Monday, March 16, 2009

Climate change: death by delay

Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons has an interesting post over on Frogblog about the prospects for the ETS. When National established a committee to review the ETS as part of its confidence and supply agreement with ACT, it was careful to talk down the consequences, suggesting that they would be minor and promising that an amended ETS would be in place by the end of 2009. But according to Jeanette, that's looking highly unlikely. The reason? The clash between the Parliamentary timetable and that required to produce an allocation plan for the energy and industrial sectors. By law, the energy sector must have an allocation plan providing for free credits for CP1. To provide certainty, that plan will need to be in place before energy and industrial emissions enter the ETS on January 1, 2010. But an allocation plan will be tricky to draft, given the high degree of self-interested special pleading from various polluters, and requires an extensive period of public consultation, including being open to public submissions for two months. And they can't even start writing it until the committee has reported back and any amendments passed by Parliament.

According to Jeanette, that's just not going to happen this year. The ETS Change Review Committee is currently hearing submissions, and is unlikely to report back before June. After that, the government will need to digest the results, draft and introduce a bill, and send it to select committee. A select committee would normally take three months, but the Local Government and Environment Committee is currently overworked, and Jeanette doesn't expect it to be able to be done before the end of the year. So we're already beyond our deadline without even getting into the mess of consultation stakeholders on an allocation plan, drafting it, and sending it out for public submissions. Which means they are likely going to have to delay the entry of the energy sector into the ETS by a year - meaning that we will finally start making polluters pay for using coal and gas in 2011, just one year before the end of CP1. National's "review" of climate change policy has in fact been a death by delay.