Thursday, September 17, 2009

Climate change: Negotiations

Labour has released its correspondence with the government over their negotiations for a bipartisan deal on the ETS [PDF]. The government does not come off well. From the outset, they seem to have had problems deciding what they actually wanted to do, leaving Labour as the only party actually proposing anything. Just two weeks ago, after the release of the select committee report [PDF], their attitude was still "we'll come up with something and let you know about it when we do", while ignoring Labour's concrete proposals (see Nick Smith's letter of 3 September). Contrary to claims made by the Smith in Parliament, they had weekly meetings scheduled, and from the second-to-last document (an email from Chauvel to the Minister's office, document 11) it seems that Labour was still expecting to attend one for further negotiations (on Tuesday) as late as Monday morning - just hours before the government blindsided them with its deal. That deal was unlikely to have been cooked up in the six hours between that email and its release; Smith was just stringing Labour along while negotiating with other parties behind their back, the epitome of bad faith.

The result isn't just a bad deal for New Zealand and the climate (but a very good one for National's rich polluter mates) - it will leave a toxic legacy which will prevent any future bipartisanship between the two major parties. It's one thing to say "sod off, we don't need you"; its quite another to string people along and then screw them. And it means that when the government can't juggle its opposing support parties and needs Labour's support, it is far less likely to be forthcoming.

The final document lays out Labour's proposals for an amended ETS. it is clearly still a work-in-progress - the final email talks of having the numbers checked by officials - and it is weaker than the scheme in place at the moment. But its also an effort to meet National's concerns around price volatility and agriculture while still retaining a functional system with incentives for reduction. It is unquestionably superior to the amendments proposed by National, but I guess it just didn't pander to polluters enough. And thanks to National's massive subsidies for pollution, ordinary taxpayers will be the losers.