Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can the Greens work with the right?

A favoured meme on the right is that the Greens are "too far to the left", and that a true environmental party would lend confidence and supply to National to advance their environmental goals. The underlying assumption is that what stops the two parties from cooperating closely is that most of the Green MPs are lefties. That's part of the picture - though the commitment to "social responsibility" in the form of a "just distribution of social and natural resources" in the Green Charter is more important than the present MPs - but it misses the real problem: National's present anti-environmentalism. There is very little ground for cooperation with a party which wants to dig up our national parks. Or not pull our weight on climate change. Or weaken environmental standards. Or gut the RMA. National is an anti-environmental party which thinks coal is "sexy"; supporting them in power harms the environment rather than helps it. And now that National has revealed its "dig it up and burn it" policies, that cooperation deal the Greens signed back in April (and which I thought was worth trying on the narrow slice of common ground they could find) is looking like a big mistake, simply a chance for National to greenwash itself a little while in reality destroying our environment.

Overseas, its a different story. In Germany, the recent Saarland state elections have resulted in the first ever CDU-FDU-Green coalition (called a "Jamaica" coalition due to the colours of the parties). Partly, this is because of a conservative local Green party, and partly its because the CDU-FDU offered them a very good deal (two important ministries - education and environment/energy/transport - when the Greens have only three MPs). But what ultimately makes it possible is that the German right is simply far greener than its New Zealand equivalent. The coalition won't be trouble free - the Saarland Greens are already coming under fire for a backdown on nuclear energy - but its at least contemplatable. But with National's current anti-environment stance, the same cannot be said of New Zealand.