Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Climate change: Australia fails

Four years ago, we got to watch in horror as New Zealand's climate change policy collapsed in a morass of political cowardice and industry special-pleading. Now, we get to watch it happen all over again across the Tasman. Faced with a sustained campaign from Australia's carbon polluters, combined with a Senate deadlock, the Australian government has decided to "delay" its ETS by a year. They're promising stronger targets - a 5 - 25% reduction from 2000 emissions, rather than a pathetic 5 - 15% - but also an increase in free industry allocations, a cap on 2011 prices at a mere A$10 (around half their actual value) with no cap on quantity. Which means that in the first year, what they really have is a massively subsidised carbon tax which will create real problems for the future if the permits are bankable. Even the stronger target is still very weak compared to what is necessary, and would once again require the world to indulge Australia's pollution as it did at Kyoto - something I'm not sure the Australian government can really count on. OTOH, at least they're meeting their weak Kyoto targets - unlike New Zealand...

The worry is that this will provide National with the political cover to do the same thing here, and let our polluters off the hook for another couple of years in the name of mythical "harmonization". If so, then we should call it what it is: an enormous theft from the people of New Zealand, for the benefit of a handful of mostly foreign-owned companies. Their carbon emissions cost us money. If they don't pay for those emissions, then we will have to - effectively subsidising their profits (and the fat dividends paid to their mostly foreign shareholders) with taxpayers' money. National - the party of foreign shareholders - may think that is acceptable. I do not.