Thursday, December 18, 2008

Climate change: goals versus policies

One of the first rules of policy is to make sure your policies are aligned with your goals. So for example if you want to boost wages, you don't attack unions or make employment less secure. So how does this apply to New Zealand's climate change policy?

John Key's government has set itself the (fairly unambitious) goal of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. How do they plan to achieve this goal? So far, since assuming office, the government has:

Essentially, they have suspended, repealed or signalled their intent to repeal every concrete policy we have to reduce emissions. Instead, the market is expected to solve it all - though how it can do that in the absence of full price internalisation (which may arrive for energy in 2010 and transport in 2011, if the ETS is unsuspended) is a complete mystery. This is the same policy that failed spectacularly in the 1990's, and it is likely to have the same effect now - emissions will continue to rise, and taxpayers (rather than polluters) will continue to pay for them.

The upshot: National's practical policies are in deep conflict with their stated goal - so much so that it calls their commitment to that goal into serious doubt. These are not the policies of a government which wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. instead, they are the policies of a government which wants to increase them.