Monday, November 22, 2010

Climate change: The cost of doing nothing

In August last year, the government announced its climate change target: a 10 - 20% reduction from 1990 levels, so hedged with conditionalities that it might end up being nothing. It was a weak, pathetic target, which abdicated any pretence that we were even doing our bit to prevent climate change, let alone leading as a small, clean and green country should. But what's worse is that the policy by which this target would be achieved - the ETS - is even weaker, excluding agriculture, our biggest polluter, while subsidising other polluters for the next century.

Today, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan White, called bullshit on that approach, pointing out that this weak policy mean that rather than cutting our emissions by 10 - 20% by 2020, they are instead going to increase to 26% above 1990 levels. And that massive gap between promises and policy is set to cost us a billion dollars. That's the price of National's inaction right there. And we're paying it because they want to subsidise farmers to pollute.

The only thing more pathetic than the government's policy is Smith's response. Faced with the size of the bill, he said that Copenhagen isn't legally binding. In other words, he is saying that we have made this promise to the world with no intention of keeping it. So why does he expect anyone else to keep their promises then? Or is he admitting that for his government at least, the whole thing is just an exercise in spin, a fob-off to make it look like they're acting, while in reality its just business as usual?