives us the option of backing off later if it looks like the problem is well in hand. But if we follow National's "plan", and sit on our hands for another couple of years while sending the wonks back to the drawing board for a completely new policy for the fifth time in 15 years, while having no long-term plan, then it is going to be much, much harder.