Thursday, December 03, 2009

Climate change: Policy around the world

A reader pointed me at a report from the Congressional Research Service (a branch of the Library of Congress, and filling a similar role to the NZ parliamentary Library research staff) which gives An Overview of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Control Policies in Various Countries [PDF]. It surveys policy in 14 countries, including all the major players (the EU, Japan, China, India, Australia, Russia and Brazil), and finds that while policies and targets vary,

All countries examined have in place, or are developing, some enforceable policies that serve to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Most are at some stage of making their programs more stringent.
This isn't just developed nations we're talking about here, but major developing countries like Brazil, India, Mexico and China. Everyone is acting. The question is whether we want to be doing our part, or slacking and treating it as someone else's problem. Unfortunately, our current ETS puts us in the latter category.

Looking at "our major trading partners" (Australia, the US, the EU, China and Japan), every single one of them has or is in the process of implementing an ETS. Even China is working on pilot cap-and-trade schemes to supplement its strong regulatory approach. While none of them include agriculture, in those countries it is simply not an important source of emissions. In New Zealand, it is.

There's some interesting policies in there. Japan requires its top 5000 businesses to annually report their energy production and consumption - effectively allowing naming and shaming of the inefficient. Germany taxes cars on the basis of their fuel efficiency (something we should be doing here through the annual registration fee). The UK requires energy suppliers to fund energy efficiency improvements for their customers. China simply shuts down inefficient factories and builds newer ones. South Korea is investing 2% of GDP annually in renewable energy to get in on the ground floor of the green economy. These are all plans which could be adopted here. While Treasury prefers the purity of a single economic instrument, looking overseas, what works best is a price on carbon supplemented by an array of other measures. Unfortunately, the chance of "do-nothing" National adopting such an approach is remote.